School & District Management

Pew Research: High Rate of Parent Engagement with Libraries

By Michele Molnar — May 02, 2013 2 min read
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Even in an era when more parents than ever have easy access to information at home via technology, they find libraries to be important, according to a study by The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project released May 1.

Pew researchers conducted interviews with 584 parents of children under 18 late last year, and found that:

  • 94 percent say libraries are important for their children;
  • 84 percent indicate a major reason is that libraries help inculcate their children’s love of reading and books; and,
  • 81 percent say libraries provide their children with information and resources not available at home.

Kathryn Zickuhr, research analyst at the Pew Internet Project, believes parents’ connections to libraries are particularly impressive given parents’ higher rates of ownership—compared to other adults—of techno-tools like smartphones, computers, and tablets. Still, libraries are relevant for information-gathering and different kinds of sources for children’s homework. “Many parents said the atmosphere at the library, and having staff available to help with research, are other reasons they bring their children to the library,” she said.

“Lower-income parents are more likely to say they’ve used the library’s internet or computers than families with higher incomes,” said Zickuhr, of her and her associates’ findings in the study entitled, “Parents, Children, Libraries and Reading.” Of the parents whose children went to the library in the past 12 months, 37 percent went to use the internet. Of those, 43 percent were ages 12-17.

In addition to borrowing books, which is the main reason children went to the library, more than half (55 percent) went to do schoolwork. Among children ages 12 to 17, that is the reason 77 percent went to the library.

Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Margaret Bernstein writes that the rave reviews libraries receive suggest “that some parents respect the library even more than they do their child’s school. And that puts libraries in a position of real influence, one they can wield to prod parents to get more involved in their child’s academic success.”

Zickhur said that among those surveyed, “a big priority of parents [is that] libraries should definitely coordinate more with schools. In focus groups, parents said they wish the libraries would coordinate more with schools— to make sure enough copies of books on required reading lists are available, or for homework, and so tutors could help with what students are studying,”

For its part, the American Library Association, through its Association for Library Service to Children, offers an online repository of successful cooperative partnerships between school and public libraries.

Pew’s full study is available here.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the K-12 Parents and the Public blog.