Sometimes bad news brings good press coverage. On December 6, the Book and Periodical Council hosted an Idea Exchange on the topic "Crisis or Opportunity: School Libraries in the 21st Century". The panel consisted of moderator (author/broadcaster) Kevin Sylvester, Annie Kidder from People for Education, Patsy Aldana from the National Reading Campaign, and me. Linked here is the promotional page from the BPC and the information page on the issue from the OLA, a co-sponsor of the event. Look for the #ideaexchange hashtag on Twitter to get a few highlights from the event. During the panel, Annie and Patsy alluded to an upcoming press conference they were jointly scheduled to have.
On December 12, they held their press conference, where they shared the results of some statistical analysis they conducted using EQAO attitudinal survey data. As both P4E and the National Reading Campaign state in their report "Reading For Joy", the percentage of children in grade 3 who report they “like to read” dropped from 75% in 1998/99 to 50% in 2010/11. The number of students in grade 6 who “like to read” fell from 65% to 50% in the same time period.
I received a call from the Media Relations Department of my board asking if I would be able to accommodate two film crews that wanted to tape some segments at my school library, interview me, and talk with some of our students so they could provide some footage to accompany the press conference report on the drop in pleasure reading. We set up the specialized media release forms and sent them home at lunch. We first heard about this opportunity at 11:10 a.m. and by 12:40 p.m., we were busy filming. Mike and John came from CBC; Dana and Pat came from CTV. Both crews were very nice. I tried very hard to give them different angles to use for their broadcast so that no one would feel like they were getting the same footage. Since the report focused on the EQAO years, I arranged for the CBC to have grade 3 students to meet and provided grade 6 students for CTV. We worked from 12:45 to about 2:00 p.m. and the results of the interviews can be found here from CBC and here from CTV. I was actually a bit surprised at how short the CTV segment turned out to be, especially considering how eloquent and knowledgeable Dana was on the topic - she's a parent as well as a reporter so she had a good grip on the issue. I found the CBC segment to be a bit more in-depth and positive in tone - and my students will be delighted by how many images featured them reading and chatting excitedly about books.
I guess in this case "no news equals good news" isn't true - maybe it's more like "out of sight, out of mind". When disappointing statistics like the ones cited in "Reading For Joy" hit the media, this is when interest in school libraries peak and the public becomes interested in what's currently happening and what's possible. As Annie Kidder said at the panel on December 6, it's the public that creates policy - and we need the public to care about and advocate for school libraries so that we can ensure that every school in Ontario has a properly funded and staffed school library.