Literacy expert Stephen Krashen notes that “Study after study has shown that library quality (number of books available or books per student) is related to reading achievement at the state level national level and international level.” So it’s always a good thing when kids get more access to books.
Yesterday, Newark Mayor Cory Booker and State District Superintendent Cami Anderson announced that a pilot program “dubbed ‘My Very Own Library’ will combine Facebook money plus a $125,000 donation from philanthropist Anne Feeley to give about 5,200 students at eight Newark elementary schools a set of 10 books each.” Mayor Booker called it “part of a series of unprecedented education investments” in Newark.
Using charitable donations to give books to kids is great. But it also points up the gap between private charity and sustainable systemic reform. According to guidelines still posted on the NJ Dept. of Education website “Early Literacy requirements are built into the administrative code and every Abbott district must follow the mandates for full implementation of Early Literacy…Each classroom must maintain a 300-title (minimum) classroom library, as well as a Reading Center (PreK-3), a technology center (K-3), and a writing center (PreK-3). Class sizes cannot exceed 15 for PreK or 21 for kindergarten through third. Each PreK and kindergarten must have an aide.
How many classrooms in Newark and other urban districts in NJ have maintained these literacy supports through recent budget cuts and the rollback of Abbott mandates? Charity can’t substitute for the “unprecedented education investments” children need to succeed.