This morning I read this blog post by Laura Robb, a literacy coach in Virginia. Her argument is that the biggest problem we have with reading is the “persistent inequalities” between resource-rich and resource-poor schools. In other words, independent and suburban schools have libraries, librarians, classroom libraries, and tons of books, while their urban counterparts do not.
Yes. Ms. Robb is correct.
In order to read well, you need a text-rich environment. That means books. But most urban public high schools don’t have very many books.
If you’re lucky, you might find a school library, but it’ll be understaffed, plus students, long disaffected with reading, largely won’t visit. It’s not cool.
The answer, of course, is to build classroom libraries, but most of this work is not central to schools. It’s an afterthought. Even well-intentioned teachers don’t have the time or money to buy books for a classroom library. Sure, it’s possible, and there are some teachers who go out of their way, but real change happens only with school-wide efforts.
That’s why one of my side projects is to help teachers get books into their classrooms. It’s pretty easy. At all times, I have a project up on my DonorsChoose page. Right now, my goal is to get five copies of the 20-most-popular books for ninth graders. In just one month, generous contributors have donated 18 titles. That’s nearly $1,000 in donations, mostly from total strangers.
Here’s the list of the 20 books, in case you’re interested. (Note: I may modify this list after getting more survey data from current ninth graders.)
After the current project is funded (hint hint!), I’ll decide which teacher gets the 100-book mini-library. It’s not a lot of books, sure, but it’s a jump start, and it’ll look impressive. (By the way, I encourage you to donate. The DonorsChoose site is easy to navigate, and your $10 means 1 book.)
And then the process will start again — for another teacher, another classroom, and another group of students. Please let me know if you’re interested in helping!