There seem to be two competing agendas operating in lots of schools with tight budgets.
- Literacy learning is a top funding priority in our school.
- The librarian costs too much, so we should just hire a clerk or use the library as a study hall.
Pick one. We can’t promote both of these. The research could not be clearer in this matter. IF literacy is a top priority…and by that I mean that the school is dedicated to nurturing all children to become avid, lifelong readers…then an up-to-date, well organized library, with a trained school librarian at its helm is not an option. It is a requirement. Above all, what good librarians do is positively impact learning and literacy.
Perhaps the so-called dedication to literacy is really only unwavering attention to improved end of year reading test scores. If you are unsure, watch what the administration does, NOT what it says.
Imagine that every child stopped reading the day after the test and the library collected all of their books and rich content focused materials and shut down for the year? The negative effects on the next year’s test scores would be difficult to explain away.
So, schools have to decide if the treasure trove of books, magazines, videos, online resources, unit-focused realia, and the knowledgeable staff are to be replaced by efforts at test prep. Perhaps you’ve noticed that scores don’t seem to move much year to year no matter what kinds of instruction children get. The undeniable reality is that school libraries, with well-trained and dedicated librarians are probably the best contributions that schools could get for improving test scores that effectively evaporate each year at graduation.
Sadly, the path for children to graduate and the path to lifetime learning intertwine, but are not the same. Drop-outs who are lifelong readers/learners don’t seem to get much attention. If dropouts who are predicted to spend their adulthoods doing relatively low paying jobs, had been introduced and nurtured to find books that caught their imaginations and fueled their dreams, they could very well find more paths to economic success. If they continue to be readers of more and more complex and challenging books (as research predicts) then their education will not end the day they decide that school isn’t for them.
While most of these youngsters are cutting their teeth on low entry jobs, these readers could be continuing to develop talents and perspectives that could eventually open doors reserved for those with diplomas.
Grad-outs, those kids who graduate, having squeaked through the curriculum doing the absolute minimum in their subjects yet haven’t developed a strong connection to reading books and accessing the other riches of libraries, could find themselves moving backward in life while the less “educated” lifetime learners could very well move ahead.
So, what’s the decision going to be for a school? A librarian to lead the development of all kids as lifelong readers, or a dark and locked library, the educational equivalent of a school’s staff shooting itself in the foot?