The School Library: What Parents Should Know
Learning today means more than memorizing facts. It means learning to learn for a lifetime. Savvy parents and educators know that the school library is key to teaching students not just to read but to practice the skills they need to seek, evaluate and use information throughout their lives. In fact, research shows those students from schools with professionally staffed, fully equipped libraries score higher on achievement tests.
Does your child's school library measure up?
The best way to find out is to pay a visit and ask the following questions suggested by the American Association of School Librarians, a division of the American Library Association:
- Is there a state-certified full-time school librarian?
- Does your child have access to the school library anytime during the day that he/she needs to use its resources? Does the library offer remote access from home via computer?
- Does your child visit the school library frequently with his/her class? Individually? In small groups?
- Is the school library an attractive and convenient space where children can work individually and in small groups?
- Does the school library have a wide range of resources in a variety of formats–books, computers, audio and videotapes–that appeal to different learning styles?
- Does the library have the hardware and software to provide access to the Internet and other electronic resources?
- Are the resource materials in the school library current? Are the encyclopedias less than three years old?
- Is the school library budget adequate to provide a full range of both print and electronic resources?
- Are children encouraged to read, view and listen both for understanding and enjoyment?
- Are school administrators knowledgeable and supportive of the school library?
- Does the school provide ongoing training to support teachers and staff in learning about new technologies?
- Are teachers encouraged to work with the school librarian to extend learning opportunities beyond the textbook and classroom?
- Is there a process for ongoing evaluation of the school library?
How You Can Support Your Child's Education
Tips from the American Library Association:
- Visit your school library. Is there a qualified librarian available to work with students? Are the books and resources up to date? Children cannot be educated to live and work in the 21st century using resources from the 1970s. Let your principal and school board know of your concerns.
- Get to know your school librarian. Ask what the needs are and how you can help. Donations of books and equipment such as computers and video players may be welcome. Offer to volunteer your time.
- Join the Friends of the Library, a support group of volunteers who provide fundraising and other assistance. If there is no group, offer to start one.
- Help your child be school ready. Enroll your preschool child in storyhours and other programs at the public library. Make sure your child has a library card and knows how to use it. Read together with your child. Research shows that children who are read to in the home do better in school.
- Be a role model. Let your child see you reading at home. Help your child explore new technology. Many school and public libraries make computers available for public use. Feel free to ask for assistance.
Support legislators who support libraries and education. Let them know you think the two go together and should be a high priority.