In favor of librarians and "teacher-friends"

In a recent New York Times feature, several prominent educators, politicians, innovators, business leaders and authors talked about "The Educational Experiences That Change a Life". Junot Diaz, author of the remarkable The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao had this to say about his school librarian:

In Mrs. Crowell's Library By Junot Diaz, author

I remember her as a small woman, but what do I know? I was small myself. She’s in none of the official photographs I have from my elementary-school days, but in my memory, my first librarian is a gentlewhitewoman who wore glasses and was exceedingly kind to this new immigrant. I do not remember her voice, but I do remember that every time I saw her, she called me to her desk and showed me with an almost conspiratorial glee a book she had picked out for me, a book I always read and often loved.

Every now and then you get lucky in your education and you make a teacher-friend; Mrs. Crowell was my first. By second grade she was allowing me to take out more books than the prescribed limit. By third grade I was granted admission to her librarian’s office. My love of books was born of hers. As a newcomer with almost no knowledge of the country in which I’d found myself, I was desperate to understand where the hell I was, who I was. I sought those answers in books. It was in Mrs. Crowell’s library that I found my first harbor, my first truly safe place in the United States. I still feel a happy pulse every time I see a library. I’m with Borges in imagining Paradise as “a kind of library.” Where instead of angels there will be a corps of excellent librarians.

School Libraries Boost Reading Test Scores, According to New Study

The School Library Journal used data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to prove something librarians and reading specialists have long held to be true: schools with school libraries and full time librarians are making significant gains on standardized reading tests. When analyzing the result of cutbacks on school libraries on 4th grade reading test scores, the School Library Journal found:

The results are what you’d expect: in many cases, fewer librarians translated to lower performance—or a slower rise in scores—on standardized tests.

Libraries that are kept "open" without full-time librarians become little more than book-storage spaces, or as is the case with many schools in DC, extra space to be used however the administration deems fit.

“If libraries are kept open by volunteers, then they become little more than warehouses. The negative impact on student achievement may not be immediately evident, but it will be substantial," says Barbara Stripling, director of library services for New York City’s Department of Education told the School Library Journal.

Take a look at the data below and think about all the good EnjoyReading can do for schools where administrative cutbacks won't budge, and libraries and librarians are being cut. If the data moves you, why not Send A Book to Stanton Elementary, EnjoyReading's pilot school for the 2011-12 school year?!

Read more from the original article, "Something to Shout About: New research shows that more librarians means higher reading scores"

Getting the book room ready, with the help of Capital Cause Volunteers!

EnjoyReading has been hard at work to turn around a messy closet (mostly full of books, but also storing unused projectors and furniture) into a beautiful, organized, circulating book room for the students and families at Stanton Elementary School!

EnjoyReading would like to give a shout out to Capital Cause Volunteers who helped organized and level books in the book room on DCPS's Beautification Day 2011. Thank you!!

Send A Book to Stanton Elementary to help EnjoyReading get the book room looking beautiful for the new school year!

School Libraries and Inequity in DC

This Tuesday, OSSE (DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education) released the 2011 DC CAS scores for the district's public and charter schools. You can look up each school's report card here. Or, if you prefer, you can view data visualization from FOCUS.

Stanton Elementary School, the school chosen for EnjoyReading's pilot site, showed a decline in scores from 2010 to 2011. Merely 9% of the students tested demonstrated proficiency in literacy. The school has no functioning library and no librarian on staff.

In comparison, Lafayette Elementary School in Ward 4 scored 87% proficiency in literacy. The school boasts a fully functioning library with a full time librarian on staff. The school's website states:

With over 23,000 books, every student is able to find a book they really want to read, the first step to becoming a life-long avid reader.

Why do the children at Lafayette enjoy the benefits of a school library whereas the children of Stanton do not? Both schools are operated by DCPS and both schools serve the district's taxpayers. Why are the children and schools who struggle the most not receiving the resources that have been proven to improve literacy?

EnjoyReading's mission is not only raise test scores, but to get kids and families to enjoy reading high-interest, engaging books of the students' choice. Unfortunately, this mission is a priority for some, but not all DC children.

EnjoyReading would love to hear your own memories from visiting school libraries as a child. Or to hear about the wonderful work of school librarians in your own children's schools. Leave us a comment!

EnjoyReading website sneak peek!

10,9,8 The countdown is over, visit enjoyreading.org and "send a book" today!

Spread the word... You can now browse and purchase the books available for Pre-K through 2nd grade at EnjoyReading's pilot site at Stanton Elementary School!

As we are a startup organization, feel free to share this news far and wide, and also provide us with any feedback you might have. Our official launch takes place in early September with a party in Washington, DC!

EnjoyReading is an early childhood literacy initiative that provides access to high-interest reading materials for low-income schools, and facilitates book sharing, in order to create positive experiences and connections between home and school.

Our vision is that children will have positive literacy experiences, share these experiences at home, and encourage families to enjoy reading together.

Thanks for reading!

-Ali & Rachel

Partnership Site Announced!

We are thrilled to announce EnjoyReading's partnership site has been confirmed to Stanton Elementary! Stanton Elementary is located in Ward 8, Southeast Washington DC at 2701 Naylor Road SE.

2010 achievement data showed 8 percent proficiency in math and 13 percent proficiency in reading, ranking Stanton at the bottom of all DC Public Schools. Last school year (2010-2011), DC Public Schools partnered with Scholar Academies to manage Stanton under turnaround provisions.

In this Sunday's New York Times article "Washington, D.C., Loses Black Majority" - quotes "In April, the Census Bureau reported that Ward 8, in the city’s mostly poor and black southeast, had the highest jobless rate in the country."

EnjoyReading is excited to work closely this year with the students, families and staff and provide a service needed at Stanton. Help out by sending a book requested by the students, and let's get everyone to enjoy reading!

Do All Kindergarteners Enjoy Flowers?

Ali snapped this photo at a school she was visiting a few weeks ago that coincidentally received  book donations that day for all pre-K through second graders.  As the photo shows, all kindergarteners were given a mega-blowpop and a copy of Eric Carle's The Tiny Seed.

The donations were very generous and the students enjoyed their blowpops on the playground after school, but it makes us at EnjoyReading wonder if every kindergartener wanted to read about flowers? How much more impact could the donation have if the kindergarteners ran home with a book they chose and were interested in? It's pretty hard to resist a five year old, smiling and waving a book infront of you, asking to read...