AASL survey reveals U.S. school libraries lack materials to support needs of ELLs

Contact: Melissa Jacobsen

AASL Communications Specialist

(312) 280-4381



For Immediate Release

January 5, 2010

CHICAGO – According to a recent survey from the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), many schools lack initiatives to incorporate English Language Learners (ELL) successfully into the school population.

This finding comes as a result of the 2009 School Libraries Count! National Longitudinal Survey of School Library Media Programs. In addition to annual survey questions, starting in 2008 AASL began adding supplemental questions to address a current issue within the school library field. In 2009 these questions focused on school library media programs’ initiatives to address the ever-growing population of ELLs in U.S. schools.

Of the 5,824 total respondents, 14 percent of the responding schools indicated that ELLs made up more than 25 percent of the student population. The highest concentration was reported in elementary schools where nearly one in five have 25 percent or more ELL students. The region with the highest concentration was the West, and many ELLs attend public schools in metropolitan areas.

Of the perceived initiative that would prove most successful for ELLs, one in four respondents indicated free-choice reading. However, more than half of these respondents indicated that their collections held none or less than 1 percent of non-English publications. Nine out of 10 reported that less than 5 percent of their collection is in a language other than English.

Reponses on collaboration strategies did show that school library media programs are trying different strategies to increase literacy efforts among ELLs. Fifty-one percent of respondents indicated that they begin an independent reading initiative by allowing students to select their own reading materials. Others indicated designing lessons that were rich in content without being dependent on language (24 percent). Still, 36 percent said that they don't use any of the collaborative strategies listed in the survey.Â

"With such high concentrations of ELL in our schools and free-choice reading indicated as a successful learning initiative, school library media specialists are in the unique position to make significant contributions to this unique student population," said AASL President Cassandra Barnett. "Clearly resources, both in reading materials as well as certified and trained school library media specialists, can greatly impact the success of ELL."

The School Libraries Count! National Longitudinal Survey of School Library Media Programs aims to gather data on changes in the field to gain understanding of the state of school library media programs nationally. While national estimates are developed on the basis of survey responses from a stratified random sample of public schools, all K-12 schools, public and private, were invited to participate on a voluntary basis. Private schools were included in the survey with the endorsement and support of AASL's Independent Schools Section (ISS). Data on this and previous School Libraries Count! longitudinal studies can be found at

The American Association of School Librarians,
www.aasl.org, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), promotes the improvement and extension of library media services in elementary and secondary schools as a means of strengthening the total education program. Its mission is to advocate excellence, facilitate change and develop leaders in the school library media field.