Making the Case for School Libraries. Are You up to Date on the Research?
Schools that have high-quality library programs and library staff benefit the entire student body. Student achievement improves when care and consideration is put into a library’s collection, staffing, and funding. A 2012 longitudinal literacy study completed by Dr. Stephen Krashen, an international linguistics scholar, and his colleagues Christy Lao, Sy-ying Lee, and Jeff McQuillan, looked at literacy levels in children. Their research showed that school libraries are the only thing that matters when it comes to closing the gap that exists in literacy levels when poverty comes into play.
The benefits of school libraries go beyond just improving reading and literacy skills. They also serve as integral pillars supporting the cognitive and social development of learners. Through access to a wide range of materials, including books, digital resources, and multimedia materials, students can explore and develop their interests and passions, and gain a deeper understanding of the world around them. Librarians, as trained professionals, can guide and support students in this process, helping them to navigate the vast array of resources available and develop critical thinking and research skills.
However, despite their unambiguous importance, there’s an alarming downtrend in librarian employment post-Great Recession. Waning reading competencies in the absence of proficient librarians have been documented in national studies. This trend is particularly concerning in under-resourced schools, where students may not have access to the same level of resources and support as their more affluent peers. A well-funded school library ecosystem has the ability to mold students positively, propelling them toward academic excellence.
In addition to the educational benefits, strong school libraries can also have a positive impact on the wider community. They can serve as safe and welcoming spaces for students and families, offering a variety of programs and events that promote lifelong learning and literacy. They can also foster a sense of civic engagement, encouraging students to become active participants in their communities and to contribute positively to society. In conclusion, the importance of school libraries and librarians in improving student literacy levels cannot be overstated. A well-funded, well-staffed, and well-equipped school library can provide students with the resources, support, and guidance they need to develop their literacy skills, explore their interests, and achieve academic success. It is imperative that we prioritize the importance of school libraries and librarians and invest in their continued development and growth.
It is important for school library leaders to stay up to date with studies like the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS). PIRLS, in particular, provides valuable insights into global trends in reading achievement and can inform the development of effective literacy programs. By incorporating the latest research into their advocacy work, school librarians can make the case that they are providing the best possible support for their students’ academic and personal growth.
About John Chrastka
EveryLibrary’s founder is John Chrastka, a long-time library trustee, supporter, and advocate. John is a former partner in AssociaDirect, a Chicago-based consultancy focused on supporting associations in membership recruitment, conference, and governance activities. He is a former president and member of the Board of Trustees for the Berwyn (IL) Public Library (2006 – 2015) and is a former president of the Reaching Across Illinois Libraries System (RAILS) multi-type library system. He is co-author of “Before the Ballot; Building Support for Library Funding.” and “Winning Elections and Influencing Politicians for Library Funding”. Prior to his work at AssociaDirect, he was Director for Membership Development at the American Library Association (ALA) and a co-founder of the Ed Tech startup ClassMap. He was named a 2014 Mover & Shaker by Library Journal and tweets @mrchrastka.
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