Caroline A Raine

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Day 23. Getting Kids to Love Reading

Children love to talk about their reading adventures. They want you to engage with them about what they are reading and what they find exciting. All too often we shut down conversation with kids because as adults we apparently know it all and know what is best for kids. Uh - no... wrong!

As I indicated yesterday, I get very motivated when it comes to getting young adults and Tweenies to love reading. All too often the old school values in our educated selves want us to promote the classics, the good things we grew up on and those reads we were taught were of meaningful worth.

So I started with a non-existent library at our school 5 years ago. It was an emergent middle school at the time, and while small funds were made available, all I could do was grow it term by term... so what to do?

1. Bought in current fabulous reads which were top of  book store lists
2. Started taking part in the international Kids Lit Quiz event and the termly inter-school lit quiz events, to raise excitement around reading and a broad general knowledge of children's fiction and literature. Fantastic philosophy to allow kids to pit their strengths on a literary sports field!
3. Created a monthly Challenge. On a bright poster set 5 literary classic reads and challenged anyone who dared, to read one of them. This list included Treasure Island, Black Beauty, The Secret Garden, Anne of Green Gables, Peter Pan, Little Women, Five Children and It... you know - the real classics - and guess what? They were up for the challenge.
4. THE READING CHRONICLE: This is an elaborate A3 sized ring-bound booklet which I set up. It is all olde worlde and saturated in patina. It has three sections

  • Running Record and Reviews
  • Wish List
  • Members of the "Secret Society"
Essentially, the children log in name, title and a review comment after finishing each book. And BOY do they take it seriously! They also get to list books on a wish list (which is really helpful to me), and every year, new children get to fill in their names as a record of having belonged to this prestigious "secret" society (which essentially the library and a book club mixed in one). The beauty of this book is that kids get to read what other children enjoyed, they can follow recommendations by friends with similar tastes, and this is not regenerated every year, the book now holds comments from 4 years ago and it's growing. It's all about perception and creating a special aura!
5. HOT BOOKS: with each new purchase/ bulk buy in, we select Hot Books which are showcased and advertised ruthlessly and set up on display. And yes, I do slip in some of my personal "must reads" which I think every child should read:

  • everything by Rumer Godden
  • Michael Morpurgo
  • Alan Garner
  • Susan Cooper
  • Sharon Creech
6. KIDS RUN THE LIBRARY. This is a bit of a leap of faith, but it really really really does work. We don't have a qualified librarian. We elect a small team of librarians from the 7th graders every year. They are monitored by 2 teachers who stand in the background. We do however have a simple Excel document (which is growing weekly) which serves as the inventory of our library. Rustic, simple, but effective. The librarians check books out and in every morning, they create lists of missing books and chase down late returns. They are diligent, merciless and possessive of their portfolio. In 5 years we have only lost 2 books!!! 

Tomorrow's posting will be around whether or not to include pulp fiction on our shelves... you know "Twilight" etc ;-)

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