Contact: Larra Clark
Manager, Media Relations
For Immediate Release
July 13, 2004
Libraries essential to national reading efforts: ALA President Carol Brey-Casiano responds to "Reading at Risk"
CHICAGO -- When the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) released "Reading at Risk" last week, alarm bells sounded for the American Library Association (ALA), the library profession and others who have a passion for reading. There is clearly cause for concern in the report's detailing of a declining number of literary readers-particularly among young adults.
Past surveys by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), an ALA division, show that a majority of teens enjoy reading - when they have time. For this reason, YALSA launched Teen Read Week six years ago to remind teens, parents and educators that we all must make time to read for fun. School and public libraries are working harder than ever to engage adolescents with reading of all kinds - from magazines to graphic novels to classics like "The Catcher in the Rye."
Unfortunately, this new report did not address library use by the respondents, and perhaps it should have:
- Public Library visits have more than doubled in the past decade to nearly 1.2 billion, and circulation of books and other resources continues to grow.
- Since 2002, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of libraries hosting community-wide reading programs, also known as "One Book, One Community" initiatives. The Library of Congress Center for the Book has recorded more than 250 known community-wide reading programs.
- According to a 1998 ALA survey, 62 percent of public libraries offered book discussion programs. Since then, ALA has seen a significant increase in the number of libraries looking to ALA for support and guidance with these types of programs.
- According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the average number of items circulated per week in public school library media centers shows an upward trend:
- A new study of the impact of research-based early literacy practices in public libraries finds that parents and caregivers of young children from birth to 5 years who took part in public library early literacy programs across the United States from 2002-03 significantly increased their literacy behaviors. Participants in the study now flock to libraries to check out books for themselves, as well as age-appropriate materials for very young children.
As NEA Charman Dana Gioia has said, there is no single solution to declining reading rates - but libraries certainly are at the forefront of fostering a nation of readers. The ALA hopes this new report will invigorate a national discussion around literature and reading that ultimately leads to a renewed commitment to libraries and literary programs in this country. At a time when many libraries across our nation are suffering serious budget reductions, this report demonstrates the need for increased support of libraries.
Librarians know that when time, attention and resources are devoted to connecting Americans with literature, we will read!