Youth Librarians and Homework Centers Developing Term Paper

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Youth Librarians and Homework Centers

Developing Homework Centers in Public Libraries

Why homework in public libraries? What are the academic needs and ramifications from the child's perspective?

There are numerous good reasons (Mediavilla, 1) as to why homework centers in public libraries are very important, and why educational and social activists pursue the development of such centers. Indeed, in the first place, children left alone after school, according to research by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice, do not succeed academically as well as those who participate in after-school programs; this is not rocket science, this is pure, simple common sense fact.

Number two, according to Cindy Mediavilla's book, Creating the Full-Service Homework Center in Your Library, children who have a meaningful, safe, learning environment to go to after school are more likely "to develop stronger social skills" (p. 2) and also more likely to learn how "to acceptably handle conflicts."

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The following are a few of Mediavilla's list of positives resulting from a safe and healthy homework environment for young people, in a library: a) completing homework assignments "reinforces classroom learning" while at the same time building "organizational and time-management skills"; b) learning to work independently is a valuable lesson in itself; c) academic success in the lower grades could make the difference later when a teen-ager wishes to attend college; d) even if a child never makes it to the college level, getting good grades in high school can mean making more money after high school; e) when a low-income or minority child has nobody waiting a home to help with already difficult "English as a second language" assignments, the welcoming warmth of a friendly library can keep that child on a path to basic survival skills and success.

Term Paper on Youth Librarians and Homework Centers Developing Homework Assignment

In addition, "teachers also notice increased self-esteem in kids who receive homework help," Mediavilla writes (p. 4). Perhaps as important - if not more so - is the fact that students learn "how to cooperate with adults and each other" by studying under the watchful eye of librarians and trained volunteers; and, as one child, a fourth-grader from Oakland was quoted as saying in Mediavilla's book, most kids do not "get mad or hit anybody," which apparently they might do if left out on the street after school.

Mediavilla writes that important bonds develop between students and mentors in libraries, as "real-life" (p. 4) problems are aired and kids have a chance to seek advice from trusted new friends who are in positions of academic authority and respect. "The homework helpers provide hope and encouragement in a neighborhood where few positive role models exist," she explains, adding, that for library staff, too, the homework center helps them "develop a broader service perspective."

One of the categories of youths in particular need of after school help are latchkey children; in Queens, New York, the Queens Borough Public Library offers a "Homework Assistance Program" and a "Latchkey Enrichment Program" (LEP) (for K. through 6th grade) during the school year from 3:00 P.M. To 5:00 P.M., Monday through Friday. Besides the benefits of receiving tutoring, enjoying arts and crafts, storytelling, science-related activities and music activities at the LEP, the Queens project offers "interactive video teleconferencing from across the United States." From 10 to 25 Latchkey ("unattended") children "regularly" spend weekday afternoons in each of the 33 Queens branches offering LEP services, according to the library's Web site.

Why homework in public libraries? What are the social reasons for creating more homework centers in libraries?

Moreover, as to children, homework, and libraries, as a meaningful conjunction of dynamics, America is a society where, in an overwhelming number of cases, both parents work in order to provide adequately for their families. Kids can, and do, get into trouble when unsupervised. In New York City, for example (,where "juvenile crime triples" between 3:00 and 8:00 P.M., there are roughly 1,189,375 children aged 6-18, but only 32.8% have access to after school programs of any kind, let alone library homework settings.

And the reason behind the rise in juvenile crime, and unsupervised children, is that there are clearly a substantial number of single-parent families where the mother is stretched beyond her ability to give all the nurturing (i.e., help with homework and personal issues) she would like to.

In fact, through the use of data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics, Single Parent Central ( has compiled statistics that show that: 28% of all children under 18 live with one parent; 84% of children living with a single parent live with their mother; 56% of single parent households have no other adult living in the house; and 32% of "all births were to unmarried women in 1997," Single Parent Central reports.

With the growing number of single parent families, there seems little doubt that there will also be a growing number - commensurate with the rising number of children with just a single mom at home - of schoolchildren who need a place to go after school (other than an empty house), and, who need help with their homework.

As for the need for homework centers in libraries to help minority children: in an article published in the Center for Law and Social Policy journal (Policy Brief No. 4), the author states that among Latino populations, about 40% of births take place outside the bonds of marriage; and within the African-American community, an eye-opening 70% of births are "out-of-wedlock" (Parke, 2004). That fact is not quite as disturbing as it might first appear, since of those 70% of black mothers giving birth without a wedding ring on their fingers, some 40% have a live-in father/partner; which, in effect, can be as good as if the child had a father and mother who are married.

Still, in cities where a lot of black and Latino families reside - "six of ten" single parent children live in cities of populations of 1 million or more, according to Single Parent Central - those children need to have a safe learning center to go to, to keep them off the streets after school. With only one parent at home after that parent spent a long day working at a tedious job, and now she must cook supper, wash clothes, clean house and other household duties - and what if she is not skilled in math yet her children need math assistance? - the child is at risk in terms of his or her academic abilities.

Meanwhile, besides the need for a nurturing environment in which to study and complete homework assignments, the hours immediately after school lets out - in particular for those whose parents are not home - are hours of extreme vulnerability for youth; there is intense peer pressure for young people to use drugs, to join gangs and otherwise engage in unlawful activities, and to get swept up in bad habits. And so, given the danger lurking after school, communities, libraries, and school districts have set up "after school" programs all over the nation in recent years.

Why homework in public libraries? What are the emerging obstacles for regular "after-school programs" which create an even greater need for more homework centers in libraries?

Setting up after-school programs (not specifically geared to tutoring or homework) to keep kids out of trouble is the good news; the bad news is, many of these programs are being cut back because of budget limitations. In fact, under the federal budget proposed by the Bush Administration, last year's $4.7 billion in "block grants" to communities - a portion of which is allotted to after school programs - will be slashed to $3.7 billion in the coming fiscal year (Viser, 2005), according to an article in the online version of the Boston Globe.

In California, meanwhile, a $424 million after-school program that has already passed the voters (in 2002), may be suspended even before it goes into effect, due to budget shortfalls, according to an article in the San Jose Mercury-News (Wasserman, 2005). The governor of California, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, headed the "Inner-City Foundation" in 2001-2002, in a pro-after-school activities drive that passed voters as Proposition 49 and provided the money for after-school programs in schools throughout California.

But, unfortunately, the ballot measure was designed to "only go into effect when the state is not overspending," according to Schwarzenegger spokesman Vince Sollitto, and right now, the state is overspending, and children are the ones to pay the price by losing after-school programs.

This, too, points up the drastic need for libraries to initiate homework programs - or to expand existing programs - through volunteers from the higher grades and from the community. And in Phoenix, Arizona, according to news reports, officials may have to eliminate 60 of the 166 after-school programs, due to budget considerations. If those 60 programs are cancelled, "the Parks and Recreation Department would save $1.7 million," according to, the Arizona Republic's online version (Sowers, 2005).

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