Libraries and reading: Part II

In Libraries and reading: Part I, I considered how public and school libraries provide for readers through decisions made around collection development. Following on from this, I would like to explore the ways in which libraries promote reading for children through events, activities and displays. As the previous post highlighted, there is a difference between the two sectors in terms of the driving force behind decision-making. In school libraries, the focus is on education and reading is promoted as a way to learn and develop skills. Recreation is highlighted in public libraries, with an emphasis placed on reading for pleasure.

School libraries are very good at promoting reading, with many using a range of strategies to encourage their students to engage in this activity. Special events are one way of placing the spotlight on reading. These include World Book Day, which often involves children coming to school dressed up as characters from their favourite books. In Australia, Book Week occurs in August each year and coincides with the Children’s Book Council of Australia book awards. Book character parades and reading and voting on shortlisted books are part of the celebrations in schools across the country during this week. Other events for promoting reading include author and illustrator visits and book fairs. The teacher-librarian, Barbara Braxton, has a extensive list of examples in her post on library events. (Her blog, 500 Hats, is an excellent resource for teacher-librarians and children’s librarians and is well worth bookmarking for future reference.)

You’re a wizard, Harry! Dressing up for World Book Day

World Book Day

World Book Day-Being Harry Potter by Iain Cameron: CC BY 2.0

There are also a number of ongoing activities that can be used to promote reading. These include book clubs, which can be tailored to the interests and needs of the children. Again, Barbara Braxton has a post entitled The FIRST Book Club, which includes suggestions for monthly activities for a group meeting in the library. Golden tickets can be hidden in books that are seldom borrowed, prompting children to search beyond popular titles. Genre passports can be used to encourage students to explore the breadth of the fiction collection, helping them to discover what they enjoy reading. I have set up a Pinterest board to curate ideas for promoting reading. This can be used as a starting point for planning library activities.

Displays are another way of promoting reading. Like events and activities, these expose children to new formats, genres, authors, illustrators, subjects… They can be based around particular topics, celebrations and authors’ birthdays (such as Eric Carle, Dr Seuss and Roald Dahl). Students can be involved in creating the displays by including their reviews and recommendations of books (Braxton, 2015). There are a couple of posts on the 500 Hats blog that offer useful advice for setting up library displays for children: The Landscaper’s Hat and Tricks of the Trade. I also have a Pinterest board entitled Library Displays, containing inspiring pins from a variety of libraries.

Public libraries tend to use fewer approaches to promoting reading for their younger users. Most offer storytime sessions, some of which are tailored to different age groups. These may also be bi-lingual, either incorporating a community language or sign language. Some libraries have loyalty schemes (such as The ReadUp Program), with children collecting stamps for each library visit and then receiving a certificate once they reach a certain amount. Public libraries are particularly known for their summer reading programs (such as the UK’s Summer Reading Challenge and the Summer Reading Club in Australia), which encourage children to continue reading through the school holidays. Awards and prizes are often offered as part of these. However, the public sector could learn a great deal from school libraries, which are very creative in the ways in which they promote reading amongst their students.

Everyone is welcome at storytime…even bears and ninja turtles!

I hope that this post has provided you with some ideas for promoting reading (for pleasure) amongst the children you work with. I would also recommended reading The Reader Leader’s Hat by Barbara Braxton for ways of “growing readers” (Braxton, 2014). Please share any activities you have used to encourage children to read in the comments below.

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