“The America I love still exists at the reception of our public libraries.” (Kurt Vonnegut)
When I was nine years old, my sister gave me my first library card from the Albany Park Branch Library in Chicago. Yes, we were a cozy middle-class family and had lots of books at home, but the library card made life even better. Thank you, Gloria!
Since 1987, September has been library card registration month each year, and the American Library Association and local libraries go to great lengths to ensure that every child has a library card. What a great idea!
Here’s what we know about public libraries:
Study after study shows that we develop our reading and writing skills through self-chosen reading pleasure: Those who do more self-chosen reading (mainly fiction) have a larger vocabulary, spell better, write better and read better.
· Who reads more, knows more. They know more about history, literature, science, and even practical matters. And most of what people read is fiction.
· Readers, research has shown us, also have more empathy for others: Terry Gross of NPR’s Fresh Air explains that reading a novel “learns to be someone else and learns to see the world through your eyes”. You will also learn that the world is complex and that simple solutions don’t always work. Former President Barack Obama was certainly unfamiliar with academic research when he was interviewed by the Guardian about his reading habits, but he came to the same conclusion: “When I think about how I understand my role … the most important thing I do” Me learned I think I learned from novels. It has to do with empathy. It has to do with being comfortable with the idea that the world is complicated and full of grays, but there is still the truth to be found .. it is possible to connect with some[one] even if they are very different from you. “
· Public libraries are an important source of reading material for enjoyment. School and public libraries are often the only source of reading material for children in poverty.
· Research specifically on public libraries and school success makes the case for libraries irresistible: In 2008, researchers Keith Curry Lance and Robbie Braverman reported: good at reading. “
· In 2021, researchers at the Bundesforschungsbank reported: “Considerable financial investments in public libraries are associated with more cash registers and improved reading test results for children in nearby school districts for several years after the investment.”
· And my personal favorite, co-authored with Shu-Yaun Lin and Fay Shin, published in Knowledge Quest. A high school student’s readings were rated DOWN during the school year but went UP again in the summer. During the summer she spent a lot of time reading novels for pleasure … at the local public library.
Let’s celebrate and support the library card registration month.
“The death of a library, of any library, indicates that the community has lost its soul.” Kurt Vonnegut
Stephen Krashen Ph.D. does not work for a library, but is a member of the Santa Monica Public Library, the American Library Association, and the American School Library Association. He has presented his research at the Library of Congress and his book The Power of Reading (2004) has been cited over 4000 times. It is available for free download at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/247950880_The_Power_of_Reading_Insights_from_the_Research