Posts Tagged ‘Open letter to Jacinda Ardern’

Dear Prime Minster, Politicians and Members of the Ministry of Education

This is an open letter with regards schools and their libraries or lack of. While I totally applaud your decision to do away with National Standards, I beg you to consider another factor which troubles schools, particularly primary schools.

A recent announcement that our literacy levels have dropped to 32nd place is deeply concerning. While teachers do all they can to teach reading and basic comprehension, and do it well, they need support from librarians and of course parents too.

Students need to be surrounded by books, quality books and the latest new titles. Sadly, because libraries and library staff are not funded by the MOE many school BOT’s are forced to choose between funding a full-time librarian and school resources. This should not be a choice. Schools need a library and a dedicated and enthusiastic full-time librarian. Librarians know their students and their stock and most are very good at matching each to the other. To be fair, some schools choose not to have libraries based on their own priorities but for those who have no choice based on the funding from government, then this is incredibly sad.

Not all parents take their children to a public library, some are too busy, it’s too far or they don’t see it as necessary. And yes, parents do need to be part of their children’s reading development but sadly, we know the reality.

Overseas trends where school libraries have closed have seen a drop in literacy levels and the same is happening here in New Zealand. For those skeptics that say books are the past and it is all about a digital world, a gentle reminder that libraries are not just about books. So much happens in libraries these days, books, ebooks, computers, ipads, QR codes, makerspace activities, book clubs, author events, a safe haven for students and of course reading, heaps and heaps of reading. Here is the crunch though, schools without funding, without libraries and librarians will surely only add to the the dropping literacy levels.  I urge you and your members to consider that in order to raise reading levels, the New Zealand Government must help fund school libraries and their librarians. It is only ever going to be a win-win situation. Statistics also have shown that students who have a full time librarian produce better overall results than students who don’t.

Left to their own, without government funding, some schools will end up closing their library doors and that is totally unacceptable. Raising funds for their libraries, school PTA’s can sell only so many sausages.  The same selling of sausages has to help top up readers. The Ready-to-Reads and School Journals are a wonderful, first-class resource but children need far more titles than is supplied.  Immersion in books, both readers and library books is paramount. A few tatty teacher-owned books in the corner of a class is one thing but a library with thousands of books and a passionate librarian completely another. How does a six year old with a reading age of ten cope with a few books in a classroom? Or the ten year old reading at a six year old level. Is he or she supposed to go to a junior class in the hope a teacher will have something they can read? A good school librarian will know exactly which book will work. They will find the book with content that matches their chronological age with their reading age so they are not put off reading with books with babyish covers. As the old adage goes the right book for the right child.

I love watching students clamor for the latest Diary of a Wimpy kid, or David Walliams latest title. Watching groups eager to share their latest read with each other is also simply a wonderful sight. It is this that will drive up literacy levels. A love of reading comes from finding the right books and that is where a well-stocked library and librarian can help.

So, I urge you Prime Minister to look at how schools fund their libraries and please consider helping with MOE funding as every child will benefit. Schools need your help. Students need your help. Reading is the key to everything we do in life, from a simple menu, to technical  instructions, we all need to read and it starts when children are young. Please help our kids for their future. Lets drive the literacy levels back up and let’s do this together.

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