My children love books! When my son was transitioning out of naps earlier this year, I would often enter his room to find him sitting in a chair with a stack of books in front of him and an open one on his lap. He would often tell me "I just need to finish 'reading' my book." before we could go anywhere. My daughter reads through short novels (and sometimes longer ones) at a speed her father and I envy. I can't count the number of times that she has excitedly recounted what has just happened in her book or exclaimed "You really need to read this!" Through gifts and purchases of both new and used books, we are fortunate to have a fairly large home library. But even with the variety of books currently available to my kids at home, it would quite quickly become unaffordable if we had to purchase every single book they read. We are able to go frequently to our public library where my kids each pick out a stack of interesting books to bring home with them which transport them to other worlds and introduce them to new things.
But there are many children in our community who are not as lucky as my kids. Their homes are not filled with books. They do not make trips to the public library. The reasons for this could be financial constraints, time constraints, or reading is simply not a priority for their family. Since these children do not have books available to them at home, they often aren't as interested in reading. A lack of interest which can slow their learning at school, and impact their lives well into adulthood.
This is why school libraries are so important. The school library makes books accessible to all students, regardless of financial status or familial priorities. Any child should be able to walk in there and find a book that engages them or teaches them something new. But this is where our school library falls short. Due to a lack of budget for new books, much of the collection is old and tattered - some being as many as 30 years old. In a home library, a 30-year-old book may simply look dated. In a school library, a 30-year-old book not only looks dated, it has been touched by hundreds of students (some not so gently), shoved in backpacks and desks, moved from shelf to shelf, then largely ignored because it just no longer looks appealing. Many of these still have great content. A child who has read a Roald Dahl book before, for example, may still pick up one of these tattered copies knowing that they enjoyed the last one. But a child unfamiliar with the author would just pass it by, looking for something with a fresher, more current cover. We have also heard from many of the older students that they just don't feel there is anything of interest to them on the shelves, resulting in many of the intermediate classes not using the library last year.
Through fundraising and donations, new books were added to the school library last year. But while the number of books added would sound impressive for a home library or even a small school, it does not compare to the over 800 students who attend East Ridge Community School and use this library. The new books flew off the shelves nearly as quickly as they were displayed, showing many students do have the desire to read. But they also desire books that are current and relevant to issues they are facing - or at least a classic with a nice new cover to grab their attention.
I don't expect all children in our school to develop the love and enthusiasm for reading that my kids have. But I would like them all to have a access to a wonderful library collection which gives them the opportunity.