It comes as no surprise that children who are read to are more likely to grow up to be readers and to have larger vocabularies than children who are not read to. My grandmother read to me when I was a child, and this helped me learn to read and enjoy reading. I was able to “read” at a young age by memorizing stories and knowing when to turn the pages. This translated into a much easier time learning to actually read, and it helped that I was able to quickly recognize words by sight because I had already heard them and seen them in many different stories.
I was reading this article about reading to tweens. It discusses the importance of adults reading to their tween children as a means to help them advance reading levels and maintain their interest in reading. The article points to parents reading to and with their tweens as a way to allow middle grades readers to consume the stories that interest them while helping them bridge reading levels.
Reading levels are used by schools and libraries as a method for keeping their students reading on an appropriate level. From the five finger reading method to Lexile levels, these reading levels are designed to help students choose appropriate books for their reading capabilities. They help keep fifth grade readers from choosing easy reader books, while keeping first grade students from choosing middle school level books.
But what happens when your fourth grade child is interested in a book that’s labeled for 6th-8th grade? Should the book be off limits? I am not discussing book content, but reading level. I know from my own experience that I would have been pretty bored with reading at an early age if I had been forced to stay on reading level. I was checking out books from the adult fiction section of the public library when I was 11 years old.
Reading aloud should not be limited to early readers, or even stop with tweens. Reading aloud is appropriate for all ages including adults. Many adults gather in book groups to discuss a book that everyone has read. Often these adults will read passages from the novels aloud. By doing so and then discussing the passages, the adults are able to further their comprehension of the passages.
As library professionals or avid readers, it is important that we promote reading aloud as a life long skill and activity. Yes, it is important to read to our young children, but just as much so to tweens. But it does not stop there, or at least it should not stop there. Let us promote reading aloud in our libraries among all ages.
I just read an awesome blog post about ways school librarians can reach students living in poverty. I work in a Title I school, and most of our students are below the poverty level. I was able to gain a new perspective on ways to reach my students, but I was glad to see that some of the practices I have put in place this year are being utilized outside of my district. One of these strategies is not collecting overdue fines.
I started in my current position in September 2014 when I was fresh out of library school. When I was seeking my degree I had no plans to be a school librarian, but that was the position available when I graduated. I had not taken any course work in education, so all of my training was relevant to university level education, archives, and public librarianship. I relied quite a bit on the way things had previously been done in this school.
That included overdue fines. The principal was a strong champion of this policy so I was all for following it. I quickly learned, however, that overdue fines were detrimental to my circulation. While statistics are important, what really suffered was student learning. Because many of our students live in poverty the are not able to afford overdue fines. This policy actually led to students refusing to check out books because they were afraid that they would incur fines that thy would not be able to pay.
Let me be the first to say that I understand overdue fines can help foster a sense of responsibility. However, economically challenged students are often already at a disadvantage due to living in print poor conditions. Schools are designed to educate children, and the school library is designed to promote and aid in that mission. School libraries exist to promote literacy and education. When we have children who are already at a disadvantage in access to print materials, can we really afford to adopt policies that negatively impact their willingness to read books?
This year I have removed the overdue fines from our library policy. I have retroactively removed all overdue fines that had been assessed in previous years. The result? Our circulation has increased 125%.
Today I was scrolling through Facebook and came across this list of top YA books from the 1980s. I remember reading some of these, though most I did not. That’s probably because I wasn’t reading much YA until the 1990s. But, I remember A Wrinkle in Time, Sweet Dreams series and Sweet Valley High series. Some of these books, like Hatchet, are still quite popular in the school library today. Which of these books did you read? What were your favorite YA books when you were in school?