School Librarians Help Healthy Children Learn Better
By Dorcas Hand
This week’s story comes courtesy of an email from Stephen Krashen to the AASL Forum on March 26, 2016. He often sends editorials to magazines and newspapers in response to articles, and he is always on the side of school libraries and student literacy. If you aren’t already familiar with his work, check out his website and this video from an LAUSDSchool Board meeting in Feb., 2014.
Sent to US News. March 25
The decline in support for school nurses ("Many school districts don't have enough school nurses, March 23) has been accompanied by a decline in support for school libraries, despite clear evidence that school nurses and libraries have a positive impact on school achievement.
As US News points out, the school nurse is often the only source of accessible health care for children of poverty. Similarly, the school library is often their only source of books.
Schools seem to have plenty of money for chrome books and other expensive technology, but according to a major report by the Organization of Economic Cooperation Development, this has not been shown to be of use to students. Schools also seem to be eager to spend even more on untested new hi-tech teaching machines (competency-based education).
Why this discrepancy? The ruling class, sometimes known as the .01%, makes big profits on new technology, but makes very little when we provide adequate health care and access to books.
What this Letter to the Editor reminds us as librarians is that we need to build alliances beyond our own profession. We get busy fighting for the best library program we can build and forget sometimes that we are on a Team of school professionals that includes the nurse, the counselor, the reading support specialist and others. When we work with them and advocate for them as essential as well, we are actually offering a stronger support structure for our students, the ones who can’t learn because they are hungry or scared beyond school hours, the students for whom the library as well as the nurse’s or counselor’s office can be safe spaces. And we are building a stronger alliance across school professionals to work together for change.
It is especially interesting to see this article just now when the Houston ISD school board has been wrestling with the idea of requiring school librarians, counselors and nurses for every district campus. The proposal first surfaced in January but was quickly sidetracked in the face of the current budget crisis. Sadly, the idea remains, for the moment, just that, an idea. But there are board members who continue to push it – so we HISD Library advocates remain hopeful that it will eventually be successful in demonstrating to the Board and district administrators that strong libraries support strong test scores. We know that our students are better when there are nurses and counselors aswell.
We have already used Krashen’s article in conversation with the HISD Board – to remind them how important student health is to strong achievement. And we continue to remind them in the ongoing conversation how school libraries are closely connected to literacy growth and love of learning, as they rely on student health and comfort as supported by the campus nurse and counselor.
This is also a reminder to think outside the box as we build our advocacy programs. We know to look to our stakeholders, but we have many other potential allies in our efforts. Please remember all the essential personnel who help students in dicey situations learn to their fullest potential. The Team of librarian, nurse, counselor and reading support teachers are important to every campus.
The image comes from http://www.iu28.orgPage259
References from Krashen’s email:
· Value of school nurses: Berliner, D. 2009. Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. http://epicpolicy.org/publication/poverty-and-potential;
· Value of school libraries: Krashen, S. 2004. The Power of Reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, and Westport, CONN: Libraries Unlimited (second edition).
· Lack of impact of technology: OECD. 2015. Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connection Organization for Economic Coordination and Development. Oecd.org