The mission of the Library Project is to provide equal access to high interest, culturally relevant texts to all students of KIPP Memphis through central school libraries. By prioritizing sacred spaces for reading, the Library Project will increase student growth in literature while inspiring lifelong reading habits among students across seven campuses.
The KIPP Memphis Library Project started in 2015, when we discovered the need for central school libraries in Memphis charter schools. Since then, we have built two libraries, with two more set to open by the end of the 2019 school year. By 2020, all KIPP Memphis campuses will feature high interest, culturally relevant texts in intentionally designed libraries that will foster dramatic reading growth for our students.
Across the country, libraries are in decline. This is in part due to the rise of charter schools. A recent study by the NCES reported that less than half of charter schools have a central school library, while less than one third staff a school librarian.
In Memphis, the situation is more dire. Less than 30% of students read on grade level, and only 16% of 11th graders meet the ACT’s College-Readiness Benchmark. According to the Tennessee Education Commissioner, literacy has become “the equity issue of our time.” Yet of the 90 charter schools that have opened in Memphis since 2005, less than 15 contain central libraries, and only 5 staff full time librarians.
Students of color and students living in low-income neighborhoods are disproportionately affected by this absence. In middle-income neighborhoods the ratio of books per child is 13 to 1, while in low-income neighborhoods, the ratio is 1 book for every 300 children. Our students live, on average, a 45-minute walk from the closest public library.
The one documented factor that universally improves student performance at any school setting is an adequately stocked and funded school library. It is time our students had access to this essential facility.
Reading has increased tremendously at the schools where libraries have been established. One year after our first library was completed, KIPP Memphis Academy Middle was recognized as a reward school for student growth, scoring a Level 5 (out of 5) from the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System.
Increase in words read by students, up 150% from words read before the library opened
Daily number of minutes students read per day during school, as a part of library programming
Increase in percentage of students reading over breaks, a common factor in reading retention
KIPP Memphis has determined that the best way to improve our students opportunities in life is to increase their access to books by building libraries within our seven schools. These libraries are built to feature the following:
Libraries thrive with the support of the surrounding community. Help our students gain access to text and close the literacy gap in Memphis.