School librarians are an important member of the group of adults charged with creating readers, which includes parents, teachers, librarians. Ways you can help students become engaged readers range from providing opportunities to read for pleasure and a diverse collection to partnering with families, public librarians and teaching staff.
"Reader development" means active intervention; “selling” the reading experience and what it can do for the reader to:
- increase children's confidence and enjoyment of reading
- open up reading choices
- offer opportunities for people to share their reading experience
- raise the status of reading as a creative activity.
Rachel Van Riel has developed this concept to encourage, support and foster audience engagement with reading and literature.
Collaborating with teachers, parents/whānau and local public library staff is an important way of helping stimulate and reinforce a reading culture within the school and school community. Activities might include:
- promoting a print-rich environment in the library, classrooms, online and at home
- delivering an annual programme of reading, writing and oral language activities
- organising special events supporting literacy.
To target collection development and reading incentive programmes, build a profile of your community. A wide variety of relevant and culturally inclusive resources is vital to appeal to all students. Knowing your students’ interests as well as their reading abilities, helps librarians to match books with readers successfully and to do “book talks” that are most likely to engage the children.
Ways to help students to choose books include:
- creating reader-friendly environments using clear, helpful signage and attractively displayed resources with plenty of face-out display of book covers
- building an inclusive collection with a wide range of resources and formats
- promoting books across ages such as promoting sophisticated picture books and easy reading fiction as “quick reads” to older children, helping encourage struggling readers to find books that suit their abilities.
There are various ways you can work collaboratively with teachers, parents / whānau and the wider community by sharing knowledge, expertise and resources. For example, working with teachers to learn students personal interests as well as their reading abilities, you can better help match books with readers. Knowing students interests also helps you to promote books and do “book talks” that are most likely to interest the children.
Collaborating with teachers
Library staff can work in partnership with teachers by exchanging ideas and co-creating opportunities to support student literacy initiatives.
Examples of successful library staff collaborations with teachers include:
- to promote use of sophisticated picture books and online tools such as book trailers as promotional tools (DOC).
- working with English teachers to ensure best possible outcomes for students and the school’s NCEA programme
- working with literacy leaders to increase teacher knowledge of literature for children and young people, including digital resources. This could form part of your school’s professional learning programme.
Liaising with parents
Ways you can help readers by involving parents / whānau include:
- providing selected book lists to parents targeted to their child’s interests and reading level
- inviting parents into the library to choose books for and with their children
- promoting series fiction to parents
- sending messages home to parents about great read-alouds and great new books.
Read more about Home-school partnerships for fostering literacy at home.
Supporting struggling readers
There are many reasons a student may struggle with reading and the school librarian is uniquely placed to help students find “just the right book" - the best book for the student's need, at the right time, in the right format and at the right level.
By working with students, and monitoring their progress and developing confidence, you can help them transition by providing “stepping stones”, from picture books to fiction for example.
Using series is another good way to encourage reluctant or struggling readers to engage with reading. Hooking a reader into the first of a series, helps them to then easily choose their next book as they can then read through the series, enjoying the books and becoming more confident and fluent in their reading.
Peer recommendations and series are also good ways to encourage reluctant or struggling readers to engage with reading. Hooking a reader into the first of a series, helps them to then easily choose their next book in the series. They enjoy the books and become more confident and fluent in their reading.
Working with able readers
Many able readers are happy to select their own books and are eager to progress their own reading. Nevertheless, these students enjoy and benefit from interaction and encouragement from the librarian.
To further engage able readers librarians may organise a variety of programmes and activities such as:
- literature circles
- reading parties
- buddy reading
- reading logs
Events initiated by the school librarian or hosted by the library
- Librarians can run events to encourage and excite readers of all levels such as reading challenges and incentives with targets and rewards
- Reading aloud to groups - so children of all reading abilities share the experience of the story
- Award ceremonies
- Celebrations, literary lunches
- Highlighting special events such as Book Week, Duffy Books in Home assemblies, Language Weeks, and community celebrations. Include guest speakers such as community leaders, authors and illustrators.
The School Librarian's Role in Reading Toolkit from AASL, the American Association of School Librarians is a useful resource when considering the role of the school librarian as a partner with teachers to create readers.
Image: Book quizz at Hurupaki School