Celebrating National Library Week!

Cardinal Nation interviewed our librarian for the Hub – and the entire district! – Mrs. Ford to talk about the importance of our libraries

Celebrating National Library Week!

This week – April 23-29 – is National Library Week! This is a week to not only encourage reading, but to also appreciate the roles of libraries and librarians in our society.

Throughout the years, libraries have taken on many different roles. While they were at one time solely used for research projects, they now offer a variety of resources for the community. From printing and wifi access to educational classes, libraries offer a wealth of information.

In recent years, many libraries and books have been facing backlash for containing ideas that certain groups have deemed problematic. The issue of book banning even came to Mentor last year, which we have also covered. To hear more about the importance of our libraries, Cardinal Nation took the opportunity to talk with our school media specialist and librarian, Mrs. Ford.

Cardinal Nation: What benefits have you seen for students who are avid readers? What about those who just slightly increase their reading?

Mrs. Ford: I think students who read more have advantages over their peers. It is pretty well known that students who read develop stronger comprehension, grammatical, and writing skills which help academically, but I don’t think people consider how books can be used for healing, emotional comfort, and personal development. Reading is also an important way to escape reality and enjoy something entertaining.

Students who read are taking time to unwind. Research shows that increased time on our devices and social media can lead to more anxiety and depression. When you read, you have to break away from digital distractions. The reader’s mind becomes a calm place. The National Alliance for Mental Illness states “Reading can relax your body by lowering your heart rate and easing the tension in your muscles. A 2009 study at the University of Sussex found that reading can reduce stress by up to 68%.”

Another benefit is that reading is a way to experience other people’s cultures and learn empathy. At the high school level, it is also a way to experience the consequences of risky behaviors in a safe environment. Some popular teen books include uncomfortable topics like depression, suicide, self-harm, underage drinking, drug use, dating abuse, consent, discrimination, etc. Reading about those topics is a healthy way for students to learn, see the consequences of risky choices, make an emotional connection to characters, and develop their own personal morality without experiencing personal harm. Discussing a book with a “hot” topic makes it easier for students to begin conversations with parents and trusted adults in a way that is non-judgmental. Books also give parents an excuse to bring up topics that are harder to talk about with their teens. It is a safe way to expand and explore the complexities of our world and create dialogue.

Cardinal Nation: What kind of resources do libraries provide outside of books? What is the value of these resources?

Mrs. Ford: School libraries provide great access to books for students who have transportation difficulties. They can really level the playing field for students of all ages and income levels giving them access to quality materials. Plus school library time is built into elementary students’ schedules to encourage them to read. Middle school and high school libraries provide not only reading materials, but lots of tech support for student devices and credible electronic research materials for student projects.

In addition to all of those resources, MHS has been ahead of the trend in both public and school libraries to provide STEAM opportunities with a Makerspace. A lot of libraries are just now in 2023 adding 3D printers, laser engravers, Cricut machines, vinyl cutters, etc., but we’ve had a Makerspace room and program since 2016.

Libraries are important to help students build literacy skills, provide enrichment opportunities and entertaining books, foster creativity and design through Makerspace usage, present resources for colleges, jobs, and scholarships, and serve as a place for IT help. It’s hard to put a price on the value of all the services and opportunities libraries provide.

Cardinal Nation: What kind of disparities are we seeing between the current generation compared to past generations in relation to the growing gap of library usage?

Mrs. Ford: I think high school students reading for pleasure has been dropping for decades. People make time for what they value. More students today value having a job over academics than in the past. Others value time on social media. As technologies come out, those values shift. Some students prefer to stream content or play video games.

Our free time is like a diet. It shouldn’t be made up of only one thing. That’s unhealthy. Our free time should be filled with a variety of physical and mental activities. One device should not be dominating every activity and facet of our life. Reading is one part of the balance needed for good mental and physical health.

Cardinal Nation: Many students report not reading due to spending too much time on homework. How can students tackle this? 

Mrs. Ford: Reading has to become a habit that is practiced and valued as an important part of the day. We know teens need more time decompressing, instead of “doom scrolling” and calling it relaxation. How about unplugging and immersing yourself into a story that relieves stress? Homework and work demands can be overwhelming, that’s why students should set small, achievable goals that help them academically and emotionally. Here are my tips:

  1. Any reading is good reading. Comics, manga, poetry, short stories, and novels all count. If a full chapter book seems too overwhelming, set a small goal with a different type of writing.
  2. Set a timer or alarm and make a goal of 15 minutes a day. Maybe increase it after a month, or you could set a goal for a certain amount of pages per day.
  3. If you start a book and don’t like it, give it only 25 to 50 pages to prove itself. If you hate reading it, give it up and try something else. There are endless choices. If you push yourself through something you don’t enjoy, reading will remain a chore forever.
  4. Audiobooks are still READING! Take the pressure off, close your eyes and listen for a certain amount of uninterrupted time a day.
  5. Ask for recommendations from everyone. Friends and family can be the best guides to help you find a book that is a good fit for you.
  6. Relax and enjoy being transported into another world of your choosing!

Cardinal Nation would like to thank Mrs. Ford for all of her work she does for our school! During the interview, she mentioned that although she has been a librarian since 2006 and in education since 1996, this is the first time someone has acknowledged School Library Month!

If you are interested in any activities The Hub or the other Mentor libraries offer you can visit their website here.