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School libraries foster joy of reading in students. Teacher-librarians help reluctant readers find just the right book, and they shape their library’s collection to reflect their students’ needs and interests. They help the teachers find interesting curriculum materials. They make the school library a vibrant reading centre, and ensure that the school has a reading culture.

Yet school library programs are being drastically reduced across the country as school boards confront funding shortfalls. Cuts are occurring when researchers abroad have determined that well-stocked, professionally-staffed school libraries which remain open during the day are linked to student achievement, reading, information literacy skills and success at the post-secondary level. In the U.S., Europe and South America, policy-makers are increasing school library funding. “The Crisis in Canada’s School Libraries: The Case for Reform and Reinvestment,” the first Canadian study examining the links between school libraries and student achievement, is available at http://www.peopleforeducation.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/School-Libraries-2006.pdf.

In BC in 2010-11, there were 647 were teacher-librarians, compared to 922 in 2001-2, a decrease of 35%. In Ontario in 2012, just 56% of elementary schools had a teacher-librarian on staff— and most (80%) of those worked part-time. Nova Scotia has no teacher-librarians at all, and there are only 3 full-time equivalents in all of New Brunswick.

The National Reading Campaign advocates that:

Governments and school boards re-invest in school libraries and training teacher-librarians.

What can I do?

  • Contact your local school trustee or school board. These are elected representatives and you have every right to ask questions or express concerns. A sample email is available below.
  • Contact your Ministry of Education to express concern over the lack of a provincial strategy for effective school library programs:
    A sample email is below.
  • Evaluate your child’s school library, and advocate for adequate resources to be allotted to the school library.
  • Ask your provincial politicians what their stance is on school libraries. A sample set of questions is below:

Sample Email to Your Local School Library Board

Dear,

It has come to my attention that many school boards have made decisions to make cuts to their school library program. I am writing to express my support for an effective school library program and to ensure that budget cuts are not implemented.

School library programs provide reading engagement, digital media literacy skills, and enable students to develop critical thinking skills. This learning experience is particularly important for the digital era we live in. It is not enough for students to learn about new technologies – they need to know how to assess the value of information resources found on the internet and to understand the implications of social networking.

A well-resourced school library program includes teacher-librarians, library technicians, library coordinators and consultants and current, relevant and well-tended e-resource and book collections.

Some research:

  • Schools with effective school library programs have higher reading achievement scores on provincial testing (EQAO).
  • A decline in percentage of students who like to read is linked to a decline in the percentage of elementary schools with teacher librarians.
  • There is a relationship between positive reading attitudes and higher student achievement. These positive reading behaviours have an impact also on mathematics and science results.

The research and more information is available from the National Reading Campaign at www.nationalreadingcampaign.ca/schoollibraries

I support a strong school library program for this school board. I welcome your response to my concerns.

Sincerely,

 

____________________________________________________________________

 

 

Sample email to the Minister of Education

Dear Minister,

I would like to express my support for school library programs in (PROVINCE). Currently, there is inconsistency across the province in the delivery of a school library program. The research shows that:

  • Schools with effective school library programs have higher reading achievement scores on provincial testing (EQAO).
  • A decline in percentage of students who like to read is linked to a decline in the percentage of elementary schools with teacher librarians.
  • There is a relationship between positive reading attitudes and higher student achievement. These positive reading behaviours have an impact also on mathematics and science results.

I encourage the Ministry of Education to implement the following actions to ensure all students have equitable access to a good school library program:

  • Designate and protect specific funds for school library staffing and resources.
  • Create policy that supports a strong school library program in all schools across the province.
  • Fund at the provincial level much needed educational databases for all schools.

Sincerely,

 

 

_______________________________________________________________

 

QUESTIONS FOR POLITICIANS:

 

1. Teacher-librarians serve as an essential link for learning between students, teachers and information resources, both traditional and electronic. As an electoral candidate, are you aware that staff hours for teacher-librarians have been steadily reduced over the past number of years? Do you approve of this trend?

 

2. Are you aware there are gross inequities in library programs on a school-to-school basis? What does your political party intend to do to eliminate these inequities?

 

3. How will your political party realign the funding so that school libraries across the province can remain open throughout the school week with qualified teacher- librarians and have sufficient funds to replace outdated materials?