Recently I received information on "the 65 percent solution," a proposal promoted by the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group "First Class Education." Under this proposal, school districts in states that pass resolutions or ballot initiatives must spend at least 65 cents of every school dollar on classroom instruction as defined by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Educational Statistics. At quick glance, it seems an excellent idea, but here's why it's not.
The National Center for Education Statistics definition of "classroom instruction" includes classroom teachers, activities such as field trips, sports, music and arts, but it does not include school libraries or school librarians, who are grouped with "food, transportation and other non-instructional staff and services." School libraries and librarians classified under the miscellaneous category? This is unacceptable.
The American Library Association points out that school libraries are classrooms and school librarians are teachers. Furthermore, more than 60 research studies have found students at schools with well-developed libraries consistently score higher on reading and other tests, regardless whether the communities are rich or poor. There is a direct correlation between well-stocked and staffed school libraries and higher reading performance and academic performance on all grade levels.
"First Class Education" is a devious name; what is being proposed is anything but a first class education.
Don't let this happen in your state. A strong collective voice can block this dangerous plan. Contact your U.S. Congressional Representatives and ask that the National Center for Education Statistics include school librarians in the definition of "direct classroom instruction." Contact First Lady Laura Bush to encourage her involvement to save school libraries. If there is a ballot initiative in your state, write to your local officials and media opposing "the 65 percent solution" and make sure to vote against it.
The following book is available at many public libraries.
"Thank you, Mr. Falker," written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco, Philomel, 40 pages
Read aloud: age 6 and older. Read yourself: age 8 and older.
At first, Trisha loved school, but when she realized she had great difficulty reading, she began to feel dumb. Letters and numbers looked like wiggling shapes and her classmates made fun of her. It wasn't until fifth grade that help arrived. With gentle guidance and perseverance, her teacher worked with Trisha and helped her overcome her problem and in turn, helped her realize that she wasn't dumb at all.
An outstanding story of courage and based on Patricia Polacco's own childhood, this is her heartfelt thanks to the teacher who made her life whole and a message of gratitude to all teachers who do the same.
Library: Carson City Library, 900 North Roop St.
Library Director: Sally Edwards
Youth Services Librarian: Cory King
Choices this week: "The Other Side" by Jacqueline Woodson; "The Sneetches and Other Stories" by Dr. Seuss; "The Giver" by Lois Lowry
Books to Buy
The following books are available at favorite bookstores.
"When You Are Happy" by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Geraldo Valerio, Simon & Schuster, 2006, 36 pages, $16.95 hardcover
Read aloud: age 3 and older. Read yourself: age 7 and older.
The young girl in this story has a whole family that cares for her with love and tenderness. Regardless of her mood, someone in her family is there to protect her.
Like a love song, this beautiful book speaks to children and adults about family, nurturing children, and the greatest gift of all - unconditional love.
"Sheep" by Valerie Hobbs, Farrar Straus Giroux, 2006, 115 pages, $16.00 hardcover
Read aloud: age 8 and older. Read yourself: age 9Ð10 and older.
When the dog was born, he waited excitedly for the day he could join the older dogs and help herd the sheep and when that day came, it was glorious. The young dog knew this was what he was meant to be, but not long thereafter, his life changes dramatically.
Torn from his family and in a strange place where there are no sheep, the young dog begins his journey, deciding that somehow, even if it takes the rest of his life, he will find his family and the sheep again. For awhile, the Goat Man cares for him, sharing his food, friendship and life philosophy. Later, the dog winds up in the hands of a cruel circus man who uses a whip. Finally able to escape, the dog begins to believe that he'll never find what he's looking for, and at that moment, he meets a boy who needs him as much as he needs the boy.
An extraordinary novel that is rich beyond measure on multiple levels, "Sheep" will tug at your heart long after the last page is read.
• Kendal Rautzhan, a nationally syndicated columnist, writes and lectures on children's literature. She can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org