Supporting libraries key to increasing youth literacy

Contact: Macey Morales

ALA Media Relations


Stephanie Kuenn



For Immediate Release,

November 19, 2007

Roy responds to NEA study: Supporting libraries key to increasing youth literacy

CHICAGO – The following is a statement issued by American Library Association President Loriene Roy regarding the release of the National Endowment for the Arts' (NEA) latest literacy study, "To Read or Not To Read: A Question of National Consequence."

"With the release of Monday’s reading study 'To Read or Not to Read,' the NEA issued a call to action. The study’s findings—that reading for pleasure has declined among teens and adults, resulting in lower standardized test scores and poor reading comprehension skills—are proof positive that parents, educators, librarians and anyone who supports literacy must act now to ensure that future generations see reading as a dynamic, engaging activity.

"The American Library Association (ALA) is more than happy to take up this cause.

"According to the Public Library Data Service (PLDS) Statistical Report, published by the Public Library Association (PLA), only half of U.S. public libraries have a librarian dedicated full time to young adult services. More than 10 percent reported they do not offer programming targeted to young adults.

"Yet young adults who have access to libraries are using them more than ever. In a poll conducted for ALA by Harris Interactive in June 2007, 93 percent of survey respondents ages 13-18 indicated they had access to a public library; 88 percent indicated they had access to a school library. Of those who had access to a library, 30 percent reported that they visited their public library more than ten times per year, while 71 percent indicated they visit their school library at least monthly.

"Teens need libraries, in locations that are easy for them to access, in every community. They need teen services librarians and school library media specialists who can encourage them to read just for the fun of it, through initiatives such as the Young Adult Library Services Association’s (YALSA) Teen Read Week™. They need teen services librarians and school library media specialists who can give the right book to the right teen at the right time.

"They also need adults to support them. The NEA study found that most American adults are not reading even one book a year. Improving teens’ attitudes toward reading begins with adults. Parents and caregivers can model good reading habits at home by setting aside time to read every day, by keeping books, magazines and other reading material around the home and by making sure their children have access to libraries. They can become regular library patrons, since the library is a free resource available in most communities throughout the United States. Adults who care about literacy can vote for increased funding and support legislation that gives libraries the resources and the funds they need to serve patrons at all ages and reading levels. (For more ideas on how adults can support teen reading, visit and read YALSA’s Ten Ways To Support Teen Reading.)

"It is clear that we, as a nation, need to address the alarming statistics that the NEA unveiled in 'Reading at Risk.' An excellent first step is making sure that our libraries are well-funded and staffed by qualified professionals who have a passion for making everyone—child, teen or adult—into a lifelong reader."