A recent article in Time magazine, “A Third of Teenagers Don’t Read for Pleasure Anymore,” caught my attention and it made me wonder about how in the midst of our other commitments, we are bringing reading to students. I note that reading of comic books wasn’t mentioned so I’m not sure if the researchers felt graphic novels counted. And of course the flip side of that statistic is that two thirds of teens do read for pleasure. Nonetheless it seems kids are reading less.
Our various digital devices have cut into all our free time. Teenagers themselves are concerned about how many hours they spend on their phones. But knowing there is a good reason for the decline in leisure reading doesn’t take away from the problem nor the need to find a solution.
The new AASL National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries spells
out the importance of reading in our fourth Common Belief. “Reading is the core of personal and academic competency.” The explanatory paragraph concludes, “School librarians… provide access to high-quality reading materials that encourage learners, educators, and families to become lifelong learners and readers.”
How can you turn the tide? Many of you have budget problems making it difficult (some would say impossible) to have current high-quality literature, but we can’t let our students down. If you look long and hard at your collection, you will likely find lots of good books. The challenge is to get them in the hands of your students.
YALSA (Young Adult Library Service Association) sponsors Teen Read Week which runs from October 7-13, 2018 with this year’s slogan, “It’s Written in the Stars – Read.” Their website has forums which will give you ideas to get started. An easy one might be a tie in recent films based on sci-fi books.
If you have a popular makerspace, create a frequently-changing display of non-fiction related to the activities kids like most. Consider starting an Entrepreneurs Book Club with students reading bios on the lives of entrepreneurs current and past. Discussions can revolve around what made them successful. What ideas can students use to become entrepreneurs themselves?
Short-term book clubs around a theme can be a draw. It’s not much of a commitment and makes reading a social experience. Check any of the various library-related Facebook groups or your state’s listserv for book club topics that have worked. Most of these Facebook groups have librarians sharing ideas that have worked for them from book-tastings and blind date with a book, to bathroom book blurbs. A Knowledge Quest article from last year on Reading Promotion for Middle and High School has a long list of suggestions.
Many state library associations give annual awards to books and students are the ones who get to vote. Find out how to have your students participate. In some places, the website has activities you can use in coordination with the award.
“Get Caught Reading” is great if you are allowed cell phones in your school. Post pictures you or someone else takes (selfies are OK) of teachers, administrators, — and you, reading a book. If at all possible, display those books nearby. Encourage kids to take pictures of them reading. It’s always best if they see adults value reading. I’ve seen a few librarians post signs saying “I’m reading …… What are your reading?”
Books in series and “read-alikes” are a good way to keep kids reading. Put up a display of “first in the series” books to get them started. You know what titles have been popular with your students, and you can find lists of read-alikes online to promote other similar books.
Family Reading Nights are very effective in some communities. Scholastic has a Facilitator’s Guide to help you start one. A Google search will give you additional ideas for hosting one.
I love what school librarians are doing with coding, makerspace, and genius hour. Yes, it’s vital we know the latest apps, websites, and resources so we can show teachers how to integrate them into the curriculum, but you also want to create a reading climate in your library. To attract readers, you need to keep things changing. Encourage kids to come up with ideas and don’t keep any one idea for more than a month. No matter how much you do with technology, remember Reading Is Core.