Impact on Reading and Literacy

Research consistent: students perform better with an endorsed librarian

The research on school librarians and their association with students’ test scores is remarkably consistent in its findings: regardless of how rich or poor a community is, students tend to perform better on reading tests where, and when, their library programs are in the hands of endorsed librarians. Furthermore, at schools where library programs gain or maintain an endorsed librarian when school budgets get tight, students tend to excel. At schools where library programs lose or never had an endorsed librarian, students suffer as a result.

Association of librarians with higher reading scores cannot be explained away by economic conditions

As in earlier state-level school library impact studies and the SLJ national study, the association of endorsed librarians with higher reading scores cannot be explained away by local economic conditions.

Librarians positively correlate with reading scores with poverty as control variable

In this instance, both endorsed and non-endorsed librarians were positively correlated with advanced CSAP reading scores and negatively correlated with unsatisfactory scores. In other words, with poverty utilized as a control variable, both endorsed and non-endorsed librarians had positive and statistically significant correlations with reading scores. Notably, however, these relationships are stronger for endorsed librarians than non-endorsed ones. What did not change was the lack of relationship between non-endorsed library assistants working without a librarian and reading scores. Apparently, library assistants working without supervision do not have any impact on reading scores, either advanced or unsatisfactory.

Reading scores rise with a full-time endorsed librarian

In 2011, schools with at least one FTE [ full-time equivilent] endorsed librarian averaged significantly higher advanced CSAP reading scores (8% vs. 6%) and significantly lower unsatisfactory scores (9% vs. 11%) than schools with less than one FTE endorsed librarian [a library assistant or non-endorsed librarian]. 

Negative relationship between unsatisfactory reading levels and endorsed librarian staffing

There is a negative and statistically significant relationship between unsatisfactory reading levels and endorsed librarian staffing trends.Schools that either maintained or gained an endorsed librarian between 2005 and 2011 tended to have fewer students scoring unsatisfactory in reading in 2011 (i.e., lower scores) (28% and 26%, respectively) and to have reduced that problem more since 2005 (i.e., lower increase) than schools that either lost their librarians or never had one (both at 34%). Conversely, schools that either lost a librarian during this period or never had one (32% and 34%) tended to have more students scoring unsatisfactory in 2011 and to have seen that problem increase more since 2005 than schools that maintained or gained a librarian (21% and 30%).Notably, schools with the largest percentage of lower unsatisfactory reading scores in 2011 and lower increases in that figure between 2005 and 2011 (34%) were those that gained an endorsed librarian during the interval. As with advanced reading scores, if an endorsed librarian is doing her or his job well, this is what one would expect.

Significant relationship between reading levels and endorsed librarian staffing

There is a positive and statistically significant relationship between advanced reading levels and endorsed librarian staffing trendsSchools that either maintained or gained an endorsed librarian between 2005 and 2011 tended to have more students scoring advanced in reading in 2011 and to have increased their performance more since 2005 (45% and 49%, respectively) than schools that either lost their librarians or never had one ( 33% and 29%). Conversely, schools that either lost a librarian during that period or never had one (33% and 39%) tended to have fewer students scoring advanced in 2011 and to have seen lesser gains—or indeed, losses—since 2005 than schools that maintained or gained a librarian (23% and 18%).

Library programs help prepare children and schools for kindergarten transition

The Oceano Branch of the San Luis Obispo (SLO) City-County Public Library system is the first (SLO) branch library to implement the Raising a Reader Program. The newly opened branch, which is situated on a site next to the Oceano Elementary School and an adult learning center, is well positioned to provide services to both parents and their children. The program, which is partially supported by First 5 of San Luis Obispo and the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education, targets children and their families living in the predominantly Hispanic community surrounding Oceano Elementary School. The project is part of a broad initiative to provide educational support to parents, provide preschool and childcare, operate kindergarten transition programs, coordinate existing health and social services, and encourage schools to be ready for children, and vice versa. A preliminary review of the program results conducted by First 5 of San Luis Obispo indicate that the program is having a significant impact on the way parents approach learning in the household. Parents surveyed after three months of program participation reported statistically significant changes in the amount they read to their children (from 59% at baseline to 85%), their perceived importance of such reading (from 8.9% at baseline to 9.8%), and their increased use of the library system (from 38% at baseline to 69%) (First 5 SLO 2005) (p. 11).

Benefits of preschool and summer reading programs

Our visits to libraries throughout the state show that these programs help develop strong reading skills in Pennsylvania’s children. The programs encourage children to enjoy reading and give them opportunities to spend lots of time with books—a first step toward developing strong reading skills. Children also benefit from the rich literacy experiences afforded by the many special events and organized programs the library offers. Finally, parents of children engaged in preschool and summer reading programs appear to be strongly invested in their children’s reading achievement. For thousands of children through Pennsylvania, preschool and summer reading programs offer a strong step in their climb toward reading achievement, and ultimately, success in school (40).

Summer reading programs increase reading achievement

As these findings suggest, summer reading clubs encourage children to read, and to read often. Research has shown that the amount of time children spend with books is crucial to reading achievement, and ultimately, to school achievement in general. Parents, children, and librarians report that the goals and structure of the summer reading program are very conducive to promoting reading (37).

Library reading programs encourage reading achievement

Observations at various libraries and interviews with parents, children, and library staff reveal that preschool and summer reading programs encourage children to spend significant amounts of time with books, a first step toward reading achievement. Observations  and interviews also show that library programs encourage parents to play greater roles in the children’s literacy development­­—another factor leading to reading achievement (4).

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