Friday, June 3, 2016

The Power of Libraries

Submitted to to the Santa Monica Daily Press, May 28, 2016

California's reading scores are consistently among the lowest in the country.  Research has shown that this is related to our high level of child poverty (now 27%, the highest in the nation) and failure to provide children with access to reading material.

For most children of poverty, the library is their only source of books. California's school libraries, for years among the worst in the country, have shown some improvement in collection size in the last decade. We are still dead last, however, in another important category: Ratio of school librarians per student.

A number of studies have shown that the presence of a credentialed school librarian is related to higher reading scores. In the US as a whole, there is approximately one credentialed school librarian per 1000 students. In California, there is one school librarian for every 1700 students. Only 9% of California schools have a credentialed school librarian.

Public libraries are not taking up the slack. Public libraries are especially important for young readers during the summer, when school libraries are usually closed.

California's public libraries are not well-supported.  California cities captured seven of the bottom ten places in the public library category of the most recent "America's Most Literate Cities report" (2015). The report analyzes data from 77 cities with populations of 250,000 and above, and is based on number of branch libraries, holdings, circulation and staffing.

Here are the bottom ten:
68. Los Angeles
69. Anaheim
72. Bakersfield
73. Sacramento
74. Chula Vista
75. Stockton
77. Santa Ana

Oakland and San Francisco were the only California cities to escape the bottom 20.

I wonder if any of the state senate or assembly candidates are aware of these figures. 

Stephen Krashen
Profesor Emeritus
University of Southern California


Poverty, access to books, and reading scores: Krashen, S., Lee, S.Y. and McQuillan, J. 2012. Is the library important? Multivariate studies at the national and international level. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 8(1): 26-36.
Data on school libraries in California:
Summer and public libraries: Heyns, Barbara. 1975.  Summer Learning and the Effect of School. New York: Academic Press.
Most literate cities report:
Reading scores:

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