As a current high school teacher in Fairfax County, and a future school librarian, I frequently hear the question, “Why do you want to be a librarian? Do kids even read anymore?” April is National School Library Month, and I’d like to take the opportunity to clarify the answers to these questions.
In my school, the library is not only already an essential part of the school, it is filled with untapped potential as well, because so many parents, students, and teachers are not aware of all of the opportunities that are available. Our school library provides our students with technology access, research stations, a place to work and research, but also has lunch programs to help students meet each other and make friends; on some days during lunch there is a knitting group that meets. Students meet and teach each other to create new stitches and patterns, and you haven’t seen a school united until you’ve seen a freshman girl patiently demonstrating a stitch for the third time to a senior football player. We have a book club that meets during our remediation period once a month. The kids pick the books, and have some of the most lively discussions I’ve heard.
Even more than this, our library is teaching our students how to be digital citizens and 21st century learners. They foster curiosity — not always an easy feat in high schoolers. They have a coding station where our students can learn to code, even if they aren’t taking computer science classes, and a media lab where students produce, film, and present daily announcements for the school. They are trying to get a 3D printer in the library, as well as virtual reality technology to allow our students to explore places and ideas to which they might never otherwise have access.
So yes, kids do still read. But these also aren’t the same school libraries that we had; no longer is the library a silent, intimidating tomb of books. Go check out your local school library after school one day in April — you might just be surprised at what you find!