The Chicago Teachers Union is delivering more than 5,000 books to four Chicago Public Schools Thursday as part of 'Operation Book Drop'. The books come courtesy of the American Federation of Teachers' First Book National Book Bank. The book drop is part of an effort to keep "the appreciation of literature" a top priority in schools that have been affected by budget cuts.
The four CPS schools receiving books today include South Shore Fine Arts Elementary School, Hyde Park Academy, South Shore International College Prep and Whittier Elementary. Whittier was promised a library back in 2010, but never saw one and the school's makeshift community center, called the La Casita field house, was recently demolished by the district without notice. Books that were in La Casita are now sitting in a canister at the demolition site, according to CTU.
“How can our students improve as readers, how can our school get off probation, if we don't have a library and up to date books,” asked Araceli Gonzalez, chairperson of the Local School Council at Whittier. “CPS keeps raising ‘standards’ without providing the resources.”
According to CPS, a school is deemed as not having a library if it does not have a teacher assigned to man and teach in the room. According to the CTU's analysis of a September 5 CPS memo, close to 190 elementary CPS schools are without a library, up from 135 in 2011. Currently, 56 percent of CPS high schools, or 50 in total, do not have a library, which is double the figure in 2011.
“Teachers chose books for their students and placed the orders themselves to try and mitigate the effects these budget cuts had on their classrooms,” said CTU President Karen Lewis of the book drop. “Even the so-called ‘welcoming schools,’ which were supposed to have better resources, don’t.”