The number of students reading 50 or more books in the city’s school district dropped by 523 students this year compared to the previous as the Paterson Public Schools reduced the number of librarians, according to education advocates.
In 2015, there were 1,923 students, who read 50 or more books. In 2016, there were 1,400, according to the Paterson Education Fund, an advocacy, which runs the 50 Book Club, a program that promotes literacy.
Rosie Grant, executive director of the Paterson Education Fund, attributed the drop to cuts in librarians at the district. She said cuts in librarians undermines a big effort by multiple groups to get students reading at grade level by third grade.
“They are learning to read through third grade and fourth grade on they need to read to learn. If they don’t have the base level of reading mastered at the end of the third grade it puts them more at risk for failure,” said Grant.
“It has a huge negative impact on kids,” said Linda Reid, president of the Parent Education Organizing Council (PEOC). “Not having librarians in school is a major downfall.”
The district has 21 librarians this year which is two more than the previous year, said Terry Corallo, spokeswoman for the Paterson Public Schools. “We had 19 last school year and have added at the two new schools,” she said.
In 2014-15 school year, the district had 31 librarians.
Corallo said there could be other factors causing the drop. She said principals at each of the 54 district schools may be the key to encouraging greater participation in the 50 Books Club.
School board president Christopher Irving said he is not surprised by the big drop. He said he is disappointed at the drop adding that the root cause of the cuts were the state’s underfunding of the school system.
“This is the ramification of not being fully funded,” said Irving. He said librarians are the one who push books to students to get them to read.
“There’s a direct correlation,” said Errol Kerr, school board member. “They need librarians who will setup systems in the schools to get our kids interested in reading. If you don’t have that it’s not going to work.”
A contingent of school librarians have repeatedly protested the cuts in librarians in the past year. At one point the librarians elicited a promise from state-appointed district superintendent Donnie Evans to restore librarians at the elementary schools.
The same group expressed disappointment at the end of the last school year the promise was not kept.
Grant expressed some optimism stating the new School 16 was provided a librarian. Corallo said the Hani Awadallah School also has a librarian.
“Reading maketh the mind. The more you read, the more knowledge you acquire. We don’t have that going on,” lamented Kerr.