Dozens of research studies have shown that it is essential for children to read outside of the school environment. Public library programs reach into schools and extend out into the community; these programs motivate young readers and help them practice their reading skills. Family involvement and a reading-friendly home environment are also key to a child’s literacy success. Public library programs are designed to help parents, especially those with limited resources and/or literacy skills, become reading role models for their children. The public library works with hundreds of community organizations and with school districts to reach every child and ensure lifelong learning from birth through adulthood. The public library offers early literacy programs, which encourage parents and caregivers to read to young children. The public library offers year-round after-school programs, as well as summer reading programs, targeting hard-to-reach, at-risk youth. National research proves that reading over the summer is crucial to a child’s success in school. The public library provides reading-motivation programs to schools that inspire even the most reluctant reader, and also offers community-wide programs to encourage families to read together. The public library’s programs are unique because they: occur year-round; reach vast populations of children in mixed age groups; operate during the summer when other programs do not; and motivate readers through creative approaches that are not found elsewhere. The following resources and tools attest to the unique role played by public libraries serving children in kindergarten through middle school.
Tools to Help Parents Help Their Children become Avid Readers
Carver County Library (MN) offers book lists grouped by grade level and suggests assorted opportunities for parents and children to talk about books. http://www.carverlib.org/kids/books.php
Kanawha County Public Library (WV) provides parental guidelines and reading suggestions segmented into age groups from birth through high school. http://www.kanawha.lib.wv.us/childrens/getkidstoread.html
Queens Public Library, New York Public Library, and Brooklyn Public Library (NY) have teamed up to create their Summer Reading Website, offering booklists, games for children, tips to parents, and incentives for taking part in a large number of fun book-inspired activities taking place in New York City’s many public libraries. http://www.summerreading.org/
The St. Paul Public Library (MN) offers one-on-one tutoring to elementary school children who are struggling readers. The library also has a Webpage devoted to helping parents become more active partners in their child’s reading. http://www.sppl.org/services/tutoring
West Bloomfield Township Public Library (MI) has designed a special parent training program to show parents how to help their children develop literacy by engaging in enjoyable and developmentally appropriate activities from birth through the end of third grade. http://www.growupreading.org/
Programs to Help Children Overcome Anxiety about Reading
Libraries around the country (from Salt Lake City, Utah to Princeton, New Jewsey) host special literacy programs pairing trained therapy dogs with aspiring readers. The first such program began in 1999 when the Salt Lake City Library launched a program called Reading Education Assistance Dogs, part of the Intermountain Therapy Animals organization. Reading to dogs is fun and relaxing for children, allowing them to develop their literacy skills and enthusiasm outside of the classroom environment. In North America, there are now 1,100 reading therapy teams consisting of dogs and owners registered with the READ program.
Source: Nussbaum, Debra. “At These Readings, Listeners Growl for More.” New York Times. 13 August 2006. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/13/nyregion/nyregionspecial2/13njlibrary.html
Book clubs are a powerful tool for combating alliteracy – the phenomenon of knowing how to read, but choosing not to. Public libraries offer children’s book club kits that include multiple copies of a chosen title, activities and discussions guidelines, and in some cases, DVDs of movie versions of the selected title. Among the libraries offering these services are: Madison Public Library (WI); Merrimack Valley Library Consortium (MA); and Carver County Library (MN). Participating children develop friendships with others around a shared love of reading. http://www.booksite.com/texis/scripts/bookletter/showlist.html?sid=6577&list=CNL14&preview=1
Source: O’Donnell-Allen, Cindy. The Book Club Companion: Fostering Strategic Readers in the Secondary Classroom. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2006.
In the Brooklyn Cultural Adventures Program ( http://bcap.heartofbrooklyn.org/), Brooklyn Public Library (NY) has partnered with local cultural organizations in two programs: during the summer, with a camp for Brooklyn’s 7 to 12 year-olds; and during the school year, with a culturally rich after-school curriculum that includes regular on-site visits to the member institutions.
Resources to Help Parents Understand the Internet to Ensure Children Can Explore the Web Safely
The New York Public Library (NY) ( http://www.nypl.org/legal/safety.cfm) provides guidelines for safe Internet use that reminds parents that no filtering program is a substitute for parental involvement. Like other public libraries around the country, New York Public Library provides links to child-oriented search engines (e.g., Yahoo!Kids http://kids.yahoo.com/, Ask Kids http://www.askkids.com/), and other Internet education sites (e.g., PBS’s Official Web License ( http://pbskids.org/license/index.html).
Tutoring Programs and Homework Help for Kids
The Chicago Public Library (IL) offers Kids Catalog, making it easy for children to find books that answer their homework and research-based questions for school projects. The site also includes an interactive quiz for children about Internet safety. http://www.chipublib.org/forkids/index.php
Newark Public Library (NJ) combines free tutoring programs for children ages six through 13, with kid-led activities and clubs. http://www.npl.org/Pages/KidsPlace/New/club.html
Lakewood Public Library (OH) offers a service to create Internet resource guides to support specific class projects: http://www.lkwdpl.org/schools/schlpath.htm. Help for children working on extended assignments like book reports, book reviews, and research projects, is also available.
Best Practices in Public Library Programming for Elementary and Middle School Students and Their Families
Multnomah County Library (OR) ( http://www.multcolib.org/) offers special programs for homeschooled children, including: book groups and discussion guides; online homework help; a local Read to the Dogs program; a summer reading program; and Every Family Reads, a program designed to encourage families with children in grades K-5 to read together. Every Family Reads provides a free copy of the year’s book selection and a project guide containing information and activity suggestions. http://www.multcolib.org/familyreads/index.html
Chicago Public Library (IL) ( http://www.chipublib.org/forkids/kidspages/eventprog.php) offers free drop-in homework help to any elementary school student who visits the library after school (accredited teachers are hired to provide a structured after-school learning environment for children in the library). A telephone hotline connects children to librarians who can answer their questions. They also run a summer reading program that encourages children from age three to 14 to read for fun all summer. For example, kids up to the age of nine who read, or have read to them, twenty-five picture books earn a Reader's T-shirt; children over age nine who read ten chapter books earn a T-shirt as well. Weekly raffles, book giveaways, author visits, performers, and presenters are some of the activities that are featured throughout the summer. Another ongoing program is called Nature Connections. Each of the Chicago Public Library's 79 branches, regional libraries and the Thomas Hughes Children's Library host specialized collections of books, magazines, pamphlets, videos and realia (such as ostrich eggs and rock collections) just for children, in which a child may find the latest book on dinosaurs, or soar with the peregrine falcons through beautifully illustrated stories and informational texts. They may also touch, feel and experiment with the objects in the collections, such as fossil prints or feathers. This integrated learning helps children to explore, respect and reaffirm nature. The library also celebrates Children's Book Week with Bookamania; each year, approximately 4,000 children and their parents attend performances and craft programs, listen to storytellers, and celebrate reading at a huge event hosted at the Winter Garden. The celebration includes 35-40 programs in neighborhood libraries in the days leading up to Bookamania. http://www.chipublib.org/eventsprog/programs/bookamania.php
Published Works for Your Elementary and Middle School Toolbox
Alexander, Karl L., Doris R. Entwisle, and Linda Steffel Olson. “Lasting Consequences of the Summer Learning Gap.” American Sociological Review 72.2 (2007): 167-180. Abstract available at: http://asr.sagepub.com/content/72/2/167.abstract
There is a summer learning gap between lower- and higher-income children and it begins during elementary school. The gap widens over the years, resulting in unequal placements in college preparatory tracks when the children enter high school, increasing the chances that children from lower-income families will drop out of high school, and decreasing their chances of attending a four-year college. Programs aimed at decreasing the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income students should begin in elementary school or even earlier.
American Association of School Librarians. Standards for the 21st Century Learner. Chicago: ALA, 2007. http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/aasl/guidelinesandstandards/learningstandards/standards.cfm
American Library Association and Information Institute, College of Information, Florida State University. Libraries Connect Communities: Public Library Funding and Technology Access Study 2006-2007. Chicago: ALA, 2007. http://www.ala.org/ala/research/initiatives/plftas/previousstudies/0607/index.cfm
This survey of technology access in libraries throughout the United States demonstrates that technology is attracting larger numbers of people to public libraries each year. It includes information on children as consumers of technology, especially as users of databases that help with homework.
Carver, Priscilla R. and Iheoma U. Iruku. After-School Programs and Activities: 2005. Washington, D.C.: National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, 2006. http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2006/2006076.pdf.
Celano, Donna and Susan B. Neuman. The Role of Public Libraries in Children’s Literacy Development: An Evaluation Report. Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Library Association, 2001. http://www.statelibrary.state.pa.us/libraries/lib/libraries/Role%20of%20Libraries.pdf via the Internet Archive.
This report describes the effectiveness of library programs in promoting early childhood literacy, especially storytime programs for preschoolers, as well as summer reading programs for elementary school children. Summer reading programs are powerful tools for combating “aliteracy” – being able to read, but lacking the motivation. This is a major problem in the United States that begins to grow during elementary school when peers can discourage enthusiastic readers. Summer reading programs directly counter this peer pressure, attracting children to libraries by offering incentives and reading-based activities.
Chute, Adrienne and P. Elaine Kroe. Public Libraries in the United States: Fiscal Year 2005. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, 2007. http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2008/2008301.pdf.
Donahue, Patricia L. et al. The Nation’s Report Card: Fourth Grade Reading 2000. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, April 2001. http://nces.ed.gov/naep3/pdf/main2000/2001499.pdf
Report on the 2000 National Assessment of Educational Progress fourth grade reading assessment for the nation. Finds that while the national average score remained stable from 1992 (when the last assessment was conducted), the performance on either end of the assessment scale has intensified.
Douglas, Karen. “Long-term Effects of Summer Setback on Reading Achievement.” Reading Today 25.3 (2007/2008): 39.
Reviews current research on the impact of different levels of summer reading between children from high and low socio-economic status. The achievement gap develops over summer time and increases each year. These studies suggest that summer reading programs hold tremendous potential in closing an achievement gap that is beyond the reach of teachers working within the traditional school year.
Dow, Mirah J. Ingram, and Jacqueline McMahan Lakin. Kansas School Library Media Statewide Study: School Librarians, Technology and Instruction to Achieve Standards. In elementary and secondary schools with fully licensed school librarians (vs. non-licensed), students are earning high recognition for achievement in reading and mathematics. During AY 2005-06, 301/341 school buildings (88%), and AY 2006-07, 466/583 (86%) school buildings with licensed school librarians earned the Kansas Standard of Excellence in both mathematics and reading. Fact Sheet (2008). http://slim.emporia.edu/kschool/research/Documents/FactsSheet_001.pdf
Downs, Mary. Nine to Nineteen: Youth in Museums and Libraries: A Practitioner’s Guide. Washington, D.C.: Institute of Museum and Library Services, 2008. http://www.imls.gov/assets/1/workflow_staging/News/750.pdf
A best practices guide for planning and implementing youth programs in museums and libraries.
Evaluation and Training Institute. Evaluation of the Public Library Summer Reading Program: Books and Beyond… Take Me To Your Reader! Final Report. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Public Library Foundation, December 2001.
Flores, Edward and Harry Pachon. Latinos and Public Library Perceptions. Dublin, Ohio: OCLC, 2008. http://www.webjunction.org/latino-perceptions/articles/content/10860971.
According to this study, satisfaction with English language materials is more pivotal in increasing library visits than satisfaction with Spanish language materials. In addition, use of the library to learn English is the third biggest factor associated with higher library visits. Creating or improving children’s programs geared toward fluency in English, including summer reading programs, is recommended to attract Latinos to the library.
Glander, Mark and Thuy Dam. Households’ Use of Public and Other Types of Libraries: 2002. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, 2007. http://harvester.census.gov/imls/pubs/Publications/2007327.pdf.
Harris, Pam, and Pamela J. McKenzie. "What it Means to be 'In-between': A Focus Group Analysis of Barriers Faced by Children Aged 7 to 11 Using Public Libraries.” Canadian Journal of Information and Library Science 28.4 (2004): 3-24.
This focus group study examines the perspectives of library users, ages seven to 11. It draws from research on children's cognitive, social, affective processes, and development to determine the characteristics and barriers that children in this age group identify during their information seeking and library use.
Kim, Jimmy. “Summer Reading and the Ethnic Achievement Gap.” Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk 9.2 (2004): 169-188. Abstract available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1207/s15327671espr0902_5.
Koke, Judy and Lynn Dierking. Museums and Libraries Engaging America’s Youth: Final Report of a Study of IMLS Youth Programs, 1998-2003. Washington, D.C.: Institute of Museum and Library Services, 2007. http://www.imls.gov/assets/1/AssetManager/YouthReport.pdf.
Krashen, Stephen and Fay Shin. “Summer Reading and the Potential Contribution of the Public Library in Improving Reading for Children of Poverty.” Public Library Quarterly 23.3/4 (2004): 99-109.
Research indicates that there is surprisingly little difference in reading gains between children from high- and low-income families during the school year. Rather, the difference is what happens in the summer. Children from high-income families make better progress in reading over the summer, and over time the summer advantage can account for social-class differences in reading achievement. There is a simple explanation for this difference: Children from high-income families read more over the summer, and they read more because they have more access to books, not only at home but outside the home as well. The author stresses the need to expand and improve the services libraries offer to low-income children in order to close the reading achievement gap.
Lance, Keith Curry and Robbie Bravman Marks. “The Link between Public Libraries and Early Reading Success.” School Library Journal. September 1, 2008. http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6590044.html.
Lehnen, Robert and Chris Cairo. “Serving Summer Reading Needs: Twenty Years at the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library.” Children & Libraries: The Journal of the Association for Library Service to Children 4.2 (2006): 29-34.
This article provides evidence that summer reading programs have seen steady improvements in their ability to attract children from lower socio-economic statuses.
McClure, Charles R. and John Carol Bertot. Public Library Use in Pennsylvania: Identifying Uses, Benefits, and Impacts. Final Report. Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Department of Education, 1998. http://eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/detail?accno=ED419548.
According to focus groups conducted in Pennsylvania’s urban and rural communities, libraries make specific, unduplicated, and important contributions to the education, socialization, and well being of Pennsylvania's children. Libraries provide: an alternative education resource where reading and learning for pure enjoyment and self-development is stressed, rather than reading for the sake of duty, as in the public schools; an unstructured and non-threatening learning environment; a free, public source of curriculum support for homeschooling parents and their students (homeschooling is a significant and growing trend in Pennsylvania); support to private and parochial schools that may not be able to provide any substantive school library resources on their own; supplemental library support to public schools whose school library centers may not be sufficiently supported; educational support and access to resources at times when school resources are unavailable to students, such as after-school hours, weekends, and during the summer; de facto after school caregivers, as children and parents perceive libraries to be a "safe place" for children to go after school; information resources for children to learn to study independently and to learn about the world around them; and an emphasis on the importance of reading to children, in order to encourage reading and literacy at a young age.
McGill-Franzen, Anne and Richard Allington. “Use Students’ Summer-Setback Months to Raise Minority Achievement” Education Digest 69.3 (2003): 19-24. (Research discussed at http://dpi.wi.gov/pld/slp-research.html.)
This study of summer learning loss found that “summer setback” disproportionately hurts children whose families have lower incomes.
Nussbaum, Debra. “At These Readings, Listeners Growl for More.” New York Times. 13 August 2006. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/13/nyregion/nyregionspecial2/13njlibrary.html.
Describes the role of therapy dogs in helping children become more confident readers. More than 1,100 therapy dog and handler teams now work with libraries in communities throughout the United States to provide a safe and supportive audience for children who find reading out loud intimidating in other contexts, such as in school.
O’Donnell-Allen, Cindy. The Book Club Companion: Fostering Strategic Readers in the Secondary Classroom. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2006.
Describes the value of book clubs in raising the excitement and comprehension levels of middle school students.
Preddy, Leslie B. SSR with Intervention: A School Library Action Research Project. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2007.
Shows teachers and school librarians how to implement a Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) with Intervention program. The author describes the crucial role of public libraries in supporting and complementing the efforts made by classroom teachers: they solve the problem of poor home book collections by giving students virtually unlimited access to the books and other reading materials that pique their interests.
Princiotta, Daniel and Stacey Bielick. Homeschooling in the United States: 2003. Washington, D.C.: National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, 2006. http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2006/2006042.pdf.
Public Agenda. Long Overdue: A Fresh Look at Public and Leadership Attitudes about Libraries in the 21st Century. New York: Public Agenda, 2006. http://www.publicagenda.com/files/pdf/Long_Overdue.pdf.
Public Library Association. Statistical Report 2007: Public Library Data Service. Chicago: ALA, 2007. Includes young adult services survey.
The Search Institute. What Kids Need: Developmental Assets. [40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents (12-18), Middle Childhood (8-12), and Early Childhood (3-5)] http://www.search-institute.org/assets/forty.htm.
Sonenberg, Nina. Libraries for the Future: Innovation in Action. New York: Libraries for the Future, 2005.
Describes responsive programs that have been adopted by many libraries to reach underserved audiences. Middle school children are supported by “Imagination Place!” software that lets them join an interactive online club where they can design their own inventions.
Vaden-Kiernan, Nancy and John McManus. Parent and Family Involvement in Education: 2002-2003, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, 2005. http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2005/2005043.pdf.
Useful Websites for Statistical Information
National Center for Education Statistics
International Reading Association
American Library Association