The Brown Bookshelf Celebrates Black History Month
KidLitosphere Central

Schools="Anti-Reading Zones"?

That's what the author Frank Cottrell Boyce said recently. The Telegraph, a UK newspaper, reported,

Mr Cottrell Boyce said: "When I visit many schools, I see a big, fat, glaring, expensive anti-reading for pleasure signal.

"It stands where the library used to stand and it's called the learning resource centre. To turn your library into a learning resource centre, you generally have to chuck out a bunch of valuable, durable assets – books – and replace them with sub-prime computers which will quickly date."

Read the whole piece online.

Agree? Disagree?


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

WOW - what an article.

not sure I agree that libraries around here are replacing books with computers, BUT we do call them media centers now instead of libraries and my library has 28 computers in here. BUT we also have a great selection of books and we do have a certified librarian (ME)

I will say, this is what I am scared of, that school districts will cut librarians in favor of volunteers or even worse "a virtual assistant"

Kathy, if you take Cottrell Boyce's statements and transplant them here in the Northeast part of the US, it's overdramatizing the situation. But, I will say that in my district's curriculum objectives for 4th graders, there are 9 pages for Information & Technology and 5 for Language Arts (reading and writing). Hmm.

wow, it is a dramatic statement, but I don't know what other school districts are like. . .

Yes. Very dramatic! He may be over-dramatizing to make his point, yet I feel like there's a grain of truth in there, not just in regard to schools but also to the larger culture. (I do feel that sometimes schools are scapegoats for larger issues.)

In the school that you and I know, the kiddo has gotten lots of reading encouragement just from his teacher's read-alouds, to name one source.

I think computers and the programs they contain have done more to harm learning than anything we've seen in the past 50 years, both in schools, libraries, and at home. We have been vastly oversold on their value by humongous corporations with vested interests.

Douglas, around here I try to balance outings and hands-on activities with screen time. It's difficult sometimes, especially since I am the one on the computer too much.

Susan, thanks for the link. This was a hot topic for my grad school prof, whom I adore, and so we spent a lot of time talking about this kind of thing. I look forward to reading this when The Wiz (the three-year-old) gives me a chance.

Jules, obviously getting caught up on your blog today

I'm getting caught up, too, Jules. :)

Here's something that is true: when I was a kid, our school library time was exclusively about listening to the librarian read books aloud and picking out books for ourselves. In New York State, now, you might do that in Kindergarten, but from first grade on up, the school media specialists are required to teach "library skills." The push here is that school librarians are teachers who need to deal with curriculum and aren't "just" people who read aloud to kids--which is, right there, on the books, devaluing reading. Being someone who can connect kids with books and engender a love of reading is not considered enough to make you a valuable school employee. This is one of the many reasons I'm a public librarian. (Reason #2: School starts WAY too early.)

Adrienne, I remember my elementary school library, but I don't think it had a librarian. (School system did not have enough $$.) The books there were old, but I loved them. I can totally see why you chose to work at a public library.

Jules, you're welcome. While I definitely don't agree that schools kill a love for reading, I found Cottrell Boyce's point of view very interesting. I think he states what some people think but just do not want to talk about.

Adrienne, I think "library skills" are of enormous value and are actually neglected in most schools today. I was born in 1979 and count myself lucky to have had "Library" once a week through my elementary school career, which focused on library skills, sometimes (but not usually) included a readaloud, and had about ten minutes for book selection and checkout at the end (an estimate). We learned skills in card catalog (which would obviously be replaced by computer catalog today), Dewey Decimal, alphabetizing, parts of a book (table of contents, bibliography, etc), how to take care of books, how to do research, how to find the kinds of books we were interested in, what the Newbery and Caldecott were awarded for... and those are just the lessons I remember offhand! I was distressed to hear that in the school where my partner teaches, they don't learn any library skills at library time and, at age 12, don't know how to use the catalog or Dewey Decimal system; all they do is go the library and wander around selecting books. It's nice that they have time to do this and books to choose from, but a school library is the ideal place to learn those life skills.

Wendy, On the one hand, I agree with you. On the other, library skills aren't really that difficult to acquire when you have the background skills necessary--reading and spelling skills are critical in an era of online catalogs; knowing how to alphabetize; being able to decipher/sort three digit numbers with decimals out to, say, two or three places. Most elementary children are still working on solidifying these skills, and it is really damaging in the long run to attempt to force kids who haven't yet developed skills like these to, say, attempt to deal with the library catalog. It definitely reinforces the idea that the library is boring, which is counterproductive on a lot of levels. The lessons I most love that I see taught in the schools are ones that do things like explore folklore or talk about unreliable narrators or teach kids the happy wonders of atlases. Those Caldecott/Newbery explorations are fun, too. They capitalize on skills and interests the children already have and give them lots of good reasons to figure out DDC and whatnot. Middle school seems about perfect for formal lessons in that to me.

I'm interested in what you're saying, but I also really disagree--I think that many people get to high school and beyond without these skills. Learning about alphabetizing with actual books is a great way to reinforce that skill with solid objects, an actual purpose, and a friendly environment. I find it pretty hard to believe that these lessons could be "really damaging in the long run"--and also, they aren't necessarily boring. It should go without saying that the lessons age-appropriate, too. The examples that you give are good examples of the kinds of lessons that we got in Library--exploring the Dewey Decimal System through scavenger hunts for interesting books, for instance. Considering what I know kids have to do in middle school--and how little room there is in the curriculum for this kind of instruction--I think middle school is too late.

I'm still irritated that no one told me about the "other" system of cataloging non-fiction until I got to college and didn't know how to find anything...

Hi, Wendy. What's the "other" system?

Sorry for being arch--the Library of Congress system.

Oh, yes, I've noticed that it's different.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)