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Culture of Reading - Part 2

This week I am continuing the topic from last week. Last week we looked at creating a culture of reading as far as what you, the librarian, could do with their teachers. This week, we’ll look at it from the student’s perspective.

Dear Dr. Laura,

My principal wants me to work on developing a “culture of reading”. I’m not really sure exactly what that means. I know I’m in charge of getting the kids motivated to read. But, what all do I need to think about?


Cultured Librarian

Hello again and welcome back to part 2 of my answer. Where do I even begin?! There are so many things we know we can do to get kids reading. Some are tried and true ways like booktalks and others are cutting edge things that your district or campus has developed. Remember last week I mentioned the analogy that you are the “reading quarterback” on campus. This list of ideas will hardly scratch the surface; but, let’s get busy brainstorming ways to get kids reading.

I absolutely adore Donalyn Miller and Colby’s Sharp’s book Game Changer. Even though much is written for the classroom teachers' perspective, you will also find a wealth of ideas for librarians. The authors point to the thought that we need to create “book floods” if we ever hope to get children out of the “book deserts” they are in. The authors challenge us to “flood” children’s lives with books in the “classroom,

school, home and beyond”.

One way to flood children’s reading lives is by giving them “student choice” or free and voluntary reading. You can look up numerous articles from Stephen Krashen and see that free and voluntary reading (pleasure reading) leads to better outcomes in reading, writing, grammar, and vocabulary development. Free and voluntary reading vs leveled reading or reading levels is a touchy topic on many campuses and I will let you come to your own conclusion. But, let me just encourage you to do some actual fact-checking yourself to come up with your position on free voluntary reading. Just keep in mind - what is your ultimate goal for the students when they graduate out of your school library?

So, let’s get busy with the ideas...

Start an initiative where you award a sticker to students “caught” reading. Some people do this using a mystery person who has the task of finding students around campus or even out in the community who are reading without being told to read. This mystery person could be an administrator or even another student on campus. They might take a picture of the student reading or give the teacher a special sticker to pass on to the student.

Host a book club. There are a variety of ways to do this. Students can read the same title, the same genre, the same author, the same series, and on and on. They can meet after school, once a week during lunch, or even on Twitter! The point is to get the students reading and talking about books. Flood their lives with books and people who are readers. Book clubs help your students build their reading identity and reading communities where they bond over books/genres/authors/series they’ve shared through your book clubs. Book clubs expose them to others who share their passions and also expose them to new titles to spur on their reading.

Try some fun events like: Blind Date with a Book or Book Tasting/Book Passing. These gift wrapped books are a great way to bring attention to books that are worthy of being circulated, but have sat on the shelf for a while. It’s a way to expose students to authors or genres that have not been as popular with your crowd.

Partner with your transportation department. Yes, you read that right - your transportation department! We recently had 3 districts in my region roll out a Books on Wheels program where they lined their bus walls and ceilings with printouts of ABDO covers containing a QR code to directly access books while they are riding the bus. The books can be downloaded and read later, as well. Talk about a book flood! The links below are interviews with the library leaders who describe how they set up the program.

Create a reading challenge for your school. Some schools try Donalyn Miller’s 40 Book Challenge. She uses this as a way to flood students with lots of reading experiences and warns against turning this into an assignment of any kind where you add on book reports or other similar academic activities. Reading experiences matter. Use this kind of challenge as a tool to build your reading community and get conversations going about books.

Maybe you’re ready for a district-wide contest like Name that Book or Battle of the Books. There is a national version called America’s Battle of the Books as well as district, city, and state versions that come up with their own book titles and questions.

Find ways to flood your students' lives with opportunities to access a vast assortment of reading materials. Flood them with copious amounts of time to explore their reading interests. And then flood them again with even more time to simply read.

Just like last week, I invite the readers to leave comments on social media wherever you see this post. Share your tips of ways to build a “culture of reading” with your students.

Dr. Laura

The Librarian Influencer of the Week is Cathy Hammond who has 12 years of library experience in a 4th-6th grade campus and now at high school as the district’s lead librarian. She is from Texas. You can listen to her interview at:

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