Pew Report: Parents, Children, Libraries, and Reading

By Gail Sheldon

I am pleased to represent the ARSL Board of directors as a member of the Pew Internet & American Life Advisory Committee. As librarians, we all know that children and parents have a very special relationship with reading and libraries. We see it every day. Whether it is for story hour, early literacy, homework, school projects, or other programs – parents (grandparents, too) and children love their library. We see their smiling faces, their inquisitive natures, and the joy at finding just the “right” book.

Even though we see this every day and understand how important libraries are to parents and children, oftentimes those who are in control of our funding do not. They do not see how essential we really are. Today, you have ammunition – you have facts and figures that you can use to advocate for your library and the vital role it plays in in the lives of children and parents in your community.  The Pew Internet and American Life Report, “Children, Parents, Libraries, and Reading” was released today. You can find the entire report at libraries.pewinternet.org/2013/05/01/parents-children-libraries-and-reading.

Some of the facts you will find:

“The importance parents assign to reading and access to knowledge shapes their enthusiasm for libraries and their programs:

  • 94% of parents say libraries are important for their children and 79% describe libraries as “very important.” That is especially true of parents of young children (those under 6), some 84% of whom describe libraries as very important.
  • 84% of these parents who say libraries are important say a major reason they want their children to have access to libraries is that libraries help inculcate their children’s love of reading and books.
  • 81% say a major reason libraries are important is that libraries provide their children with information and resources not available at home.
  • 71% also say a major reason libraries are important is that libraries are a safe place for children.

Almost every parent (97%) says it is important for libraries to offer programs and classes for children and teens.” (Part of the report summary)

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Don’t be afraid to read these reports – while some research can seem dry and difficult to read – these are very accessible and easy to understand. They are full of visual representations of the data so you can see how each question relates to the other. It will really get you thinking, “How can I use this? What will make the most difference?” The answers to these questions will be different for each of us depending on our situations. But find something you can use from this report and pair it with YOUR own observations and statistics, and library stories from YOUR patrons. Nothing speaks like stories. You know your library and your stakeholders best. Please share your ideas for using this research with the Listserv; it generates ideas for all of us.

Thank you to the Gates Foundation for funding this research, and to the Pew Research Center for their significant work.

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