Laundromats across the country are taking on an unexpected cause—childhood literacy. Several organizations are connecting libraries to laundromats and holding free book-shares and storytimes for low-income neighborhoods.
The incentive is to boost literacy among children whose community libraries are defunct or overcrowded and under-resourced. Now children are learning the joy of reading somewhere their families frequent, without the added hurdle of library fines and fees.
These programs work through a myriad of methods, with some of them equipping parents to read to their children while waiting, hosting librarians for a book-reading, distributing and lending books, or even setting up Wi-Fi hotspots to relay educational content.
According to NYU Steinhardt Professor Susan B. Neuman, these spaces significantly increased the time kids spent on literacy activities that bolster school readiness. Her study found that on average, the children spent 47 minutes enthralled with books, drawing, writing, and singing songs.
In another study on an NYC initiative, one disappointing finding was that while the children flocked to the reading spaces, the parents were not always actively engaged in the learning.
Family involvement is key to the program’s success. The study found, however, that with librarians added 30% of parents eventually participated; this speaks to the idea that more funding may raise effectiveness.
Among the many laundry laundromats that have spread across the country, a number are sponsored by the Laundry and Literacy Coalition (LLC)—a partnership between the Clinton Foundation’s Too Small to Fail (TSTF) and the Coin Laundry Association’s LaundryCares Foundation.
In Spokane, Washington, future students might grow up not knowing what a librarian does.
Two weeks ago, the Spokane, Washington Public Schools superintendent announced that librarians in public schools will be laid off before the academic year begins again in the fall, although the libraries themselves—generally very large rooms with hundreds of books and programs and resources that students need assistance navigating—will remain.
Image vIA eLLA’S lIST
Students will still have the opportunity to visit their school’s library, even if there’s no one to help them use it. As for library services, teachers will be expected to perform the librarians’ old duties—in addition to being teachers—while their students are visiting the library, according to The Spokesman-Review.
Just to be clear, school librarians often have degrees in library science and have been thoroughly trained in the instruction of research applications that library patrons have the option to use. The void left by a mass-migration of trained school librarians cannot be filled by giving the keys to teachers who already have full-time jobs outside the library.
Librarians are not guaranteed replacement positions in the public school system once they have been ousted from their jobs, although some librarians with suitable experience might be placed as teachers in the schools and communities that need them most.
Specifically, the district’s choice to cut librarians out of the budget comes after the announcement for a $31 million deficit for the year; generally, across the country, more and more school districts are eliminating librarian positions, and more librarians are switching to part-time work.
Another recent article from The Spokesman-Review claims public schools with more low-income students will be hit far harder by the layoffs than schools which serve more middle-and high-income families; in other words, more librarians will be removed from communities where students are already receiving subsidized school lunches, and from which librarians and other school faculty are leaving en masse for ‘better’ schools and neighborhoods.
Teachers are seeing salary increases with the elimination of librarians, with some employees receiving a 10-15% bonus.
March 7, 2019 is World Book Day, and fewer children than ever are reading. Budget cuts and library closures are serious threats to childhood literacy—and marginalized communities have been impacted the most severely.
Image Via Cagle Cartoons
Libraries offer more than just books—if books are ever ‘just’ anything. Just a whole world small enough to fit into your backpack? Just a $2,000 plane ticket for the low low price of $0.00? Just a work of art as enduring as any hanging up in a museum (and one that you can take home without being arrested)? Libraries are a safe community space offering accessible resources, like adult education, language classes, and research databases. These programs are open to seniors, children, and disadvantaged members of the community—an opportunity that exists regardless of socioeconomic status when so few opportunities do. Will libraries in wealthier communities have more funding? Yes. But libraries remain an integral community feature.
Or, rather, they would if they were staying open.
Image Via Baristanet
In the U.K., the number of library book loans dropped from 255,128,957 in 2011 to 157,387,109 in 2018—a shocking 38% decrease that, unfortunately, isn’t as shocking as book-lovers might think. In the wake of 700 library closures since 2010, Library Campaign chair Laura Swaffield said there was only one surprise: “that the decline in book loans isn’t even larger.”
When the libraries go, so do the librarians: over 700 full-time library employees faced termination last year alone. While 3,000 volunteers have taken their places, this is a stopgap measure and not a solution. The problem is the drastic budget cuts, and—like so many other problems—money may be the only solution.
It’s either the solution, or it’s yet another problem. Given the £2 million proposed cuts for 2019, it looks like the latter. In the U.K., only 25% of eight to eighteen year olds read daily. If that statistic sounds dire, it gets even worse: that’s a full 20% drop from just four years earlier. As libraries lose money, children lose interest in reading—because some of them lose access to engaging, affordable books. This phenomenon, “book poverty,” describes the grim reality for disadvantaged young people: one in eight poor U.K. children doesn’t own a single book. Childhood literacy is widely known as “the single most important factor” in the success of a child’s education; yet when it comes time for budget cuts, it’s considered one of the least important criteria for funding.
A math professor at Morehouse College in Georgia has gone viral for holding a student’s baby during his lecture!
The baby’s father, Wayne Hayer, couldn’t find anyone to watch baby Assata. Since he had class, he faced a choice: stay at home to watch the baby or head to class and further his education.
Hayer explained these circumstances to his professor, Nathan Alexander, who shockingly offered to carry Assata for the entire duration of the class. Alexander wanted his student to be able to “take good notes,” so he volunteered to take her off her father’s hands despite his fears that she would “start crying” during the lesson, according Buzzfeed News.
IMAGE VIA TWITTER @CNN
Professor Alexander’s fears were put to rest when Assata turned out to be the perfect student! Alexander reported that, in a surprise turn of events, the arrangement went “perfectly” as the young learner was “extremely well behaved.”
I’m not sure about y’all, but when I first heard about this story, I expected it to be about a mother who brought her child to class—it’s awesome that Assata’s father takes an active role in her childcare!
IMAGE VIA FIRDA AMALIA HAYER ON FACEBOOK
The baby’s mother, Firda Amalia Hayer, wrote on Facebook:
Seeing the outpouring of support from friends, family, and strangers for Assata and Wayne is a sight to behold. I can feel the genuine love and enthusiasm. We never asked for attention; all that I’ve personally asked for is authenticity in your love and support. We are new parents. Wayne works two jobs and is a full-time student. He’s rarely at home because he’s out there providing for us…
Morehouse College (where Assata has begun her higher education earlier than most) is an all-male, historically black liberal arts college. One of its most famous alumni is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.!
Reading books by great authors, especially dead ones, is one of the coolest ways any of us will ever get to understand some of the world’s most original minds. Therefore, we do it; we read so that we can experience multiple lifetimes and adventures outside the realm of what is practical. It’s therapeutic- reading is a true form of meditation, storytelling in general. We define experiences by the stories we tell ourselves and others. Being able to tell a good story can potentially affect millions, for good or bad. That’s fucking powerful. It’s more powerful than money, sex or fame- even though some writers are egomaniacs who secretly hope their work will lead to those things (I probably fall into that category to be fair).
Regardless, first and foremost, it’s about the work. It’s about creating something no one else has ever thought about forming and using that unique ability to help other people. Help them to understand their world and connect with the people around them. How can anyone study to be a scribe? Honestly, you can’t. You either have it or you don’t. Scribes are rock stars.
Image Via Bucketlist127.com
Most people who study literature at the college level end up having to take a major literary figures class; people like William Shakespeare, Geoffrey Chaucer and John Milton used to fall into this category but now writers like Toni Morrison, Frederick Douglass, Louise Erdrich, Herman Melville are taking up the mantel. Deservingly so. For the sake of contemporary relevance and diversity, it makes sense to switch it up as time goes on. Sorry, Will, Fair is foul, and foul is fair (this quote only sort of makes sense here, don’t read into it).
Besides, Herman Melville was a boss. Moby Dick; or, The Whaleis crazy and hilarious, with a ridiculously grandiose style; long sentences, excessive alliteration, one chapter is written like a play. Enter Ahab. Melville had a vision; he wanted to make fun of capitalism, meditate on life, death and a boatload of other stuff (pun intended). People didn’t understand him, and he didn’t gain true fame until after his death… Who doesn’t want to be misunderstood and then rediscovered long after they are gone?
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In Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Frederick Douglas recounts how he used to dare white kids he could read/write better than them (even though he couldn’t) just so he could learn how to be better. At one point the man even gets in a fight with his slave ‘master’- a straight up fist fight with Covey so that said ‘master’ would know to never beat him again. Shit is powerful. Douglas’ slave narrative brought a lot of attention to obvious issues back then; Frederick Douglas has said that “knowledge is the pathway from slavery to freedom.” He understood the power of storytelling as one of the most accessible forms of academia, so did Toni Morrison when she wrote Beloved, for which she won the Noble…
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It’s damn near impossible and relatively foolish to try and group the best authors ever into a category, especially because popular Literature changes. It’s still great, just different. Even though they are competitive as fuck, great authors pay homage to writers who have come before on a regular basis with a simple phrase or metaphor. They aim to say something constructive about society and inspire change. Protagonists were created to show us how to be good and antagonists to show us what it means to lose one’s way (side note: check out our article dealing with literary role models). Literature used to be society’s main source of entertainment. Huge and monumental paper bricks were created, and people ate it up… then the first movie came out and reading became less and less cool. The Wizard of Oz switched to color and people be trippin’. And now, no one reads. Except for us. And sometimes we don’t even like it.
Book Nerds are a dying breed; the media tends to steer toward the visual stimuli as many of today’s leaders seem damn near illiterate. It’s exhausting, and sometimes us readers may be tired and lack the ability to use our imagination the way we need to; that’s why people don’t read, everyone wants the television to do the work for them. This is not to say television isn’t great, it’s awesome, but when you read, you become the director. Those who have the patience and the time to use their minds to create a perfect mental image which aligns with whatever narrative they have in front of them, feel the reward of true storytelling. The type of auto-pilot reading that rocks your world and blurs the rest of the room as you sit on your bed, floor, patio, bathroom sink, wherever. People read in weird places (note to self: article idea). These people can tell their non-reader friends about a book they just read in an undeniably exciting way. Enthusiasm exuberates off them in the most obnoxious and commendable of ways. The world needs these kinds of people…
Image Via Thebookfridge.blogspot.com
Storytelling is what grounds us as human beings; while most of the contemporary population may crave sweet new tech, some of us crave the smell of fresh pages. Sometimes they’re not even fresh. Barnes and Noble will rip you off. A better smell is one of old, stained pages previously the property of a single mother, father, janitor, chef, taxi driver, bartender, space lawyer or aspiring writer. Unsung heroes. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of Kindle because it robs us of the traditional page-bending style of reading; where the physical condition of a novel is a direct reflection of the love it has been shown. Reading is a tradition rooted in humanity, it comes from US.
So, embrace this year’s Goodreads reading challenge: make your goal 365 mofo’n books, talk about the best new and old novels with anyone who will listen. They need to hear it. People were binging at the library before Netflix even existed- I thought Bird Box was only okay. Think about finally becoming adequately caffeinated enough to write the world’s next great novel that shows us something about ourselves. Actually, yeah. Do that.
Image Via Giphy.com
2019 will forever be known as the year of the book nerd.