Friday, December 02, 2011

Responding to the Economist

The importance of quality libraries: What the research says
Sent to The Economist, Dec 2

“Checked out” (Dec 3) asks us not to “underestimate the symbolic role libraries play as a visible public good.” Libraries play much more than a symbolic role.
Study after study has shown that reading achievement is higher when children have access to better school and public libraries, that is, libraries with better holdings and with qualified staff. This has been shown for individual states in the US, for the US as a whole, and internationally. The reason is simple: More access to reading material results in more reading, and more reading results in more literacy development.
Quality libraries are especially important for children of poverty, because they have very little access to books at home. The library is often their only source of books. Unfortunately, studies also show that children of poverty are the least likely to have access to quality libraries, and are consistently the lowest scorers on reading tests.
Throughout the world, politicians make pious pronouncements about the need to improve children’s reading ability, while at the same time they refuse to invest in the primary and most obvious means of making this happen.
Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

“Reading achievement is higher ... literacy development”: McQuillan, J. 1998. The Literacy Crisis: False Claims and Real Solutions. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann; Lance, K. 2004. The impact of school library media centers on academic achievement. In Carol Kuhlthau (Ed.), School Library Media Annual. 188-197. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited. (For access to the many Lance studies done in individual states, as well as studies done by others at the state level, see; Krashen, S. 2004. The Power of Reading. Portsmouth: Heinemann and Westport: Libraries Unlimited; Krashen, S. 2011. Protecting students against the effects of poverty: Libraries. New England Reading Association Journal 46 (2): 17-21.
Children of poverty: Feitelson, D. & Goldstein, Z. (1986). Patterns of book ownership and reading to young children in Israeli school-oriented and nonschool oriented families. The Reading Teacher, 39, 224-230; Di Loreto, C., and Tse, L. 1999. Seeing is believing: Disparity in books in two Los Angeles area public libraries. School Library Quarterly 17(3): 31-36; Neuman, S.B. & Celano, D. (2001). Access to print in low-income and middle-income communities: An ecological study of four neighborhoods. Reading Research Quarterly, 36, 1, 8-26.
Economist article:

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