A most prestigious and coveted award

10 12 2007

The Hub Advocate of the Month award mentioned previously was, believe it or not, invented at the same time I typed the very words. But now it’s official!  Each month we will announce the winner of this most prestigious and coveted award, for promotion of teacher librarians and/or school libraries to the public. 

December is going to be tough.  Initially, Sharon McGuinness looked a likely winner, for her letter to the Sydney Morning Herald, but now she has some competition from author Libby Gleeson and Sarah Mayor Cox, lecturer at the School of Education, La Trobe University, for their calls to Radio National’s “Life Matters” programme, discussing children’s books. After what seemed an eternity of discussing children and reading (it was actually about 39 minutes) FINALLY we rated a mention from Libby Gleeson.

 “…nobody has mentioned the teacher librarians, and it’s not just the people in the bookshops and the public libraries, as good as they are, it’s also the person in the school who has specialist training in this area who knows the kids well because they’re dealing with them regularly, and I think it’s just tragic that in some states in the country, the teacher librarian is disappearing, and if government is serious about literacy levels and so on, then they should be investing more money into teachers who have library training”.

This was followed up minutes later by a call from Sarah Mayor Cox.

“…Libby really hit the nail on the head, it’s all about having mediating adults in the lives of children and for school children they are librarians and I was thrilled to hear that…..all these kids were going to get new computers but part of my heart sank and  I thought, “Julia, give every school a trained teacher librarian and……..Australia will shoot to the head of the….world league tables in literacy levels”.”

Richard Aedy  “really?  you think that will make a massive difference?”

Sarah Mayor Cox “Absolutely, the research shows it….”

Soon after, Sarah commented on the recent drop in our OECD literacy rating.

“In Australia,we used to lead the world in terms of literacy, Victoria especially, and the funding has just not been there and if you don’t put money into infrastructure…..I’ve just heard the most shocking stories of schools saying we don’t need libraries.  A recent educational architect who has got a huge tender in Australia telling librarians, “kids don’t need libraries becuase they don’t read books anymore” Now how did he get the job?  That’s frightening.”

It certainly is. 

You can listen to the entire 55 minute segment here.  I have always loved how Agnes Neiwenhuizen speaks (and writes) about children and books and reading, but once again I was disappointed that teacher librarians did not rate a mention from her, except to comment on Sarah Mayor Cox’s “absolutely fabulous idea” of putting a librarian into every school.  

I believe the actual suggestion was to put TEACHER librarians into every school.




3 responses

11 12 2007
Georgia Phillips

10 December 2007
To Julia Gillard,
Minister for Education
Cc:To Sharon Bird
Federal Member for Cunningham

Dear Ms. Gillard,

I would like to express my appreciation for the copy of Labor’s literacy and numeracy policy (April 2007) sent to me by Sharon Bird. It contains many good ideas, with a focus on greater support in terms of education funding and staffing from the Commonwealth to the states.

I do, however, find such policies worrying when they make no reference to books, and very little reference to reading (as opposed to literacy).

Further studies for consideration support the direct correlation between access to books and literacy. Stephen Krashen, in his book The Power of Reading, reviewed hundreds of research studies which explore the power of free voluntary reading. He found that the reading a young person chooses to do, as opposed to teacher required reading, is “the best predictor of reading comprehension, vocabulary growth, spelling ability, grammatical usage and writing style.” http://www.sdkrashen.com/

His research gives significant pointers to those designing school literacy programs, including:
1. The amount read is critical
2. A print-rich environment encourages more reading
3. The larger school and public library collections, the more young people read
4. Reading aloud helps
5. Sustained silent reading programs help
6. Encouraging young people to read helps
7. Reading is its own reward
8. Modeling by parents, teachers, and friends helps

Research on the impact of libraries over the last decade has shown that better school libraries — those with more books and better staffing — are associated with greater literacy development.

In his online article analyzing the decline in literacy scores in California, “Whole Language and the Great Plummet of 1987-92: An Urban Legend from California” (2002) Krashen states:

The seminal study in this area was done by Keith Curry Lance and his associates, who found that school libraries in Colorado with better staffing and better collections had higher reading scores, even when factors such as poverty and availability of computers were controlled. These results were confirmed by other studies that showed that states with better school and public libraries earned higher scores on the NAEP fourth-grade reading examination. In addition, Warwick Elley reported a positive association in 32 different countries between the quality of a school’s library and the reading achievement of students. The Colorado results have been replicated in several other states, by Lance himself as well as by other scholars.
School libraries make a difference. Well-funded school libraries with professionally qualified teacher librarians who are experts on student reading have a dramatic impact on student literacy. Students are found to have higher reading scores, “even when factors such as poverty and availability of computers were controlled.” An excellent summary of the research was done here in Australia by Michele Lonsdale: The Impact of School Libraries on Student Achievement (ACER, 2003).

Australian children are falling in the world literacy rankings (SMH, 5 Dec. 2007). Over the past decade staffing and funding for school libraries has also been declining. National statistics have unfortunately not been collected through government agencies, however a survey is currently being done by Edith Cowan University. As a voluntary survey, the statistics will be a beginning.

Want higher test scores? A school librarian can make the difference.

My questions, then, are:
• What can the federal government do to collect vital statistics on school library funding and staffing nationally?
• What consideration is being made for the improvement of Australian school libraries in order to improve student literacy?

Thank you for your time and attention.

Yours sincerely,
Georgia Phillips
The Hub: Campaign for Quality School Libraries in Australia

11 12 2007
Libby Gleeson

Thank you for this award. My comments on the radio national program were just the thoughts of every children’s writer I know. If your professional association is mounting a campaign for the retention of TLs (or the appointment of them) then contact the Australian Society of Authors where you will get definite support.
It would seem that a change of government is always a good moment to mount a new campaign and I would urge you to do that. The comments that preceed mine would seem to be the basis of the argument! Good luck.
Libby Gleeson

13 01 2008
The Hub

[…] 01 2008 I once mentioned a teeny criticism of Agnes Nieuwenhuizen, but I now sit here and implore her forgiveness.  Her most recent article […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: