Our plan is to supplement the library’s model of lending books and supporting literacy through book talks, book clubs, and class collaborations with an additional element of gifting books. We plan to launch a “birthday books” program that will provide each student in our building with one free, high-quality book to own every year on their birthday. Students on an advisory committee, in partnership with the librarian, school administration, and English department, will be the driving force behind the delivery of this program.
Recent efforts to increase the books in students hands have been successful; for example, this past year the librarian and sixth grade English department launched an initiative for students to perform book talks on books of their own choosing. All of the approximately 200 sixth grade students had delivered at least one book talk by the end of the year, and circulation statistics in the library have increased significantly over previous years. Between August of 2016 and March of 2017, 1,691 books were checked out to patrons at Cedar Bluff Middle. In the same time span during this 2018-2019 school year, 4,173 books have been checked out. We can be confident this also indicates an increase in student reading based upon the data collected through book talks, book requests, and student library attendance. This data demonstrates there is a need and a demand for high-quality reading material in our community. The library wants to continue to build our ability to serve the development of students’ literacy skills, and believes helping build home libraries is an important facet of the next step in our programming.
We are motivated by recent research findings covering 42 nations and suggesting that home book ownership can make a statistically significant positive impact on literacy (Evans, Kelley, Sikora, 2014). The primary study referenced was conducted over 20 years, and also seems to counter the often leveled counter argument that book ownership is merely a signal that people from privileged backgrounds have advantages that lead them to succeed, and the ownership of the books themselves is merely a signifier and not a contributor to that success. On the contrary, the researchers found that “regardless of how many books the family already has, each addition to the home library helps children do better… [and] the enhancement is greater for families with little education and low-status occupations” (Evans, Kelley, Sikora, 2014). This data gives us confidence that an initiative like the “Birthday Books” program will benefit every student in our building, not just those who already have thriving home libraries. There is also reason to believe that the benefits can extend beyond the student who receives the book themselves, but also the members of their household who would have access to the book in the home after it is gifted.
The implementation of the program will involve the student body at every step, making sure their benefit is maximized and diversified. A small student advisory board will help design the implementation plan for the program. We cannot wait to get started!