Increasing Literacy in Title 1 Schools


It has been shown many times that a child’s socioeconomic status (SES) can greatly affect their overall achievement at school.  Social policy analyst, Donald Hirsch, describes the link between poverty and underachievement at school and notes that children coming from a lower SES are already about 9 months behind their higher SES peers when first beginning school (The Poverty Gap, 2007).  When they enter first grade, they are about one year behind academically, and about two years behind by the time they get to second grade.  This gap in academic success grows larger and larger as students move through each grade level, most notably in the primary grades.  Title 1 schools have a higher percentage of these students coming from low-income families, and receive financial assistance to aid in meeting the needs of such diverse learners and to ensure that all children can achieve the rigorous state standards, such as the Common Core State Standards.  For the children that are lacking the support, stability, enrichment, or resources at home, Title 1 schools and the teachers who work there cannot necessarily change a child’s home life or financial situation, but they can be held more accountable for helping these students when they are at school.  With that said, what can the educators and staff in low-income schools do to support these children and to help close the poverty gap?  How can teacher librarians assist and make the most of a student’s time at school and give all children opportunities to learn?

When looking at child’s education, and more specifically literacy, classroom teachers are not the only educators that play a vital role in a child’s learning.  Although most students spend the majority of their school day in one classroom with one teacher, teacher librarians can also have a significant impact on the way a student learns to read and write.  In some Title 1 schools, finding enough money to hire a dedicated, certified, and trained Teacher Librarian is not possible, or is sometimes not seen as a necessity.  For example, I work at a Title 1 Elementary School that has not had a certified librarian since 2013 (I’m working hard to obtain my MLIS so I can change this!).  Having a librarian available to help all students, regardless of their family’s income, would be so beneficial to any school.

Since most states have adopted the Common Core State Standards, a teacher librarian can support classroom teachers with these standards, and can collaborate with one another to provide for all students. Achieve, a nonprofit education reform organization, has created an Action Brief that outlines a few starting points for teachers librarians to “increase awareness of the standards, create a sense of urgency around their implementation, and provide these stakeholders with a deeper understanding of the standards and their role in implementing the standards.”  Some of the suggestions for librarians from this action brief include: Help differentiate opportunities for learners by providing a range of easy to challenging texts on topics under study, allow unlimited access to materials by teachers and students for classroom and home use, provide students with the tools to creatively share and report their research, and promote the idea that children and teens are as much teacher as they are learner.  A teacher librarian implementing these ideas would be targeting the CCSS, while also providing materials and multiple opportunities for lower SES students to build their literacy skills.  Working alongside classroom teachers, specialists, and administration can also help to give these students more chances to show growth and progress.

Through collaboration, cooperation, and building a participatory environment, teacher librarians can create a library space that is a place for teaching and learning.  When students come to the library, they will be able to do much more than simply read and check out a book.  They will have access to a wide variety of materials and resources, the chance to create, discover, and share knowledge with their peers.  All of these opportunities can help a child to develop the many skills defined through literacy.

What about you?  What are some ideas you have to improve literacy in Title 1 schools? Let’s start a conversation in the comments!

References Used

Achieve, & AASL. (2013). Implementing the Common Core State Standards: The Role of The School Librarian Action Brief. Retrieved from

Hunsinger, V. (2015). School librarians as equity warriors. Knowledge Quest, 44(1), 10-14. Retrieved from

Johnson, L., & Donham, J. (2012). Reading by Grade Three: How Well Do School Library Circulation Policies Support Early Reading?. Teacher Librarian, 40(2), 8-12. Retrieved from:

The Poverty Gap [Video file]. (2007). Teachers TV/UK Department of Education. Retrieved from Education in Video: Volume I.

Want to get involved or learn more? Check out these links!

Reading is Fundamental, Impact Story: Books and Backpacks

Clark, C., (2014). The reading lives of 8 to 11-year-olds 2005 – 2013: Evidence paper for the Read On. Get On campaign. London: National Literacy Trust.

Krashen, S., (2006). Free reading. School Library Journal, 52(9), 42-45. Retrieved from:

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