Students value their school libraries

iStock_000006625549XSmallMiddle school students place more value on their school libraries than many educators might guess. In a recent survey of 1,509 predominantly Hispanic students attending rural public schools in South Texas, 97.9% of students said their school libraries help with their learning in some way. The students attended 10 high-need rural schools in South Texas , according to a study in the journal, American Secondary Education.

Students were just as likely to say they read books (54%) when they went to the school library without their class as to use the computer (54%). A slightly smaller percentage (53%) said they checked out fiction books when they went to the library. Other top activities cited by the students included doing research (47%}, talk to a friend (45%), do schoolwork (41%) and get advice on good books to read (32%). Slightly over half of students (54%) believed their school library made them better writers and helped with their reading skills.

As for students’ recommendations for how their libraries could improve, the most common themes were: Provide more interesting books, take requests for specific books or genres, offer more comfortable and attractive space, increase access to more up-to-date computers and increase hours when students can use the library. Students completed a 21-question online version of the “Student Interest, Motivation, and Library Use Survey.”

One concern in this survey of South Texas Hispanic students was the frequency of use of school libraries. Less than half of students reported going to the library once a week, substantially below the level reported in previous research of student use of libraries. (69%)

“How often students go to the library was of special concern in this study because the population was predominantly from lower income families and communities with limited public library access and students were unlikely to have their reading resource needs met sufficiently outside of school,” the study says.

Despite a national trend for school libraries to decrease the number of hours they are open, students’ written comments in this study reflected a desire for greater library `access.

“How Students Utilize And Perceive Their School Library,” by Shirley Bleidt, American Secondary Education, Summer 2011, Volume 39, Number 3, pps. 67-84. “Efficacy of a Reading Intervention for Middle School Students With Learning Disabilities,” by Jeanne Wanzen et al., Exceptional Children, Volume 78, No. 1, pp. 73-87.

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