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Opinion

Readers React: Unfunded libraries are an embarassment for LAUSD

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Student peruse the library shelves at Meyler Street Elementary School in Torrance in 2017.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: The “stinking battle” over library funding in the Los Angeles Unified School District might be resolved if we look at the research. Here is what it tells us:

  • Those who read more, read better and have larger vocabularies. Reading material that students select themselves is, in fact, the most powerful factor in improving reading and literacy.
  • Readers also have more knowledge of literature, social studies, science and even practical matters.
  • Students read more when they have more access to reading material.
  • Students living in poverty have little access to books.
  • Providing access to books increases reading achievement and offsets the effects of poverty.
  • Librarians and their staff are an important source of information about books. Studies confirm that the presence of a librarian contributes significantly to literacy development.

We cheerfully spend billions on unproven tests and technology, yet we ignore the impressive research supporting libraries and library staff.
Stephen Krashen, Los Angeles

The writer is a professor emeritus at USC’s Rossier School of Education.

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To the editor: The grade school I attended did not have a library but we did have enough reading homework to keep us busy.

During summers I read books from the local branch of the public library. My guess is a lot of others have been in the same situation over the years and have turned out fine.

Why should taxpayers fund two library systems?

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Gerry Swider, Sherman Oaks

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To the editor: January’s teacher strike persuaded LAUSD to restore teacher librarians to secondary schools. Elementary schools, which haven’t had teacher librarians for years, weren’t included.

California school librarians must earn both a teaching credential and a library services credential; it’s why they’re called “teacher librarians.” Research demonstrates that a fully staffed school library, employing both a teacher librarian and a library aide, increases academic performance.

In 2015, LAUSD funded the reopening of closed secondary libraries; I was placed in one and agreed to complete the library services credential. Starting in 2016, schools no longer had to use that funding source for teacher librarians, so my school re-closed its library, and I returned to teaching math. Many other schools also lost their teacher librarians or regular student access to the library.

As columnist Steve Lopez wrote, not staffing school libraries “is an obscenity and a gross disservice to students,” and access to them is a “moral responsibility.”

Ronel Kelmen Wright, El Segundo

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To the editor: We library aides are doing our best to convince the LAUSD school board of the importance of keeping libraries open on all campuses.

I’ve worked as a library aide for 19 years, and I can say that many students cannot get to the public library. The school library is all they have.

Years ago, I was transferred to another school, leaving no one to staff the library at the school across the street from where I live. So, my husband built a library for my former students to use, in front of my house.

Three years on, that “little free library” is still providing books to students.

Andrea Garcia, Los Angeles

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