One Author's Life


In Praise of School Librarians

August 29, 2012

I no longer remember her name, but I so clearly recall her voice. "Amy, I have something special for you," she would say in a tone that can be described only as joyful. She would hurry to her desk where she had put aside a book just for me. She was the school librarian at Forest Lake Elementary School in Columbia, South Carolina in the 1960s, and she knew who liked to read what, who needed to be encouraged, who was ready to advance to the next level, and so on. She made us all feel special. We were allowed to explore the bookshelves ourselves, as long as we removed one book at a time and returned it before moving on to another. I remember picking out a book and sitting right there on the floor, reading it from start to finish. Now I am wondering why in the world there are people who think we no longer need school librarians. Many have been laid off due to budget cuts. This makes no sense at all. Some children do not live near a public library, or they do not have parents who can take them. Even the best public library staff can't replace the role of the school librarian who knows the reading level of every child and can customize his or her advancement. Classroom teachers can't fill the void no matter how many books they include in their lesson plans. Study after study has shown that a love of reading opens the door to success in life. Children who read well tend to write well. Children who write well tend to move to the head of the class. There is something about the process of reading that gives the brain a healthy work-out, compared to, say, playing a video game (even a challenging one) or watching TV. American children are lagging behind, and policy-makers think they have the perfect solution: test, test, test. The answer, however, is read, read, read. I truly believe it's as obvious as that. Let's get back to the basics, and start by recognizing the importance of the school librarian such as the one who inspired me so long ago.