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Unequal Shelves In D.c. School Libraries Benefit Wealthier Students

Lafayette Elementary School, in upper Northwest Washington, has one of the largest library collections in the District’s public school system, with more than 28,000 books filling stacks on two floors. Drew Elementary, 12 miles away and east of the Anacostia River, has one of the city’s smallest inventories: 300 catalogued books lining shelves along two of the library’s walls.

Reading and literacy are high priorities for the urban school district, as proficiency rates for its poorest students dwell below the averages for major cities. But the District dedicates no annual funding for school-library collections, instead relying on the largesse of parents or the kindness of strangers to stock its shelves through donations.

As a result, an unequal system has developed.