Candidates use a variety of strategies to promote leisure reading and model personal enjoyment of reading in order to promote habits of creative expression and lifelong learning.
“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few are to be chewed and digested.” This quote from Francis Bacon’s Of Studies is one that I have discussed many times with my students in Honors British Literature. I happened across it again a few days ago, and it occurred to me that it would make the perfect tagline for my major reading promotion concept – the Devouring Books Lunch Bunch book club. Designed to target middle school readers, I first outlined the concept of Devouring Books in a reading promotion assignment for the course, Literature for Young Adults and later incorporated the initiative into my mock school library website for School Library Administration. Also included here, are the “Your School Librarian” and “What to Read Next” pages from my school library website and a reading promotion strategies document composed in my Literature for Children course. These items show particular devotion to using varied strategies to promote reading and model personal enjoyment of reading
Though an avid reader from the time I was a small child, I am ashamed to admit that during my middle school years, I could count the number of times I entered the school library on one hand. Sure I worked on a couple of research projects there, but not once did I actually check out a book for independent reading. No, it wasn’t that I went through a stage where I thought the library wasn’t “cool” – quite the opposite, actually. Rather, I never felt like a time was provided during my day when I could visit the school library. I carpooled with two other families; inevitably we were running late in the mornings and were keeping parents waiting in the afternoons, so those weren’t appropriate times for me to peruse the middle school collection. And because my English teachers did not schedule time for book checkout, the only other time allotted for library visitation was during lunch. You guessed it, lunch was only twenty-five minutes, and I was a slow eater.
As a school librarian, I want to run a structured library, without being a fuss-budget. I want students to be able to use the library during lunch, without sacrificing their eating time. Through Devouring Books, middle school students would be invited to dine in the library by grade twice a month. (I would bring dessert!) During the first session, I would present thematically linked booktalks and trailers, providing book selection time and creating reading guidance webs and bookmarks as take-away items to encourage the students to select high quality independent reading materials. These materials and a continuous loop PowerPoint presentation would be maintained in a special reading promotion area to target those students who either missed or didn’t initially consider coming to the Devouring Books meetings. I would also partner with the local public library to feature a display of books I had highlighted during our first monthly meeting. During the second session, we would meet to discuss the books read by the students and have a peer recommendation round-table discussion. The students would also have the opportunity to work in small groups to create book trailers for use in school-wide reading promotion.
In addition to a page devoted to the Devouring Books Lunch Bunch, my school library website includes a librarian biography page. One component of the “Your School Librarian” is “Mrs. O’Toole is currently reading . . .” This section would provide a forum for me to display and model my personal enjoyment of reading. Having gained experience with GoodReads since the original planning of my school library website, I would use this Web 2.0 tool to post “Currently Reading” and “To Read” bookshelves on the page in widget form. Additionally, the “What to Read Next” page on the school library website features links to awards lists such as Newbery, YALSA, and Black-Eyed Susan and three public library databases: Books in Print, Next Reads, and Novelist.
These initiatives represent specific components in the overall strategic philosophy of reading promotion that I first developed in Literature for Children – one about which I continue to feel passionate. Every school library’s reading promotion plan should include three major focus areas: school year media activities (day-to-day), formalized literacy programming (special dates), and a well-defined summer reading program. Additional ideas for promoting habits of creative expression and lifelong learning include summer reading Bingo, Bookfairs and Booktalks, Read Across America Night, and Skye Virtual Author visits, which could include writer’s workshops.
In the effort to encourage enriching leisure reading among students, a school librarian must creatively vary her strategies for reading promotion. Avid readers will be easy to hook with an informal discussion during book browsing, but reluctant readers, including those whose reading habits lay dormant because of a perceived lack of time for reading, will need engaging and active presentations. These readers will need consistent reminders and easy access to new book recommendations that would interest them: reading promotion stations and displays, events during convenient time slots, reading guidance webs, and digital book trailers. Reading promotion techniques must be as diverse as the readers to whom the school librarian hopes to appeal. But even in the midst of a dazzling array of cutting-edge reading promotion initiatives, a school librarian must remember that sometimes our simple actions speak the most strongly in favor of leisure reading. A school librarian must not only promote reading but also model her own enjoyment of reading for the students. It is the relating of personal reading habits that may do the best job of promoting the importance of lifelong reading.