Books & Libraries Are Important

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Reading Is Important

I love electronics, and I can’t imagine teaching without a computer and the Internet anymore.  But ‘surfing the ‘net’ has taken over in my classroom and the casualty is reading.  My Grade 6 students have lost the opportunity to just relax read for fun!  What happened?

  1. Students don’t see reading as an important skill:  Schools are focusing on a wide variety of skills, such as keyboarding, coding, etc. for the 21st Century.  These are important, but reading should still be valued as an important skill as it is needed in the future too!  As Confucius says, “You cannot open a book without learning something.”
  2. Students don’t have time to read:  We have filled our children’s time with so many sports competitions and extracurricular activities that they don’t have time to sit quietly with a book.  Free time is no longer free.

So, why don’t we give our students the gift of time to read?  I am a real advocate of reading in my Literature class, and I have integrated some important ideas from Nancie Atwell (author of In the Middle, New Understandings About Writing, Reading and Learning) and Donalyn Miller (author of The Book Whisperer, Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child).  One of the best ideas, although hardest to protect, is giving my students the gift of time to read in the classroom, along with expectations to read books outside of the required curriculum.  The year started off a bit rough, and it has taken time for us to get used to this dimension of learning, but the students are beginning to appreciate it and ask for it as they arrive in the classroom.

Libraries Are Still Needed

I have a library in my classroom so my students can find a book they WANT to read.  This requires a lot of work (and money) so I can offer a variety of genres, topics and authors.  I have gone to used-book stores, book sales at libraries and even carved into my daughter’s library!  I can’t keep up with the demand for different books to address the students’ curiosity and need for variety, so I need support from other sources.

In the past, I could rely on the library/media center in our school to support this need, but it was recently eliminated to offer more classroom space. While this was needed for our growing school and our changing curriculum, my students lost the chance to browse for books.

My school is not unusual.  According to the American Library Association, the number of school librarians declined more than the number of other educators from 2006 to 2011 . . . according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics. The total number of school librarians increased by less than one percent from school year 2005–2006 to 2006–2007; then decreased less than 1% in 2007–2008, 1.1% in 2008–2009, 2.3% in 2009–2010, and 4.3% in 2010–2011. (Source: ALA.org/State of America’s Libraries Report 2014)  

Print Books Are Better Than Electronic Books

Some would argue that we have electronic books and students still have access to books anytime, anywhere.  But, in my opinion, this is not the same, and I think there will always be a need for print books in the classroom.  My students have expressed a preference for print books because they enjoy the tactile encounter with a traditional book, turning its pages or sharing with their friends. According to Scholastic, in their article E-Books vs. Print: What Parents Need to Know:

The music, animation, and games that are loaded into kids’ e-books can end up being more distracting than useful, says Lisa Guernsey, director of the early education initiative at the New America Foundation.  “The technology is so exciting that the conversation focuses on what button to push instead of the content,” she says. What’s better is when those bells and whistles lead back to the story, instead of just entertaining.

I still love electronics, and I am not a Luddite wanting to regress into a past when electronics weren’t so pervasive.  I think the Internet has dynamically changed our educational system for the better.  But, I want to balance this with the joy of reading a book again.

A house without books is like a room without windows. – Heinrich Mann

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