By giving us an unusual writing assignment, one of my college professors sent my class on the mother of all searches, and in the process reminded us of the importance of the library. We were each given a single word from a list, then had to turn it into a 25-page research paper. My word was Aereopagitica, and it was my introduction to English poet John Milton. I was already a big fan of the library, and that semester it became my second home.
What’s not to love? From the scrolls found in receptacles in ancient Egypt, to the first U. S. public library opened in 1833 in New Hampshire, works have been housed for centuries to respond to the public need for knowledge. This is National Library Week, and a time to reflect on the important role libraries play in literacy and fostering life-long learners. At Communities In Schools sites all across the country, this week and throughout the year, students, parents and teachers will all benefit in some way from either a library in a school or the community. Communities In Schools partner schools have programs that provide access to books and literacy initiatives for students ranging from elementary school through high school.
Today’s libraries are more than just houses for books. Where can low-income families access the Internet for free? The library. What is a safe place for kids to go to after school? The library. Where can teens and their parents access college resources like school and financial aid information? The library. You get the picture. The library is a community space for reading, for research or for gathering to learn. It provides the perfect quiet space for mentoring, tutoring, or studying. And what better place for a child to get lost in a good story and discover a new world!
“I can’t imagine a community without a library,” said Sandy Baxter, Communities In Schools of Milledgeville/Baldwin County, Ga., director. “Libraries are wonderful partners, not just to Communities In Schools, but to all citizens in a community.” They are partnering with the Mary Vinson Public Library in Milledgeville on April 25th to present a program to pre-school children and their parents. The goal is to encourage parents to get a “free” library card and to learn more about the library resources available.
Working in tandem with libraries, Communities In Schools staff can make sure reading materials are available for students during the school year. And they can create summer-reading programs to prevent any loss in skills during the school break. Some Communities In Schools sites have worked with supporters who helped renovate and refurbish school libraries. At Westover Hills Elementary School in Richmond, Va., Capital One Heart of America READesign transformed the school library into a bright, inviting reading environment.
The library is to literacy what soil is to a garden – it lays down a solid foundation and provides continuous support for it. So celebrate libraries—not just this week, but every week. Visit a library to read to a child, donate a book or uncover a 17th century scholar. Libraries provide a necessary link to literacy and learning, and they are supporting the goal of helping students graduate and achieve in life.
Check out photos from Communities In Schools of Richmond and Communities In Schools of Milledgeville/Baldwin County’s celebrations of Dr. Seuss’ birthday. Not only did they have fun, they promoted childhood literacy! Click the thumbnails to enlarge the images.