YALSA responds to adolescent literacy report from Carnegie

Contact: Stephanie Kuenn

YALSA Communications Specialist




For Immediate Release

October 1, 2009

CHICAGO — Linda W. Braun, president of the Young Adult Library Services Association, sent the following response to
Time to Act: An Agenda for Advancing Literacy for College and Career Success, published by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

“Recently, the Carnegie Corporation of New York released
Time to Act: An Agenda for Advancing Adolescent Literacy for College and Career Success. As the president of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), I applaud your commitment to improving literacy among adolescents in middle and high schools. YALSA agrees strongly with the statement in the executive summary that ‘Adolescent literacy must now be made an overarching national priority.’”

“However, I am disappointed that libraries and librarians are excluded entirely from your plan to ensure our young adults have the literacy skills they need to succeed both in college and the twenty-first century workplace.”

“YALSA supports the report’s call to action to strengthen state and federal involvement, to encourage principals to play a more active role in promoting adolescent literacy, and to provide teachers with the resources and training they need to be effective. But librarians and school library media specialists are an important piece of improving an adolescent’s ability to, in the report’s words, “judge the credibility of resources, evaluate arguments, and understand and convey complex information.” Librarians and school library media specialists are professionally trained information experts – they regularly aid teachers in building students’ research and information literacy skills, they possess deep knowledge of adolescent literacy development, and they are the absolute best resource for ensuring that schools have a wide variety of reading materials that students both need and want to read.”

“As you noted in the report, many school districts invest in a literacy coach to help them meet these needs. But the report laments that coaches are insufficiently qualified – while every school that hires a certified school library media specialist, in contrast, employs a staff member that possesses an advanced degree or state level certification, with experience in both reading and literacy, ideal for complementing the learning taking place in classrooms.”

“In addition to the exclusion of librarians and library media specialists, the report also overlooked the key role that libraries play in fostering literacy. In schools, libraries are both the physical and virtual hub of learning. They provide access to a wide variety of reading materials, as well as a real and virtual space for learning and exploration, to every student and faculty member in the building. Libraries are cost effective, in that they are the single place that maintains a collection of a broad-range of reading material and learning resources. Because libraries are purchasing materials for an entire school, librarians are also able to take advantage of bulk discounts that individual classroom libraries can not. Classroom libraries, therefore, are only successful in supplementing an actual library, as they are not as cost effective, and have a much more limited variety of materials.”

“Since the 1970s, dozens of studies have shown that access to a professionally staffed, well-stocked school library leads to higher student scores on standardized reading tests. YALSA helped create a clearinghouse for research and statistics on adolescent literacy and libraries at
www.ala.org/additup, where you can find more statistics on the value of school and public libraries and certified librarians and school library media specialists.”

“As you move forward in advocating for improved literacy among our nation’s adolescents, I hope that you remember that libraries and librarians play an integral role in achieving your goals, and that you invite us to be both a part of the discussion and a part of the solution. YALSA and its parent organization, the American Library Association – and its nearly 65,000 members – would be more than happy to aid you in this important goal, one that we share.”

For more than 50 years, YALSA has been the world leader in selecting books, videos, and audio books for teens. For more information about YALSA or for lists of recommended reading, viewing and listening, go to
www.ala.org/yalsa/booklists, or contact the YALSA office by phone, 800-545-2433, ext. 4390; or e-mail: