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August 25, 2022

bookshelf with booksDo your students have unlimited access to the school library? Do you depend on donations of books, or do you use your 21st CCLC grant money or other braided funds to keep that bookshelf stocked? What role do books play in your program schedule? These back-to-basics reminders point to research about why books in hands are so important for all children.

Start With Staggering Stats

A 2019 study of 31 countries found that individuals who grew up with a home library demonstrated greater adult literacy, adult numeracy, and adult technological problem-solving. While researchers looked for a relationship between library size and these skills, they discovered that the greatest returns from book ownership came from smaller libraries — and that’s good news for your families! Another literacy study makes the shocking claim that the likelihood of being on track in literacy and numeracy almost doubled if at least one book was available at home compared to when there was none. One book.

A Revolving Library?

Consider stocking a program library with the hope of sending books home permanently with students and families. This goal means high volume, so get creative in how you bring books into the program. You might

  • Partner with local stores — bookstores, thrift stores, grocery stores, and even clothing stores. Have the students make posters for a “Why I’d Like My Own Books To Keep” campaign theme.
  • Speak with the school and public libraries about taking their “hand-me-downs.” Sometimes public libraries hold fundraisers with the titles they’re retiring. You can schedule a family outing around one of these very affordable events.
  • Reach out to faith-based or parent organizations in private schools or more privileged districts — especially if you’re in a larger city — to gauge their interest in a book drive for to benefit students who don’t have home libraries. Again with the posters!
  • Research regional and national grant funding for books, such as the National Book Fund (for promoting adult literacy) and book giveaway programs like Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.
  • Educate families on the relationship between book ownership and lifelong success. Be sure to stress that they don’t need to bring an encyclopedia into the home! Each family member should make selections that match their own interests.

How Y4Y Can Help

Y4Y has a number of tools that can help you ensure that what you have on your bookshelf honors everything that’s great about books!

  • Read this month’s Voices From the Field interview with Amy Franks of Book Harvest to appreciate the importance of students being able to see themselves in literary characters.
  • Keep in mind that the stories in books can be used to support many aspects of growing up healthy and well. The Y4Y Student Trauma Book List gives examples of titles to help students overcome trauma. As other titles come through your program, give them a skim and consider whether they might be earmarked for helping students through any kind of life challenge.
  • Y4Y has also developed a Financial Literacy Book List that can serve a similar purpose.
  • Book clubs gained traction during virtual learning. Download Y4Y’s tool, Literacy Book Clubs, to keep them alive in your program! Depend on those partnerships to get multiple copies of titles, and be sure these treasured sets stay with the program after the book club.
  • Your program “librarian” can make use of the Y4Y Text Genre Checklist to help stay organized and balanced in your offerings.

The Final Chapter

Comedian Trevor Noah said so poignantly in his memoir, Born a Crime, “People love to say, ‘Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.’ What they don’t say is, ‘And it would be nice if you gave him a fishing rod.’ That’s the part of the analogy that’s missing.”

The literary equivalent of that fishing rod is book ownership and, according to studies, even a modest household library can make a huge difference in the life of a young person.