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Maria Salvadore

Reading Rockets' children's literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids' books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.

Libraries and the achievement gap

February 10, 2012

Is the growing gap in children's achievement primarily fueled by economics? What other factors may have a role in it — and how can the apparent trend be reversed?

A recent piece in The New York Times reports studies that indicate a widening fissure in educational achievement between rich and poor. But it also suggests other factors may be at play.

Access to books, computers, knowledgeable staff, and other resources can be found in well-funded (but often not) school and public libraries — key "equalizers" in helping students achieve.

Where else might a child (and adults) meet authors like Charles Dickens — especially during his bicentennial birthday month?

My favorite introduction to this literary hero — sure to engage and inspire young readers is Charles Dickens: Scenes from an Extraordinary Life by Mick Manning (Frances Lincoln), illustrated by Brita Granstrom. This and other work by this author/illustrator team is not well known; its publisher is U.K.-based — enhancing the importance of library collections.

So let's introduce writers — contemporary and classic — to all children equitably and make sure that libraries are open and staffed to do so. That's a key ingredient to narrowing the achievement gap.


I just recently started taking my 3 year old to the library. Our local library gave him his own tote bag when I got him his own library card and he gets to pick out a sticker each time we go to check out books. He's really excited every time we go to the library now! And I've already started seeing the benefits of him getting excited over new books and retelling the stories to me. Providing my son with the love of books is very important to me and everyone who's met my son thinks he's a very smart child, but I've been reading to him from his books AND my books since he was first born. I keep telling other mothers not to underestimate reading to kids when they're young. My son loves his books! I've found that my son is always curious and eager to learn something new. The library just provides a world of endless books for my son to feed his curiosity. Plus it's a lot easier on my wallet than trying to buy him a bunch of new books all the time. I love our library.

Well said. Libraries are a best kept secret and underutilized resource in some poorer communities. I plan to do my part as a literacy advocate to help get the word out about the importance of a child, and adult for that matter, going to the library and checking out books. My library card was one of my treasured possessions a child.

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"Wear the old coat and buy the new book." — Austin Phelps