Friday, November 30, 2012

The real problem in encouraging reading: lack of access to books

This opinion was published in the Green Bay Press-Gazette on November 12, 2012. Libraries are a strong source of social and cultural capital. If want more children to engage in leisurely reading, elected officials and educators must support libraries in under-resourced areas. Too many leaders select to shut down school and branch libraries in budget crises. This short-term solution only hurts disadvantaged rural and urban communities. As an avid reader myself, I wholeheartedly agree with this statement:
I am a cross-over reader, an adult who loved Harry Potter and Hunger Games. But it isn’t true that “Books like 'Hunger Games' make reading cool again,” (Nov. 12). Contrary to popular opinion, reading has always been cool. Teen-agers today spend about the same amount of time reading as they did in 1946. Current data on reading includes reading from the internet, but book reading has not declined: In 1946, according the Book Manufacturers' Institute, 34% of teen-agers said they read a book yesterday; in 2005, according to a Pew report, 33% did.

The real problem in encouraging reading is that those who live in poverty have little access to books: they have few books at home, live in neighborhoods with lower quality libraries and few bookstores, and attend schools with lower quality classroom and school libraries. In most cases, their only chance to get access to books is the library. Research consistently confirms that library quality is related to reading achievement, but support for libraries has declined.

No comments: