A recently released report, What Kids are Reading: The Book Reading Habits of Students in American Schools, by Renaissance Learning has brought attention to the ongoing decline of students’ reading scores. This report really should not surprise anyone because similar reports appear periodically. To my mind, the logical response is to encourage and promote programs that have been shown to improve reading skills. Research has shown the presence of professional librarians in school libraries leads to higher reading scores (Something to Shout About: New Research Shows that More Librarians Means Higher Reading Scores by Keith Curry Lance and Linda Hofshire, School Library Journal, September 2011).
So you might think that the powers that be should be making every effort to ensure that every child in school has access to a school library with a professional librarian. Instead, faced with ever-tightening budgets, school boards are cutting libraries and librarians. Just today I came across two announcements of major cuts. One school board in Nova Scotia is eliminating the positions of every librarian in every school (Board axes all school librarians, by Mary Ellen Macintyre in The Chronicle Herald). American University Radio reports that the D.C. Public School system’s funding guidelines for the new fiscal year no longer include a specific funding allocation for a librarian for schools with enrollments of fewer than 300 students (D.C. School Librarians Face an Uncertain Future, by Jessica Gould).
These sorts of budget cuts have always struck me as penny wise and pound foolish. Yes, we are going through difficult economic times. But what hope is there for our future if we sabotage our children’s education to save a few dollars now. It seems to me that we will pay a far higher price in the future when today’s students become tomorrow’s adults and are ill-equipped to cope with the flood of information that is part of our society’s daily life.
Lest you think these are isolated incidents in a few school districts – one of my examples is actually in Canada after all- you should be aware that President Obama’s proposed budget for 2013 eliminates funding for literacy programs (President Cuts School Libraries from Proposed 2013 Budget, by Lauren Barack in School Library Journal, February 15, 2012). The amount is but a tiny drop in budget bucket, but it will have a lasting impact on our nation’s future.