The Big Issue : Edition 582
16 THEBIGISSUE.ORG.AU 8–21 MAR 2019 Estonia, Ireland, Japan and South Korea. But what do school libraries have to do with Australia’s literacy ranking? Quite a lot. Strong evidence-based research has shown that if your child’s school has a great library staffed by a qualified teacher-librarian who collaborates with the teaching staff, this will have a positive impact on student literacy. A direct link between library budgets and NAPLAN results was reported by a 2016 Softlink study – as library funding increases, so do NAPLAN results. Why? Libraries and teacher-librarians develop a healthy reading culture within schools, and when students read, their vocabulary, grammar and general knowledge expand. And the very nature of a library’s common space means collaboration, creativity and knowledge creation flourish among students and teaching staff. Good early literacy development is vital to later academic success, but literacy is also an important life skill beyond the classroom. Being literate doesn’t just mean the ability to read a book; literacy skills give people the ability to manage everyday tasks, to access information and to communicate ideas. Alarmingly, 44 per cent of Australians aged 15 to 74 have low literacy skills, according to the latest ABS and OECD data. This means 7.5 million Australians are much more vulnerable to social and economic disadvantage. Nowhere is Australia’s poor literacy rate more stark than when it comes to the Indigenous student population. According to PISA’s 2012 results, Indigenous students are at least two-and- a-half years behind their non-Indigenous peers. The 2017 NAPLAN results paint an even grimmer picture, with only 34 per cent of Indigenous Year 5 students in very remote areas at or above national minimum reading standards, compared to 95 per cent for non-Indigenous students in major cities. According to a House of Representatives education committee report from 2011, there are no teacher-librarians in community schools in the Northern Territory. “Apart from the historical, health, social and educational disadvantage — MORE LOVELY LIBRARIES, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: PALAFOXIANA LIBRARY, PUEBLA, MEXIO – THE OLDEST PUBLIC LIBRARY IN THE AMERICAS; AL-QARAWIYYIN LIBRARY, FEZ, MOROCCO – THOUGHT TO BE THE WORLD’S OLDEST LIBRARY; MODERN LIBRARY OF ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT; MAE LA REFUGEE CAMP LIBRARY, THAILAND.