Dear Community Members,
It’s half way into our first school year with no full-time librarians in Bedford Central School District’s elementary schools. How is it going? Are your children reading just as much? Are the ESL students thriving in reading and writing without the the intimate guidance of the librarians? Are all of our children excited about the latest trends in literature?
Because librarians do more than stack books -- they create a culture. My grandmother, the late Madeleine L’Engle who wrote A Wrinkle in Time as well as 60 other books was the librarian and artist-in-residence for 35 years at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. It is not enough to have a library without a librarian. In her 1998 Margaret Edwards Award Acceptance speech she said: “To be a librarian, particularly a librarian for young adults, is to be a nourisher, to share stories, offer books full of new ideas. We live in a world which has changed radically in the last half century, and story helps us to understand and live creatively with change.”
I, like all of us, have witnessed firsthand the power of well-funded public education, as I have three children in Fox Lane Middle and High Schools who all reaped the benefits of having an elementary school librarian. I am an author and an educator; I run the Westchester and Connecticut chapters of a national writing non-profit program called Writopia Lab, where our mission is to spread joy, literacy, and critical thinking to all children and teens through creative writing. Kids learn critical thinking through exposure to all kinds of reading and writing - this is how they become problem solvers, this is how they learn about humanity, and this is how they find their own voice in the world. For example, over 95% of Writopia parents say their children and teens have more joy in their life because of their involvement in writing workshops; over 74% of the parents of reluctant writers report that they feel that their children’s grades and test scores improved because of their positive immersion in reading and writing.
Elementary school librarians can fill that gap: reading and writing skills not only help our children grow as critical thinkers, but they help them achieve academic excellence as well. They pull students from classrooms who need extra support or enrichment, and teach all children the language and love of books. They are also the stewards into which kids learn how to research, and how to separate fact from fiction. Which, these days, seems like a more and more important skill.
More kids than ever are reaching high school and applying to college with no idea how to write an essay, and with no tools for critical thinking other than regurgitation for the Common Core tests - our children are woefully unprepared. Don’t our kids need and deserve more nourishers in their lives? Isn’t this what opportunity and top education is all about? Our children are only in elementary school once; and we have the power to create something wonderful for them.
Our support of librarians sends a clear message to our children: we, as a community, value the pursuit of intellectual curiosity.
Please consider reinstating elementary school librarians for the 2017-2018 budget, and for years to come.