Director’s Blog July 2023

If there is one thing librarians and patrons know, it is that reading can open up worlds.

As anyone who has been “lost in a book” can attest, a good book can take you to faraway places, lift your spirits, inspire, teach, inform or entertain.

In my view, reading is not only enjoyable, but has taken on critical significance in the wake of the pandemic. And reading and literacy are among the things KCLS does best.

A mounting body of local and national research has shown COVID-19’s impacts on student learning, socialization, mental health and school attendance. Pre-pandemic gains in reading and math test scores have been wiped out as students were required to study remotely rather than in classrooms. The learning loss ranges from one quarter of an academic year to over a year or more, depending on area, school district and poverty levels. COVID’s impacts on people of color have been even more pronounced.

This academic regression and lost time have enormous long-term consequences for both the students’ and the country’s economic future, researchers say.

But there is post-pandemic hope, thanks to public libraries. Ann Ishimaru, a faculty member at the University of Washington’s College of Education and author of Just Schools: Building Equitable Collaborations with Families and Communities, says libraries are among the critical community organizations needed to aid academic recovery, and to ensure communities of color are represented.

Ishimaru also says it’s not just about raising reading and math test scores, but going beyond school walls to build and support families that have their own learning environments.

KCLS does all this and more. As a long-time librarian and a parent, I know first-hand that reading for enjoyment leads to a child becoming a reader and lifelong learner. Research shows that those who read are more successful in life, and that reading and education help inform and build democracy.

This is why the Library System offers a huge array of programs that support reading and literacy. Currently, our popular Summer Reading Program is in full swing, but throughout the year we encourage people of all ages to read whatever they want through our extensive print and digital collection. We offer Story Times online, in-person and outdoors, and in six world languages. We just added Rainbow Story Times as well. On July 15, the Maple Valley Library will host a Story Walk Read-Along at Lake Wilderness Arboretum, allowing participants to read at a strolling pace. Or join one of our many book groups.

We build reading skills with popular programs such as Reading with Rover and Reading Buddies. Some tips on helping kids­–or adults–get ready to read can be found on our website. KCLS also offers people support through our resources, Mobile Services outreach and Summer Meals at Kingsgate and Shoreline libraries, which brings children into libraries to nurture both their minds and bodies.

KCLS also has many back-to-school programs that build reading skills and support students and families, but I’ll save those for an upcoming blog.

The Library System is a public good, here to help all King County residents to learn, grow and thrive. Come visit, connect with your local library and others through reading!