Kindergarten–Middle School 6–12

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Talking Points for
Public Libraries

2. Students who read for fun develop positive, lifelong reading habits that reinforce literacy skills.

Quick Stats Supporting This Talking Point

Libraries are uniquely positioned to respond to the achievement gap, because they draw families from across the socio-economic spectrum. Libraries are second only to religious-sponsored events as the destinations of choice for family outings regardless of parents’ economic and education levels. (Vaden-Kiernan and McManus 2005; Sonenberg 2005; McClure and Bertot 1998)

Reading for pleasure is one of the building blocks for young people to grow into healthy, productive adults. (Search Institute; O'Donnell-Allen 2006)

Differences in reading activities and family involvement in summer learning beginning in first grade account for the achievement gap that give children from high socio-economic status an advantage over children from low socio-economic backgrounds. The best way to address the achievement gap is to provide disadvantaged children with rich and engaging educational programs during the summer months. (Alexander, Entwisle and Olson 2007)

Public library summer reading programs can have a profound impact, especially on children living in poverty. On the whole, these children have a greater summer learning loss than do children from affluent families, and any gains that they had over the summer were smaller than their peers whose families had higher incomes. Twice as many fourth graders (58% versus 27%) from disadvantaged families fell below the basic level on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) than did students from more affluent families, and far fewer tested at a proficient level (13% verses 40%). (Allington and McGill-Franzen 2003; Krashen and Shin 2004; Alexander, Entwisle and Olson 2007)

...multiple resources were mentioned as ways to find books and materials, including public libraries… Children discussed their favorite texts at length and in detail, sometimes making intertextual connections between a book and the film rendition, at other times listing favorite genres, series, and authors. (MacGillivray, Ardell and Curwen 2010)

Library summer reading programs have a major impact on student reading levels, ability, and enjoyment. An evaluation of summer reading programs in Los Angeles found that participating children spent more time looking at and reading books than before they joined the program. During the summer, the percent of children reading 10-14 hours a week increased by nine percentage points and the proportion of children reading 15 or more hours a week rose by 11 percentage points. Teachers contacted as part of the Los Angeles study found that the difference between students who participated in summer library programs and those who did not was readily apparent the following fall. The most dramatic difference was that participants were much more enthusiastic about reading: 55% had a high enthusiasm for reading compared to less than 40% of non-participants. Teachers also reported that participating students who were reading above grade level before the summer were more likely to maintain this reading level than peers who did not participate in the summer reading program. (Evaluation and Training institute 2001)

Regular access to public libraries can make the difference between summer setback and summer success. Children who reported easy access to books read more books. Reading as few as four to five books over the summer can prevent a decline in reading achievement scores from the spring to the fall. (Kim 2004; Preddy 2007)

Public libraries increase literacy levels among elementary school children through summer reading programs, which are particularly effective at addressing the achievement gap. Summer reading programs increase young people’s interest in reading by combining silent reading with opportunities for children to read out loud, listen to stories, and take part in creative activities inspired by what they’ve read. These programs have also been very effective at drawing parents into students’ reading lives, a crucial element in developing strong reading habits. (Celano and  Neuman 2001)

Public libraries are the top source of curriculum or books for homeschooled students. In 2003, approximately 1.1 million students, or 2.2% of the K–12 student population, were being homeschooled, with 78% of homeschooled students (ages 5–17, with grade equivalent of K–12) and their parents reporting they used the public library as a source of curriculum or books. (Princiotta and Bielick 2006)

For Latinos who visited the library weekly or more, the second most common reason for their visits was to take their children (33.6%). They were more satisfied with children’s books (91.9% and movies (86.9%) in English than with the same materials in Spanish (76.5% and 66.9% respectively). Satisfaction was also high with programs for children (85.5%). (Flores and Pachon 2008)

Circulation of young adult materials is strong, despite the fact that libraries only spend an average of 5.2 percent of their materials budget on young adult materials. In the fiscal year 2006, an average of 4.7 items per young adult circulated, with a materials cost of $2.97 per young adult. (Public Library Association and Public Library Data Service 2007)