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Child-literacy group honored for bringing libraries back to schools

By the Notebook on Dec 17, 2012 01:42 PM
Photo: Mica Navarro Lopez

Library time at Blankenburg Elementary, one of the 12 schools whose libraries are run by West Philadelphia Alliance for Children.

by Kofi Biney

The mere idea of having access to a school library is a slim hope for many Philadelphia students. But one organization has been changing all that.

The West Philadelphia Alliance for Children, a child-literacy advocacy group, was honored by City Council last week for its work reopening shuttered public school libraries in the city.

The group, often referred to as WePAC, first caught the attention of City Council via Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who, according to WePAC executive director David Florig, fell in love with the organization's work in bringing school libraries back from the dead.

“She introduced a resolution to City Council to honor our work on behalf of children and working to increase their literacy skills,” said Florig.

Since WePAC started its school library initiative three years ago, the group has managed to reopen 16 closed school libraries in the city’s public schools. They now operate 12 of them, serving  5,100 students, said Florig.

The group relies heavily on volunteers, and Florig sees City Council’s proclamation as a positive step.

“Having City Council members hear about our work, and to help us in recruiting volunteers who can work in the schools, is a great thing. Hopefully our volunteer pool increases, and we’re able to open more and more libraries throughout the city.”

Kofi Biney is an intern at the Notebook.

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Comments (5)

Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on December 17, 2012 6:00 pm

While this work is well intentioned, our schools and libraries should not be dependent on charitable initiatives.   Certified, full time librarians should be in all our schools to provide library services through out the school day.   Instead they are an endangered species in Philadelphia public schools.   Another example of the inequity in our system. Across City Line avenue affluent familes send their children to schools with fully staffed , well equipped libraries.   On the Philadelphia side most schools have put their collections of books in boxes and eliminated the librarian position.   And no change is on the horizon with a five year austerity budget.   

Let's stop the happy talk about good seats and portfolios.   Let's talk honestly about the stark options that exist for most students in our city.   And Let's start fighting back.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 17, 2012 9:30 pm
Thank you, Ron. Community groups are well intentioned and provide what they do at no cost to the school. However, only a certified librarian has the knowledge, expertise and experience to align school library programming with the curriculum and the new Common Core State Standards, as well as forging relationships with every child in the school over years. There is evidence over time and across the United States, most recently in the Lance study here in PA, that certified librarians in well resourced school libraries benefit students' academic achievement in statistically significant numbers. Volunteers and donated books, no matter how well intentioned, cannot make that claim. The students in the SDP are short-changed, once again.
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