Monday, December 01, 2008

Early Learning and Libraries

This is Malcolm Gladwell. His new book, Outliers, is an excellent read and in my opinion, confirms Gladwell as a public intellectual. His book makes a number of insightful findings, but perhaps the most mind-boggling is the argument that cultural heritage plays a strong part in a person's educational abilities. In his argument that Asians perform better at mathematics, Gladwell surmises that it is the inherited working culture of rice paddies which makes all the difference.

Perhaps most controversial is the assertion that upper middle class children often score better on standardized testing because their backgrounds allow for concerted cultivation - that is, the abilities. It's the summer time that makes the difference. Rather than looking at test scores at one time period, we need to take a closer look at the test scores over an entire year, and examine the difference in improvement during the entire year. And what we find is astonishing. The reason for the disparity between the social classes is that privileged children are given more resources to practice and study during the summer time. Perhaps this is not surprising, as libraries play a huge role in the lives of young children. I certainly remember that as a young boy, I went to the local library often. (I only wish I had gone more now that I know how much a summer makes).

Libraries are seminal institutions in a child's early learning and educational experience. I like American Libraries' 12 Ways Libraries Are Good for the Country. It's an excellent thesis to why libraries are important for society:

1. Libraries inform citizens

2. Libraries break down boundaries

3. Libraries level the playing field

4. Libraries value the individual

5. Libraries nourish creativity

6. Libraries open kids’ minds

7. Libraries return high dividends

8. Libraries build communities

9. Libraries make families friendlier

10. Libraries offend everyone

11. Libraries offer sanctuary

12. Libraries preserve the past

1 comment:

Former Commander Win-Win said...

Librarians are important too. I just came back from a morning of "search" at UBC and I am very thankful for the resourceful and patient librarian who helped me find the items on my list.