Why the School Nurse’s Office Should Have a Well-Stocked Library by Melissa McDonald and Melanie Roy

Joseph Addison and Sir Richard Steele wrote “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” Being a school nurse teacher I deeply believe in this quote. My mother instilled in me a deep love of reading. Growing up I witnessed her donate countless books to projects and children in need. When I became a school nurse teacher, I saw how much reading helped the children coming to me, and reached out to our school librarian Melanie Roy in an effort to build a library in my office. Together we have come up with ways to get books onto my office shelves. Building up my library has been one of the most powerful ways I can help the children I serve.


Why Books Are Important in the Nurse’s Office


  • A school nurse’s role is to address the physical, mental, emotional, and social needs of students. There is not a case where I offer a child a book to read while resting and they decline.


  • Anxiety is the leading mental health issue among our American youth, and clinicians and research both suggest it is rising. Based on data collected from the National Survey of Children’s Health for children between the ages of 6 to 17, researchers found a 20 percent increase in diagnoses of anxiety between 2007 and 2012.  


  • Independent reading can reduce stress and anxiety. Many of the students who visit the nurse’s office need time to reset when they are feeling stressed and anxious. Reading a book in a quiet setting is just what they need to be able to return to their classroom for learning.
  • According to a study conducted by the University of Sussex, individuals who had read for merely six minutes exhibited slower heart rates, less muscle tension, and reduced stress levels. I have found that students often enter my office for a symptom of illness which is cured by ten minutes of reading.


Types of Books That Work Well in the Nurse’s Office


  • Graphic novels – Hands down, students want to read this format more than any other type of book. The pictures help them get out of their own heads and into someone else’s.
  • Guinness World Record books – The facts and the photos are appealing. Being able to flip to any page is perfect for short bursts of reading.
  • Nonfiction “Browseable” books – Nonfiction author Melissa Stewart termed this type of nonfiction “browseable” because readers are not required to read this type of book cover to cover to enjoy it; rather they flip to the parts that interest them.
  • Yearbooks – The yearbook advisor provides a yearbook to the nurse’s office each year so we have an unofficial history of the school housed here. Students love looking through and seeing what teachers looked like years ago, finding siblings, cousins, neighbors, babysitters, etc.


Ways to Build a Nurse’s Office Library


  • Reach out to your school’s Parent Teacher Organization to ask for a budget for books by providing the reasons mentioned above.
  • When your school is having a Scholastic Book Fair be sure to let the people running it know that your nurse’s office could use some new books for students who visit.
  • Check with your school librarian. Many times they receive donations and would be happy to share with the school nurse to get books into readers’ hands.
  • Let your community know that you accept donations. Many times families outgrow their books and are looking for a worthy place to pass them along to be enjoyed
  • Reach out to your school’s yearbook advisor to ask for a yearbook donation to the nurse’s office.


Melissa McDonald is a school nurse teacher in Barrington, RI. She has been a Registered Nurse for 10 years. Melissa’s focus of nursing has been in the pediatric and mental health field. She is a strong student and family advocate with a philosophy that health and learning go hand in hand.

Melanie Roy is a library teacher in Barrington, RI. She has been an educator for 23 years. Melanie is passionate about creating time, access and choice to grow readers. You can find her at www.mrsmelanieroy.com or @mrsmelanieroy on Twitter and Instagram.