School Librarians and Literacy

According to this article published in The Huffington Post last week, 58 of 124 D.C. pubic schools are losing their librarians this school year—up from 34 last year. The article begins by describing the accomplishments of one of the school librarians who will not be back:

When Marla McGuire was hired as a librarian at Cleveland Elementary School in the District of Columbia some four years ago, she was first librarian at the school in eight years. McGuire worked to raise $50,000 for new materials, collaborated with other teachers to create an outdoor classroom and encouraged parents to read with their children.

“I really tried to embed myself in the school community,” McGuire told The Huffington Post. “I wanted to focus on a love of learning and really get a spark going.”

Soon, children who came to her knowing nothing about libraries — a student once asked her timidly how much it might cost to “rent” a book from the school’s collection — got excited about reading, she says.

I particularly want to draw your attention to the last sentence in the first paragraph, where we learn that one of Ms McGuire’s accomplishments was that she “encouraged parents to read with their children.”

I think this story demonstrates that as a city, (and it’s not just this city that has this problem) we aren’t really thinking through what resources need to be in place in order to improve literacy rates. I don’t know how many kids developed a reading habit as a result of Ms McGuire’s efforts, or how many parents started reading to their children as a result of her encouragement, (and maybe we need to figure out how to document this better), but even if we’re talking about just a handful of families, it seems to me that as a matter of policy her position was probably a good investment.

Great Collection of School Library Posters from the 1960s, Back When People Cared About School Libraries

RETRO POSTER - Interested in Sports?A Flickr user recently uploaded a collection of 1960s library posters discovered “while digging through old library stuff.”

I love the poster here in particular. Who doesn’t enjoy a good book about track? (I’m sure there must be one, actually. By the way, a great collection of boxing writing was published just last year, “At The Fights: American Writers on Boxing,” edited by the late George Kimball.)

Most of the posters in this collection, like the one here, are promoting school libraries. Today, school libraries are under threat. Here in Washington, the city recently eliminated funding for school librarian positions in D.C. Public Schools with fewer than 300 students. And those with more than that 300 students, while they will still receive funding for the position, they’re not compelled to fill it.