Reprioritizing to Make Room for More Reading by Laura Gardner
School librarians wear many hats. In my school library, I teach information literacy; collaborate with teachers on technology-rich projects; offer book buffets and book talks on a regular basis; purchase, weed and manage a large collection; promote our library, books and reading on social media; and am in charge of a bustling Makerspace. I also try to find time to read widely from our collection, as well as new books I may wish to add to our collection. In the past, this reading has taken a back seat to other priorities, but in the last six months I have reprioritized to make more time for reading. Besides my job as a school librarian, I also serve on the board of our state library association and I am a parent of two rambunctious young children. Finding the time to read amongst all this chaos hasn’t been easy, but the benefits have been tremendous.
Making the time
Making the time for reading has meant almost completely giving up TV; carrying a book at all times (I am the weird mom reading at least 20 pages every day in the elementary pick up line); using audiobooks while exercising, doing dishes, driving (doubles as promotion of our state Ebook/digital audiobook program); and investing in a good book light so I can read in the middle of the night or early morning and not wake my partner. Luckily I enjoy middle grade and YA novels more than books for any other age group so I don’t have to worry about adult novels competing for attention. I also view all my reading as a good model for my two children so I don’t mind being the mom who makes her kids play independently so I can finish a chapter or those precious final 20 pages.
The most important element of reading so many more books than before is having a good “to be read” or #TBR list. At any given point I have a stack of ten books from the library or bookstore that I am excited about reading. I love having lots of good choices, so many that the decision is sometimes a difficult one. I curate my list based on book reviews from review journals, but even more so from fellow librarian’s/super reader’s social media feeds. I am always screenshot-ing and listing books I want to read and my public library holds list is almost always maxed out. We require our students to have #TBR lists as part of our independent reading program; having my own has made a big difference in my reading habits since it cuts down on the wait time between good books. Almost all my reads are satisfying, page turners that I can’t wait to pick up! I am also not opposed to abandoning books if they don’t meet that criteria.
I started trying to read more books in the spring of 2017; I have always been a big reader, but that is when I started trying to get closer to #bookaday. Inspired by those before me like Donalyn, but also by librarian friends on social media like @theloudlibrarylady, in the end of May I set a goal of reading a book a day for all of June, July and August. I told some of my colleagues and they were excited about trying a version of this with me and #30booksummer was born. Ten teachers from a variety of subject areas in my school checked out large stacks of books from our library for summer vacation with the intent of reading 30 middle grade/YA books over the summer. We started a private Facebook group to share the books we read and I also shared all the books I read over the summer on Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads. We also got together once in the middle of the summer to chat about our books and swap out our books.
A few librarian and teacher friends from other states and schools joined in, as well, all with the hashtag #30booksummer. I ended up reading over 50 books appropriate for my middle school students in those three months, including some that I hadn’t yet put on purchasing lists, but quickly added like Sandra Uwringiyimana’s incredible autobiography How Dare the Sun Rise.
For every book I read and loved (which thanks to my curation was almost every book), I wrote a review and posted it on Instagram, Twitter, Goodreads and Facebook. In the past I would sometimes post pictures of books I read, but now I am much more purposeful about writing full summaries and reviews that better promote the book and have the added benefit of helping me remember the book in the future.
After reading so much this summer, I have so many more books to enthusiastically book talk this fall, including How Dare the Sun Rise (Cooper really loved it!); Wishtree by Katherine Applegate (students are devouring it!); Cyclone by Doreen Cronin (which a serial non-finisher student finished and adored); All American Boys by Jason Reynolds (Sorelle can’t stop recommending it to her friends) and more. My favorite thing is when a student walks in and says “I saw a book you mentioned on Instagram…do you have it?” Our teacher book club has continued, as well. Right now we are all reading books that feature racial diversity including Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton, As Brave as You by Jason Reynolds, The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon, Unbound by Ann E. Burg and more. Now that the school year has begun, my reading has slowed down a bit. I am still trying to read three to four books a week, however, and I am making the time to still write long reviews. I will continue to make reading my main priority as a librarian; I believe it is an important part of establishing and improving the reading culture in our school.
Laura Gardner, a National Board Certified Teacher in Library Media, is Teacher Librarian at Dartmouth Middle School in Dartmouth, Massachusetts. Laura was awarded the School Library Journal (SLJ) School Librarian of the Year Co-finalist Award in 2016 and is a 2017 Star Touchcast Ambassador. She is on Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads as @LibrarianMsG and she also moderates the Facebook group, Mombrarians Review.