Creating a School-wide Reading Culture
- Reading culture
- Collection development
- Reading role models
- Library management
Encouraging students to read is easier and more likely to be successful when reading and literacy are firmly embedded into all aspects of school life. The benefits of reading for pleasure are well supported by a large body of research, making a strong reading culture highly desirable.
Creating, developing, and implementing the appropriate reading behaviour, values, and practices right across the school are all areas in which your library plays a crucial role, and one which Accessit Library can help you to excel at.
The Role of School Leaders
A well-funded school library is a clear sign that the library and its role in promoting reading and developing literacy is recognised and valued by school leadership. An adequate budget for library resources and having well-maintained facilities are also essential for successfully creating and developing a reading culture within the school community.
Accessit Library’s extensive reporting options make it easy to show school management how library funding is being allocated and how those resources are engaging students and supporting their learning. Providing this kind of information can be incredibly helpful when requesting future funding for the library, will be appreciated by management, and emphasises the professional standing of the librarian within the school. Principals and school leaders who are well informed are more likely to be actively involved in the library, which in turn shows that they value the library, its activities and programmes, and the importance of reading.
To encourage students and teachers to read, library collections need to reflect the wide and diverse interests of all parts of the school community. To do this successfully, it’s important for librarians to know their borrowers well. Talking to students and staff about books, reading, and their interests is important. If students are buzzing about a new series, movie, or trend, these can be used to guide them into related reading material. It’s also important for librarians to build relationships and firmly establish their role as an important and trusted source of book recommendations.
Students and teachers can be encouraged to suggest books for purchase, so that as many of these as possible can be added to the library, alongside other new and popular titles for readers to discover. As a librarian, it’s important to follow book review sites, sign up for publishers’ newsletters, take note of award winners, talk to other school librarians, and of course, to read as much as possible.
Purchasing new resources is of course only half of the collection development story. Regularly weeding out the old, out of date, and under-used books is also important to make the library shelves more appealing and easier to browse. Accessit Library’s Frequency and Last Issues report is one of several ways to quickly identify potential candidates for weeding and keep the library shelves fresh and attractive.
Showcasing Books and Reading
Much has been written about the value of adults as reading role models for children and young people. This should not be the sole province of the librarian – everyone at school can get involved. For many years, some schools have run ‘drop everything and read’ programmes where the whole school reads at the same designated time. This is an excellent way to show the value that is placed on reading within a school.
Reading role models can also be found outside the school gates. Those in the wider school community are equally important as examples of adults who read, so having their support is beneficial. Some school libraries allow parent borrowing as a way of encouraging reading at home or create an Accessit Library Web App Topic Board specifically for their parents.
Regular notices and book promotion in school newsletters and social media pages also help to keep the wider community up to date with reading events and activities.
Readers should also be encouraged to recommend books directly to their peers, for example in conversations, book groups, reviews and library displays to make books and reading visible in all areas of the school. While it’s important for readers to have an element of choice when reading for pleasure, advice and suggestions are excellent for introducing students to new books, authors, and genres.
The Accessit Library Web App also makes it easy for library staff to promote books and other new or topical resources, share links to related content such as book or movie trailers and podcasts, and create and share Quick Lists of recommended titles. Having a carousel of books that have recently been reviewed in the Web App by students and staff is a great way for the entire school community to see that the school has a strong reading culture. Links to individual titles, Quick Lists, Web App Topic Boards, and even the entire Web App can be shared in school newsletters, emails, and online learning spaces to involve students, teachers, and families in the school’s reading culture.
Reading needs to be visible and there are many creative ways to do this. Adding photos and reviews from staff or student leaders to the Accessit Library Web App, making posters to display around the school, using shelf talkers and bookmarks to share short reviews, and creating displays of student and staff recommendations are just a few suggestions.
An Enticing Reading Environment
Having a welcoming area dedicated to reading is also important, whether it’s in the corner of a busy library, in a classroom, a quiet outdoor space or elsewhere around the school. It should be calm and quiet, as well as having comfortable seating to encourage sitting and reading. Student input on the design and layout ensures the space meets their needs and will be well used. Having lots of good books in and around this area will also entice readers to pick up a book and sit and read for a while.
Effective libraries and reading spaces are firmly focused on their readers. Consider how a library might look to new visitors – is it appealing and attractive, drawing them in? Reader-centred libraries utilise a bookshop approach, with small but well stocked displays, front facing covers, and shelving layouts that encourage browsing, all things that can easily be achieved in a school library.
As well as making the library itself an appealing physical space, the Accessit Library Web App ensures that there is also an engaging and interactive online presence for the library. With the Web App readers can browse and search the library online to locate titles, share their thoughts on books they’ve read by writing reviews, and explore the extra videos, links, podcasts, interactive games, and websites, regardless of where they are or what kind of device they’re using. Library staff can quickly and easily add content to their Web App Topic Boards to reflect the particular interests and needs of their school’s students, teachers and families, thereby creating a customised interface that is relevant, welcoming and engaging.
Events and Activities to Promote Books and Reading
There are numerous book-related events and activities that are fun and can be used to promote books and the importance of reading.
Here are just a few suggestions:
- A Library Day or Book Week full of activities
- Summer reading programmes
- Dedicated times for reading (e.g. drop everything and read, sustained silent reading)
- Book displays and bookshop-style book promotion, in both the library and elsewhere around the school
- Book groups and shared reads
- Themed displays and activities, such as Blind date a Book for Valentine’s Day, scary stories for Halloween, or book spine poetry for National Poetry Day
- Student reviews and recommendations
- Book talks and read-alouds to promote new or interesting books to classes
- Author visits and online interviews
- Escape rooms, treasure hunts, reading challenges, quizzes, dress up days and competitions
Developing a strong reading culture is an ongoing process that involves the whole school community. The school library is pivotal in this process and the librarian has a key role to play in creating and developing a strong reading culture that will successfully support students to become lifelong readers and learners.
Layne, S.L. (2012). Igniting a passion for reading : successful strategies for building lifetime readers. New York: Scholastic Inc.
Merga, M.K. and Mason, S. (2019). Building a school reading culture: Teacher librarians’ perceptions of enabling and constraining factors. Australian Journal of Education, 63(2), pp.173–189. doi:10.1177/0004944119844544.
Rachel Van Riel, Fowler, O. and Downes, A. (2008). The reader-friendly library service. Newcastle Upon Tyne: Society Of Chief Librarians.
Ripp, P. (2018). Passionate readers : the art of reaching and engaging every child. New York: Routledge.