Library key to kids literacy says industry

If Australia is serious about lifting student literacy levels, our governments must fund schools to employ teacher librarians and improve access to a variety of information formats and resources said Ms Karen Bonanno from the Australian School Library Association.

Ms Bonanno said the industry welcomed the recent announcement about the federal government’s education reform program aimed to help improve early literacy achievement.
“The program is a step in the right direction. However, to be successful programs must engage students at the school level. Schools with access to a contemporary resourced school library and staffed by a qualified teacher librarian will provide better learning outcomes for their students,” she said. 
“There is abundant evidence from the United States, Canada, Britain and Australia that shows students attain higher levels of achievement when they have access to a library program that is adequately staffed and well resourced”.
“Yet despite this finding, our school libraries continue to suffer from funding decreases and our teacher librarians are being replaced by unqualified staff. This defeats the goal of what this very initiative is aiming to achieve.”
Softlink CEO Mr Kim Duffy said the link between well-resourced libraries and literacy results was validated by Softlink’s Australian School Library Survey. Mr Duffy said for the past three years the survey has found schools with higher than the national average NAPLAN reading literacy scores received above average levels of library funding and staffing. A comparable result was identified between schools with low scores and low funding.
“Library technologies and eResources are changing the way students and their families interact with their school, and creating further opportunities for flexible learning. 
“During a recent New South Wales eBook trial, 80 percent of students said technology helped them read. Parents also indicated strong support for 24/7 access to resources, with many saying they spent more time reading with their children when home at night together.”
Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA), executive director, Sue McKerracher said the role of the teacher librarian includes advocating and building skills for lifelong learning as well as providing valuable digital literacy and cyber safety skills. 
“In today’s world of instant search results driven by commercial content, students require expert guidance and skills to locate the right resources to support their development and learning.
“Teacher librarians are uniquely qualified to support our students to discover knowledge. They are trained in education and information science as well as digital knowledge management and search skills,” she said. 
“We need all levels of Government to help promote the role of teacher librarians as the champions of literacy in schools and to support the value of their contribution through specific programs.”
The modern librarian’s role engages students in learning and technology, providing access to a variety of information formats including books, eBooks, magazines, journals, newspapers, audio and music files, video, photographs, bibliographic databases, internet searching and other digital resources as well as provision of computer training, coordination of school community and literacy education programs including helping those with disabilities.
ASLA, ALIA and Softlink’s research group has presented solid evidence of the relationship between library funding and student achievement (such as NAPLAN) as part of the Report of the House of Representatives' inquiry, School libraries and teacher librarians in 21st century Australia (2011).
ASLA’s advocacy for the industry includes its recent development of the Future learning and school libraries: A discussion paper. The paper concludes that teacher librarians are integral to literacy achievement and their role, through collaboration, planning and assessment of learning programs, integrates multiple literacies into the curriculum. 
ALIA supports industry-wide reading and literacy programs such as The Reading Hour, the National Year of Reading 2012, and Literacy and Numeracy Week. 
Mr Duffy said Softlinkwould continue to work with the industry to develop programs like Oliver’s Literacy GPS which provides teachers the opportunity to identify and guide students who are in need of additional reading assistance.
About Australian School Library Association
The Australian School Library Association (ASLA) is the peak body providing leadership and support for school libraries and the promotion of teacher librarianship in Australia. ASLA represents the interest of over 9,000 school libraries and more than 3.5 million students.
Contact: Karen Bonanno, Executive Officer, 07 3633 0510 and 0407 114 777
About Softlink
Softlink has been exclusively dedicated to the development and support of advanced integrated knowledge, content and library management solutions for some 30 years. Softlink supports more than 50 percent of schools across Australia and more than 10,000 libraries across 108 nations and all library sectors. Softlink is a strong industry 
advocate and conducts the annual Australian School Library Survey (
Contact: Susan Tierney, Manager, International Marketing, 07 3124 6111 stierney@softlinkint.com3
About Australian Library and Information Association
The Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) is the professional organisation for the Australian library and information services sector. With 5,500 members across Australia, we provide the national voice of the profession in the development, promotion and delivery of quality library and information services, through leadership, advocacy and mutual support.
Contact: Sue McKerracher, Executive Director, 02 6215 8215
Tuesday 26 February 2013 10:00am