October 1999

The Trustee communicates issues affecting libraries and library services. Once a library and systems join LTA, all their trustees automatically receive this quarterly publication published by LTA. To learn more about membership in LTA, Click Here.

Schools and Libraries:

October 1999 issue of Trustee

Can They Learn To Work Together

To Serve Children Better?

by Edwin M. Field, NYSALB Director, TRUSTEE Editor

It may be time we shared responsibility. We've seen the statistics. The media has covered them extensively. Newspapers, radio and television stations have headlined the story. A large percentage of our youngsters attending schools statewide have reading scores that flirt dangerously with rock bottom. Finger pointing will not provide a resolution to the problem.

A practical approach, which offers a chance of working effectively is to find a way to help teach our young people very early, so that they look forward to and really enjoy the gift of reading. Hopefully, this early intervention can be one of the keys and this is where libraries can help.

In many areas, state and nationwide, libraries provide the initial exposure to a whole new world for youngsters. It may come in the form of regular children's reading hours or in the array of children's books parents bring home to read to their young ones. It may be as simple as the thrill youngsters receive when librarians provide the first library card of their very own allowing them to borrow books just like their parents. It may be a multitude of ideas and "out of the box" techniques that children's librarians have found effective in helping youngsters enjoy and learn from their reading experiences.

Whatever the method or technique, it has become increasingly necessary to share the ideas and put them to work in our own libraries. The beneficiary -- children.

The Reader's Digest Foundation has a program called the Tall Tree Initiative. At this time, the initiative is funding school/library collaborations primarily in Westchester County. Mini-grant programs, however, are also being conducted in Putnam and Dutchess Counties and Fairfield County in Connecticut. It calls for educators and librarians across their area of service to work together to serve children better. The program supported by a Foundation investment of over $2 million is going into its fourth year. The Westchester Library System and three school library systems, the Yonkers, Southern Westchester BOCES and Northern Westchester/Putnam BOCES school library systems have established a partnership and created a new model for library services. They call the work group "laboratory" communities.

Results to date indicate that "teachers report a visible effect on their students, especially in research skills and attitudes toward reading; librarians better understand the role of teachers, and teachers cite their own enhanced appreciation for librarians and the public library and public libraries report booming community-wide awareness, usage and attendance for programs and services."

The overall Tall Tree goal emphasizes full collaboration at every level, challenging educators and librarians to meet students' Information Age needs, and to make the library a vital and welcoming place in children's lives.

The Reader's Digest Foundation Tall Tree Initiative expects the concept to continue to grow. For information check the Foundation web site at <>; or call: (914) 674-3600, Ext. 262.

Isn't it time we share the responsibility of the Tall Tree Vision: "Schools and libraries together can create a seamless gateway to knowledge, a place where children are eager to develop their talents, strengthen their skills and master the knowledge they will need to succeed."

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