SHOUT for Literacy and Libraries

21 07 2011

More cuts to library services, now in the public arena.  In times of global economic crisis, libraries which provide internet connections, newspapers, magazines, narrative non-fiction, e-books, audio-books, p-books are needed more than ever.  While I haven’t been able to locate figures for Australia, over a quarter of UK children and young people do not own books.  Without books in the home, school and public libraries become even more valuable.

PISA reading test results (2009) for Australia show the gap is widening between higher socio-economic status readers and lower ones.  The gap is the equivalent of three years of schooling.

What would help overcome this gap? Books, books and more books!  As Professor Stephen Krashen has found over many years of research and study,   “It has been firmly established that more reading leads to better reading (and writing, spelling, vocabulary and grammar), and that more access to books results in more reading” (Krashen, Lee and McQuillan, 2010).  The most fiscally responsible way to provide these books is through public and school libraries.

Yet the recent literacy educators conference in Melbourne had nary a reference to the role of libraries in literacy.  Why?  Could it be that so many literacy teachers have no libraries in their schools? Or if they have them, they are poorly funded and inadequately staffed? Most do not have qualified teacher librarians to network with colleagues, book councils, booksellers and publishers and read professional reviews to select the best reading, whether it is e-reading or p-reading, for their unique student body.  Could it be that teacher educators, even literacy educators, have had little experience in excellent school libraries and do not pass on to pre-service teachers knowledge of the role of TLs in literacy learning?  Could it be that principals have little to go on to justify expenditure on TL staffing and library funding?

Yet if we truly believe that it is the right of every child and citizen to be able to read and to have fiction and narrative non-fiction and picture books and e-books and manga and graphic novels and iPad ezines and biographies and folklore and fairy tales and stories of exploration and invention and imagination, then we must all SHOUT FOR LITERACY AND FOR LIBRARIES!

Let your local council, your local newspaper editor, your local talkback host, your local school principal, your state government, your federal representatives and opposition spokespeople know,  children and adults need libraries to be well funded and well-staffed as never before.

To assist in this, The Hub is establishing a new information site to connect teacher educators, principals, teachers and TLs.  Your practical ideas would be appreciated. Contact hellohub@gmail.com

SHOUT FOR LIBRARIES is the catch cry of Patrick Ness, winner of the 2011 Carnegie Medal, in his acceptance speech.  It was sent by The Hub to every state and federal education minister with a request to:

  • Insist on National Guidelines for quality school library services.
  • Offer scholarships now for training places, as in NSW.
  • Put teacher librarians and libraries into federal and state policies on literacy and the national curriculum.
  • Tie literacy grants to teacher librarian staffing.
  • Ensure National Partnership Agreements and awards can not trade off specialist teachers, such as teacher librarians.
  • And read the speech in full!
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