Take Some Cues from Gilligan: Build a Nation of Readers, Not an Island by Naomi Bates
Taking a cue from a popular show in the sixties, Gilligan’s Island, I re-wrote the intro to reflect today’s school libraries (so sing it with the music in mind):
Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale,
A tale of some really good reads,
That started on the very first page
Aboard the library.
You really need to integrate
Technology brave and sure
Soon teens will start to pick up books
Fav books won’t be obscure… Fav books won’t be obscure
Trying to get students to look beyond a textbook and read for pleasure is a situation that occurs frequently in high schools. One librarian vs. many teachers on campus isn’t a well-balanced scale, but it’s not so much the tipping point as much as it is the approach. Understanding the expectations of academics and being able to integrate pleasure reading into this can be the start of a symbiotic reading relationship where both the library and the classroom understand how important both types of reading are to a student. One way to attract both students and teachers alike to build interest in pleasure reading is by integrating technology for a 21st century makeover.
Why use technology in the first place? There are several reasons why, but the first reason is to create relationships with both students and teachers. Both of these populations use online resources not only for research and academia, but also to collaborate and most importantly, to communicate. By using something simple as everyday email, you can create interest and even stimulate conversation. Here are a few examples how you can use email:
- Create and email out a survey of what books they’d like to see in the library (creates a sense of ownership so it’s more about THE library instead of MY library)
- Send out advanced information on author visits, book talks, new books coming in, new programs or collections in the library
- Send out a weekly book review to share with staff and students.
- Send out emails to teachers asking if they have time for a genre-based booktalk that goes along with their particular unit they’re studying.
If an email doesn’t catch their eye, perhaps an online poster will. Create these using any different type of poster creator like Smore or Canva and send out the same information in a more pictographic way. Embed these onto websites or email out the link (make your message and title catchy!). This type of technology-laced information is based less on words, more on design, but is used to convey the same meaning.
- Use this to let students know what hours the library is open
- Advertise open houses and let everyone know the library will be there, ready to check out books to students while their parents are talking to teachers or even accompanying them to the library
- Create a poster of book pairs to send out to educators showing them the correlation between pleasure and academic reading on a visual scale
Nothing attracts more attention than a great book trailer. These add spice to a book before it may even be picked up, and more often than not, it has been (personally and statistically speaking) the most checked out and popular books. Pictures do tell a thousand words. Here’s how to use book trailers to stimulate pleasure reading:
- Put them on a digital picture frame and set it on the circulation desk. If you don’t have one, try converting an old desktop computer screen into one.
- Send them to your school’s video announcement system, if you have one. This will reach the widest audience and all you have to do is sit back and watch them come through the library doors
- Use them in your booktalks. Create a 3:1 ratio to not only create interest, but also break up the monotony of a spoken booktalk.
If you don’t try differentiation through various formats, you’re missing the mark and a potential reader, especially in high school, may slip through the net. Making not only books, but e-books available is becoming a more standard practice in libraries. Although they may be a little more expensive to buy, a librarian has to personally ask and answer the hard question of price vs. student access. But there are other alternatives:
- Let students know about Project Gutenberg. Most required reading, if it’s a classic, can be found here, or there are books for students who want to lose themselves in the Bronte sisters or a great gothic like Frankenstein.
- There are apps that also access free e-books. Free Books – 23,469 Classics to Go is one such app that allows readers to access all types of digital books by genre or author
- iBooks is a common app for phones or iPads. The beauty of online reading is that students can find interesting articles online and download them as PDF files to read later.
Sharing booktalks via social media is another way to catch readers, especially those that don’t come often to the library. It’s a given that most students are on Twitter, Vine, Facebook and Instagram, so grab this opportunity to “talk” to students about great books!
- Take a picture of the books you may be booktalking and send it out as a picture on all types of social media
- Take a 15 second video of yourself talking about a great book and put in on the library Instagram page.
- If you have a PowerPoint, upload it in Google Drive and share it with all the teachers in your building. Share the link further by posting to Twitter and Facebook.
This isn’t a world of hardcopy vs. technology, but one that accommodates both and creates excitement! In the library, one of the most important things a young adult librarian can do is think like a teenager. See how they view the world, how they communicate, and why they read (or don’t) and hone in on those ideas to create a bigger, better and well-grounded library program for teens to enjoy reading for pleasure.
Naomi Bates is a teacher librarian at Northwest High School in Justin, Texas. She considers herself a teacher librarian with a twist of technology by keeping the balance between books and technology, because whichever one you choose, reading still matters. She graduated from Sam Houston State University in 2003 and has loved the fact that her passion and her job are one and the same. You can connect with her on Twitter @yabooksandmore as well as her blog www.naomibates.blogspot.com.