A literacy advocate is challenging the government's commitment to improving children's reading skills following a school district's decision to cut library hours.

District 18 has told library staff their hours will be cut in each of the next five years. That means some schools will have a library worker for as little as three hours a week.

Jan Greer Langley is with the New Brunswick Coalition for Literacy, and says cutting hours at school libraries exposes the government's lack of commitment to improving literacy levels. "The government just, they just don't get it. They don't get what literacy is and they don't get what the relationship is between a child and a book and how important it is."

  • LINK: New Brunswick Coalition for Literacy
  • District 18 superintendent Alex Dingwall says the province doesn't fund school libraries enough, and he routinely spends more than what the government has budgeted on books and staffing for children. He says he can't do that anymore.

  • From June 21, 2004: School districts facing tough choices
  • Instead, Dingwall says the district is meeting literacy needs in new ways. "You have to look at the big picture. We've now got things in place for literacy that we didn't have two years ago. More direct instruction. More remediation."

    Dingwall says the changes will free up $60,000 for the district to spend on other programs to help children read.

    Only elementary and middle schools in Fredericton area's district 18 are affected.

    Langley says that's when children learn to love books, and that's when they need access to libraries."We don't understand what the government's long-term plan is with regard to school libraries is, or even with regard to their so-called literacy program. Action always speaks louder than words and this is the kind of action that speaks really loudly and clearly to me."