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CLOSING LIBRARIES WILL HURT EFFORTS TO REDUCE ILLITERACY

Proposed budget cuts of more than 50 percent to the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library are unconscionable in a county where one in five adults is functionally illiterate and in a city where 30 percent of adults are functionally illiterate.

These cuts are also unconscionable at a time when the Buffalo Public School System has made literacy its No. 1 education priority. Sixty-five percent of fourth-graders and 78 percent of eighth-graders are not meeting New York State's English Language Arts standards.

Good Schools for All and the Buffalo Reads literacy coalition are partnering with the Buffalo Public Schools to improve literacy for our children and their parents. The Buffalo and Erie County Public Library system has been a critical player in these initiatives.

A national study commissioned by T.D. Waterhouse USA found that one in five Americans recognized that lack of access to books is a leading cause of illiteracy in children. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Education, 61 percent of low-income families have no books in their homes for their kids and 80 percent of the preschool and after-school programs serving at-risk children have no books at all.

The local branch of the public library is the place many families go to get books. Cutting or sharply reducing access to libraries means closing off an important service to all of us, but especially children living in poverty. And it sends the wrong message to a community struggling to improve literacy skills for all of its citizens.

Helene H. Kramer

Executive Director

Good Schools for All

Buffalo