"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Friday, February 01, 2013

Quck and easy way to improve life for children of poverty: invest in libraries

A quick and easy way

Sent to This Week in Poverty, the Nation Magazine, comment on “This Week in Poverty: Time to Take On Concentrated Poverty and Education”
Original article: http://www.thenation.com/blog/172589/week-poverty-time-take-concentrated-poverty-and-education#

Missing from This Week in Poverty’s list of projects designed to alleviate the effects of poverty are projects aimed at providing more access to books. There is very consistent evidence showing that
1. children of poverty living in high-poverty areas have little access to books at home, at school, or in their communities
2. more access to interesting, comprehensible reading material means better development of literacy
3. providing access to books increases literacy development.

The major source of books for children of poverty is the library. Studies done in the US and internationally show that library quality (more books, more staffing, presence of a credentialed librarian) is associated with reading proficiency.

Recent results strongly suggest that the presence of a library can cancel the negative effect of poverty on reading achievement.

Improving school and public libraries and supporting librarians, in high poverty areas is a quick and easy way to improve the quality of life and school performance. For a fraction of what we are paying for tougher standards and massive testing, every child in the US could have access to an excellent supply of books and other reading material.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

Some Sources:

Lance, K. C. The Impact of School Libraries on Student Achievement. http://www.lrs.org/impact.php

Krashen, S. 2012. The Spectacular Role of Libraries in Protecting Students from the Effects of Poverty: iLeader: Journal of The School Library Association of New South Wales 1(4): 3-6. Available at www.sdkrashen.com.


  1. This is an excellent article, of which I agree, wholeheartedly. Investing in our children means that we are maintaining the foundations created to support learning. That is what libraries are for...supporting and maintaining learning.

  2. It's sad that the library was once an amazing thing that was free and now it's a place for "Free movie rentals and heated rooms for homeless, but not for many hours at a time because the public doesn't care enough to keep us open" that hangs on by a thread. I am both pleased and disappointed at how quickly I can get any book I want on hold for me every week. (Pleased - selfish reasons. Disappointed - because there's no competition)