While attending the Leadership & ALSC Meeting at #alamw14, I had the privilege of listening to a speech by Dr. Donna Celano, who is doing important work tracking early literacy and childhood development, and poverty’s effects on both.
Over a ten year period, she tracked children in two separate neighborhoods in Philadelphia – one in North Philadelphia known as the “Badlands,” one in Chestnut Hill.
The “Badlands” differs from Chestnut Hill in many ways, but especially in one important way: there is a dearth of information in this neighborhood. There are no bookstores or local stores which sell magazines and newspapers. Because of this, the children in the neighborhood are not given the opportunity to acquire “information capital.” The researchers looked at wide and diverse sources of information, from street signs and business signs on display in each neighborhood to the number of people found reading in public in each neighborhood. In North Philadelphia, they found there were was 1 book for every 300 children in the neighborhood, whereas Chestnut Hill had 13 books for every 1 child.
The differences in environment follow the children into school. The researchers looked at PreSchools and School Libraries in each neighborhood, and found that children who already lived in a print-rich environment then went to schools with school libraries that had more books, MLS staff, and access to the school libraries.
The work being done by Dr. Celano and her colleagues contributes an important voice to the world of those who serve children, and I was so grateful to hear her speak.