Great piece on the opposite-editorial page of the Dallas Morning News today, with solid suggestions on how to improve high school libraries, thereby improving reading and student achievement. Andrea Drusch, a student at Lake Highlands High School, vents a bit, and we would do well to pay attention.
Most English teachers will tell you, “Kids just don’t read like they used to.” I disagree. Recently my high school treated students who passed all classes with a trip to Stonebriar Centre. Upon arrival, a large group flocked straight to Barnes & Noble, where they stayed until the bus ride home. On the bus, they exchanged books and discussed favorite authors. If high school kids are willing to dish out $17 on books at the mall, then why isn’t a room the size of a basketball gym full of books free of charge appealing to them?
Well, the walls aren’t exactly lined with Oprah’s Book Club selections. Instead, libraries try to appeal to 17-year-olds with the same old Crucibles and Scarlet Letters they have been trying to shove down our throats for years.
Meanwhile, Barnes & Noble and Starbucks have students lined up out the doors, and it ain’t just for the coffee. At Starbucks, students can pile a table sky high with books and conduct study groups, or just decompress and chat. Barnes & Noble chooses the books it provides to its customers through something called the New York Times best-seller list, not through what 10th-grade English teachers think is appropriate.
Make school libraries more like these places.
I don’t blame the librarians, though — I’ve been to too many school board meetings where the latest cuts in the library budgets weren’t even questioned. I hope that parents, and maybe librarians, will copy Ms Drusch’s article, and send it to their school board, principals, English teachers, and to the social studies and science teachers, too.
Libraries should be places where kids hang out to learn. Getting them to hang out there would be an improvement over turning the library into a book museum, or a book vault, as too many schools have done.
For the record: The latté I had at the Irving (Texas) High School library the last time I was there was pretty good, despite it’s being a bit do-it-yourself. I had to wait in line to get it, there were so many kids in the library.
[Full text of Andrea Drusch's piece below the fold, in case the DMN ever takes it down.]
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