Sunday, May 2, 2010

Take a minute. Can you remember any great books you read in school? Not the required reading, like Johnny Tremain or The Red Badge of Courage. Stuff you checked out of the library because a friend liked it, or a librarian recommended it. How many of those titles would you recommend now to a child, or would read again if you could find the time?

Judy Blume? Donald Sobol? Beverly Cleary? J. K. Rowling? C. S. Lewis? Ellen Raskin? Shel Silverstein? Isaac Asimov? James Marshall? Jolly Roger Bradfield?

Via Robot6, the School Advocacy Wiki has commissioned artwork to publicize the proposed cuts to California school libraries, and to fight to keep school districts from cutting positions across the state (and country, as other states face similar cuts).

There is some good news, at least in Fremont, as funds have been found to restore cuts next year, but that article already has proven how devastating these cuts are to students and literacy. (Half a million fewer books checked out system-wide.)

Full disclosure: I'm a librarian. I am an uncle who actively encourages my nieces and nephews to read. Reading is the foundation of all education, it's ACTIVE learning. Every student who visits a library is looking for something to read. Let me make this clear:

Children are visiting school libraries to read. 

They are not sitting in desks, listening to a teacher teach. They are not taking tests, or writing reports, or filling out worksheets, stuff which every student finds boring but necessary. They are seeking books and information. They are exploring worlds, feeding their imaginations, and, even though they do not realize it, are learning. By themselves.

School budgets are difficult to manage. How does a school board cut any budget, when the investment in students is so important? Even before the current economic mess, teachers were buying school supplies from their own pocket. I just feel that cutting library budgets, especially staff positions, should be one of the last items to be cut in any year.