Public libraries have changed since we were a kids. Gone are the days of the shushing librarian behind the big intimidating desk. Rows and Rows of bookshelves have been reduced to accomidate digital media labs, makerspaces, and teen rooms. Libraries of the 21st century are no longer book warehouses; they are community centers and the perfect place for reluctant readers.
But I have a library in my school, why do I need the public library?
Hopefully all schools have a library and a librarian/aide, but because of budget constraints, school libraries may not have as many books as a public library.
Schools are closed during holidays and in the summer while the public library is open all year ’round. Studies show that not reading over the summer can effect a student’s progress. Most public libraries have a summer reading program that track progress and offer great incentives.
Libraries often have great online resources such as free tutoring, encyclopedias, practice state required tests, foreign language, and much more. Contact your local library or visit their website for a list of “eResources” that can assist you in the classroom.
If you don’t live in your library’s district, some libraries will let you get a teacher library card. With a teacher card, you might receive perks such as free video rentals. Contact your local library to see if they offer this service.
What else does the public library have to offer my students?
Most public libraries have FREE programming for adults, babies, and students of all grades. Photography, Minecraft clubs, holiday parties, crafting, cooking/baking, creative writing, author visits, gaming, book discussion groups, free internet/wifi, and much more.
Often times, libraries use interest based programs. This strategy is called connected learning. Connected learning uses a student’s interest to enhance their skills thus increasing self-esteem. When a student recognizes a talent and realize that their talent can be a viable career, they accept academic responsibility-seek educational help. The ultimate goal is to get students to take school seriously and this means becoming better readers, test takers, and improving their study skills.
How do I get started?
Your children’s/teen librarian is happy to help you. They will: Come to your classroom to talk about whatever you like; speak during a school assembly about the public library; come to your school library and speak to most or all class periods; come to parent-teacher conference to do library card sign ups, come to your PTA meeting to assist with fund raising and reading nights; come to student’s lunch hour or breakfast hour and eat with your students or provide an quick activity; come to your family events to do crafts, story-time, or show parents the library’s electronic resources; come to open houses, school registrations, sporting events and do whatever you would like for them to do; run an after school program for FREE. All you have to do is provide a space and tell the kids. Librarians will do everything else;
Librarians will give you free books for your library or classroom library. Libraries received A LOT of book donations. Most of the time, these books go to the book sale but if you contact your librarian; they might give you these books for free or at a reduced rate. Librarians also regularly clear or “weed” their shelves to make room for more books. If you create a partnership with your librarian, they might give you these books.
Librarians will bring books to you. Many libraries have mobile circ. That means that librarians will bring books to you and if your students have a public library card, they can check out books. Librarians will return after a short period of time to retrieve books and bring more books for check out.
Librarians will assist with class projects or reports. If your class needs several books for a project, you can call your library and ask them to pull books on that topic and put them on a cart. When students come to the public library, they can pick a book from the cart.
Librarians will perform a class story time. If you are in walking distance of your public library, you can call ahead of time and ask if the children’s librarian will do a story time or craft for your class. They may even provide a snack.
Why do librarians do this? Our job and passion is to make all students readers. The best way to do this is to go where the kids are-schools.
How else can I get my students excited about reading?
Booktalks are fastest way to get kids/teens excited about reading. A book talk is a short, engaging, and enthusiastic presentation designed to inspire others to read the same book. A great booktalk uses every one of the language arts: reading, writing, and speaking. Booktalks are not just isolated events – one-offs, delivered from time to time-Google.
I visited several classrooms two years ago before the summer break to book talk Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carmen. Immediately after school, several students came to the library to check out the book, that next week; Skeleton Creek sold out at the book fair, and because of word of mouth, Skeleton Creek continues to fly off the shelf.
Librarians love to do book talks! They can take anywhere between 10 minutes to 20 minutes. If you don’t have time to do one in your classroom, talk to your school librarian to arrange a public librarian visit your student’s library time.
You can do book talks too! But if you aren’t comfortable talking about a book because you haven’t read it, show a book trailer. A book trailer is similar to a movie trailer except it’s about a book. For book trailers, simply go to Youtube.com; type in the title; and pick the most professional looking trailer. Please note, not all books have a trailer. Also, some trailers are amateur. This is okay but the best trailers are done by the publisher.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid has done a wonderful job of sparking an interest in reading. Sometimes students don’t know what to read next after they have finished a particular series. If you notice many of your students carrying Wimpy Kid but that’s all you see them with, introduce them to similar books or read-a-likes.
Wimpy Kid read-a-likes include: Dork Diaries, Timmy Failure, Captain Underpants, Big Nate, or Babymouse. Simply Google Wimpy Kid read-a-likes to get a list of titles.
Many teachers play audiobooks in class or read chapters to their students. A great way to your students excited about reading is to read an exciting book. A great way to keep them reading is to read or play book one in a series. That way, if they like the book; they will read the rest of the series.
- Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel-Humor
- 11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass-Humor
- Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee-Fantasy
- Strange Case of Origami Yoda-Realistic Fiction/Humor
- Rump by Liesl Shirtliff-Fantasy/Fairy Tale Retelling
- A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gitwitz-Fairy Tale Retelling
- Zane and the Hurricane by Rodman Philbrick-Historical Fiction
- Eye of Minds by James Dashner-Science Fiction
- The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen-Fantasy
- The Iron Trial by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare-Fantasy
- The Maze Runner by James Dashner-Science Fiction
- Smile by Raina Telgemeier-Graphic Novel/Realistic Fiction
- 39 Clues by Multiple Authors-Adventure
- Three Times Lucky by Shelia Turnage-Mystery
- A New Darkness by Joseph Delaney-Horror
- The Crossover by Kwame Alexander-Realistic Fiction/Poetry
- Fake ID by Lamar Giles-Adventure
- Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman-Horror/Mystery
- Skink, No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen-Adventure/Mystery
- Fat Boy vs. The Cheerleaders by Geoff Herback-Humor
- The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski-Fantasy
- All The Truth That’s in Me by Julie Berry-Fantasy
- The 5th Wave by Rick Yancy-Science Fiction/Dystopian
- Legend by Marie Lu-Science Fiction/Dystopian
- Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick-Science Fiction
- Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Mass-Fantasy
- The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. Carleson-Realistic Fiction
- When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds-Realistic Fiction
- Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell-Realistic Fiction
- I’ll Give you The Sun by Jandy Nelson-Realistic Fiction
- Just one Day by Gayle Forman-Romance/Realistic Fiction
- Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson-Fantasy
- We Were Liars by E. Lockhart-Mystery/Realistic Ficiton
- Looking For Alaska by John Green-Realistic Fiction
- I Am the Messenger by Markus Szusak-Mystery
- Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys-Realistic Fiction/Historical Fiction
- The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater-Paranormal
- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline-Science Fiction/Cyberpunk
A great way to introduce history to teens is by offering historical or pastiche genres. Pastiche is based on a character from a fiction novel or a reimagination of a historical figure such as Frankenstein or Hitler.
Pastiche-Books are recommended for 7th-12th grade
- This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel-Frankenstein
- Far Far Away by Tom McNeal-Grimm Brothers
- Jackaby by William Ritter-Sherlock Holmes
- The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd-Island of Dr. Moreau
- Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman-Hitler/WW2
Historical Fiction-Books are recommended for 7th-12th grade
- Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross-19th Century France
- Bomb by Steve Sheinkin-WW2
- Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein-WW2/Female Protagonist
- Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters-Suffrage
- Family Romanov by Candice Flemming-Russian Empire/Rise of Communism/Non-Fiction
- In The Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters-1918 Spanish Flu
Invite an Author
After you’ve read a book in class, invite the author to visit. If you live in a metropolitan city, there are an abundance of authors who will visit your school for a small fee.
You can also Skype authors. Most authors will Skype for free if the visit is under 20 minutes. Click here for authors who Skype.
Hi Lo Readers
If you teach middle or high school and you have reluctant readers, try hi-lo books. This means high interest, low readability. In other words, books that focus on contemporary issues such as bullying, cheating, or drugs and have less pages and simpler vocab.
Why Partner with Libraries?
As an ACT prep tutor, I saw high school seniors struggle because they weren’t readers. At some point in elementary/middle school, they lost interest for whatever reason. Because of this, many of them didn’t attain a score high enough to be admitted into a University.
It’s imperative that students read every day. Reading not only helps with English and writing scores but math and science as well. If a student can’t comprehend a paragraph, they won’t be able to decipher a math word problem or a science graph.
We understand that teachers are busy and if you don’t have time to invite a librarian to your school or class, encourage your students to get a library card and visit their local public library. Together we’ll make readers.
For more information on student’s attitudes on reading, check out this article.