School libraries provide valuable benefits

Published 9:57 pm Wednesday, April 5, 2017

By Diane Shores

April is School Library Month, and this year’s theme is “Because School Libraries Empower Students.”

When you think of the school library, what comes to mind? Is it a cantankerous librarian with a bun and thick-rimmed glasses shushing everyone? Is it stacks of dusty, old books that exude clouds of dust when opened for the first time in forever?

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Those days are gone!

Libraries are often hidden treasures that can bolster students’ learning and desire to learn.

Today’s library media centers are the heart of our schools, and they need to be utilized to their full potential, because they truly do empower our children through the teaching of information literacy, by providing equal-access to resources for all students, and through instilling a personal enjoyment of reading.

One way students are empowered is through becoming information-literate. Adults may not realize the need for children to be taught these skills, but librarians take on the essential task of assuring that our children are taught how to find information on the Internet, how to evaluate that information so they are not misinformed and how to present that information after sifting through the good and the bad.

According to the American Association of School Libraries, when information literacy is learned, students think critically, make informed decisions and realize the value in growing through inquiry — all vital skills in the 21st century.

When students are taught these skills, they are truly empowered to go out into our digital world as lifelong learners.

The power that comes from school libraries is meant to be realized by every child, regardless of any financial or familial hardships that child may experience outside of school.

Because there are many children who do not have access to books, high-speed Internet, or electronic devices at home, a well-run and well-funded school library program plays an integral part in filling that void in order to level the playing field, both in school and in society.

Imagine what a disadvantage students who live in poverty would experience without the opportunity to visit the school library regularly throughout the year. In order to give every student the same opportunities, school libraries must be a vital cog in the wheel of education.

In addition to these valuable academic advantages, the school library also empowers students through broadening their minds to new ideas, places and scenarios they might only experience through reading. When a child is introduced to reading for enjoyment at a young age, he or she is not only exposed to stories, but also to other cultures and viewpoints.

These are priceless experiences through which our children become more well-rounded adults.

Benefits of the school library are many, but often, support for the program is lacking.

If you would like school libraries to continue to provide information literacy, access to resources and valuable reading experiences, then let school administrators know how valuable school libraries truly are to our students and our future.

Diane Shores has been a middle school English teacher for the past seven years and will be an elementary school librarian next year. She lives in North Suffolk with her two sons.