Thursday, September 28, 2006

Raise a Reader OR not

Earlier this month HBM asked that later in some week we post about our cause. Vis a vis some shapemaking on the hurricane of individualism and opinion that is blogging it was suggested we speak up and do more than mark this world with words.

I protest.

My cause is that of words. Today is Raise a Reader day in Canada and (while there are corporate underpinnings to this event that trouble me) it seems an apropos day to post about this cause (oh yes and I finally got around to it). Generally, the cause is my obsession and my profession -- free reading! Specifically, I will try to make you think about school libraries before you leave this post...

Before all this blogging there were the few other things we could not do without each other, fire brigades, electricity, democracy and such. In the context of a small village interview I heard a father once say that his community needed to provide light, water, doctors, schools and libraries. These are things community can do well together they root naturally in shared interest and reciprocity. Caretaking words and thoughts and offering them as widely as possible is important. (see also: Library Bill of Rights)

Or is it still important?

In recent years a lot of to-do has been made of how this medium [media?], the Internet, will replace libraries. Peshaw. I was in our library last night and it was teeming with people. People reading with their kids. People learning new skills in community classes.. Even *gasp* people who probably don't have access to the Internet at home. I know from my history working in libraries since 1992 that libraries are great advocates and participants in the force formerly known as the Information Superhighway.

But we must look out, most libraries are stressed to the maximum. As governments toss aside the social contract for user fees and stakeholder investment the cancer-people start having to hawk more black-tie events than ever and the libraries have to shorten hours and limit book budgets. Our city library gets cut every year, which is hard for an organization that is relatively cheap to run; damn the economy of them!

Nowhere are cutbacks to libraries more severe these days than in our schools. It is a paucity of reading and information being put on a generation. Many of you who read here have children, I'll ask you today to do something about this. Please, please when your children are at school expect that they will have access to a well-stocked AND STAFFED school library. Fewer and fewer kids are getting this every year. I'll ask you to expect a library that is not a dusty book warehouse but a service centre where every child in the school can 'fill up' with anything they want. A good school library program is the program for every kid at school. School libraries are special and increasingly rare. While I loved my years at the public library, public libraries are largely anonymous intersections -- the drive-through windows so to speak. School libraries are like grandma's kitchen. Teacher-librarians toss out 'History of the Redman' and buy all the right Amelia Bedelias/Goosebumps/Jane Austen to keep kids well fed with information and reading material. School library programs are not for this class or that, for the gifted or the challenged, they are for the whole school -- and for all of us.

When I started working at the school board IT department trust me I was clueless. But in the intervening years I have seen where good, and bad, programs affect our kids and the coming society. Help your school help your children to read and please do raise a reader. Volunteer in your library and try to love your teacher-librarian, they are very special teachers who possess -- and stoke -- the staggering multitude of skills that function as literacy in this society. A good teacher-librarian knows every child in the school, they let every reader take whatever they want in their pursuit of reading and enlightenment, while being able to slip in a title or two to support emergent reading skills. They work with classroom teachers to make sure kids learn to use books AND the web. A lot has been made of critical thinking skills on this blog and elsewhere little can do more for the growth of these skills among children that providing the widest possible number of resources to kids in our school libraries.

School libraries love them or lose them.

If you want to take an active interest your school library here is what you need to do.

Get to know the research and let your school principal know you expect a good school library program. More than one study has shown that students perform better at schools with active school libraries. Test scores and access to school libraries linked - library report a challenge for new Minister of Education ... and more like this

Volunteer and support school libraries with love. No moving all your damp National Geographics over there from your garage isn't gonna do it.

Join supporting organizations. Canadians might consider the emerging group called the Canadian Coalition for School Libraries(there is a BC Chapter. I'll refer the Americans in the crowd to the @ your school library campaign of the ALA.

And, today September 28th is Raise-a-reader day -- you can buy a newspaper in Vancouver, or Toronto, or Edmonton and elsewhere and every penny of its cost will go to funding family literacy programs, and school libraries who are trying to get $$$ any which way they can in this economy.

We do this together or not at all.

And, in true HBM homage here are my readers to be to spur you along.

1. Baby E on school Libraries day 2004

2. Baby A givin' the thumbs up for libraries -- he was 11 weeks and 17lbs Monday


Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

I find that cute baby photos are the perfect punctuation to any statement, or call to action.

(And, 17lbs?!? Are your arms sore?)

9:27 a.m.  
Blogger L. said...

Our school`s teacher-librarian taught my Daughter to read. Seriously -- she did what I was unable to do.

This week, Daughter was assigned her first book report in English, still not her best language, and is nervous about reading "a book with chapters."

I asked her, "Do you want me to help you select a book?"


"Do you want me to ask Mrs. Johnson to help you select a book?"

Vigorous nodding.

So your post was very timely!

7:13 p.m.  
Blogger Granny said...

It's Banned Book Week here. I'll do my bit by rereading at least one of my favorites.

12:18 a.m.  
Blogger Chicky Chicky Baby said...

Since I went to an elementary school with no library and a middle school with a horrible one, the public library became very important to me. I'm sad to admit that the local chain bookstore has become my library recently. But now that I have a kid I don't want her to think that Barnes and Noble is the equivalent of a public library.

Oh and... 17lbs?! Holy Beejeebus.

7:41 a.m.  
Blogger Mad said...

Teacher librarians? Aren't they extinct? I know that the Blue Crested Tories and the Red-billed Liberals all but killed off their breed out here in New Brunswick. The Tory gov't that just got ousted thought they could completely do away with teacher-librarians and school libraries by instituting a policy that said every kid would be given a public library card. It remains to be seen what the new Liberal gov't will do but it was the old Liberals that started all this.

AAAHHHHHH!!!!! Much hair pulling and wringing of hands!!!

BTW, it's good to check in every now and then with another mother-blogging librarian.

7:44 a.m.  
Blogger the stefanie formerly known as stefanierj said...

Can I please ask that, in the name of all that's holy, you stop looking so gorgeous with a freaking NEWBORN in your arms?? It makes the rest of us look bad.

17 lbs at 11 weeks is D-sized. Just so you know, he's 20 mos now and eats more than we do for breakfast. Good times ahead--eventually, you may have to break down and shop at a big-box just to afford to feed him!

12:47 p.m.  
Blogger kittenpie said...

Go on now, woman, with all your togetherness. I couldnt' even think yet with an 11-week-old, let alone work or put together a coherentl statement, let alone a rah-rah libraries movement. I agree, it is such a shame to see how school libraries are mostly half-time now. A good school librarian can be a major advocate and lifeline to reading and - maybe even more importantly - to good experiences around reading and finding the right material for different kids. I know and have worked with an excellent one who knows every one of the 1700 (!) kids in the school, and they all love her.

9:19 p.m.  

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