Friday, September 11, 2009

No More Pencils, No More Books!

There is much ado about Cushing Academy's (an elite boarding school in Massachusetts) decision to get rid of all the books "aside from a few hundred children's books and valuable antiquarian works" to make way for specialized laptop carrels, 18 kindles, 3 large screen televisions and a coffee bar.

I'm all about embracing technology and think that the idea of creating this "learning center" is pretty fantastic. It will clearly become the center of the school's community. They're clearly on the cutting edge and looking to provide the top-notch 21st century opportunities that the students' parents are paying for their children to receive. But what the heck kind of a school checks out only 48 books in a year? Do these students not read?

Something tells me these students are still reading books both for school and for the fun of it. No, not e-books downloaded to their readers, but actual ink on paper books. Most likely, however, students are required to purchase class novels along with the texts they need for their English and other courses, or they're otherwise kept in classroom libraries (i.e. maps and atlases in the social studies classrooms, scripts in the drama room, etc.). And when they want to read for pleasure? They buy the book from retailers like Amazon or Barnes and Noble and swap with friends from personal bookshelves. It isn't that "very few students actually read [books]," it's that they just aren't checking them out of the school library.

I work at a fantastic private school that is fortunate enough to have the ability to provide amazing opportunities for our students, including access to cutting-edge technology. Now, my students are middle schoolers, and they use the library in a different, less rigorously research-based way than high school students. Still, I venture to guess that not much was being done at this school to encourage student independent use of the library, or the function of the library (as it was) to serve as a center of the school's community.

Our program encourages students to develop a love of reading and provides room for independent reading selections alongside prescribed class novels. Reader's advisory is a big part of my job. Want to guess how many books I've checked out this year (read: over the past three days)? Over 100.

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