Reading Aloud is for all Ages

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.

Why Overdue Fines Hurt School Students

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%.

80s YA Novels

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?

Library Conferences

This past Friday I attended the inaugural conference for the Azalea Coast Library Association. It was a one day conference for all library professionals in the greater Wilmington, NC area to network and learn from one another. The day consisted of a key-note speech from East Carolina University’s Dr. John Harer, as well as presentations about NCLIVE and the State Library of North Carolina. There were three sessions and lunch was on site.

This is the first professional conference I have attended. I can not stress enough the need for participation in professional conferences. We all hear about large conferences such as the ALA Conference, but not everyone can attend such a large conference. Time, money, and other logistics can mean that such  conference isn’t possible. But, if you are like me, and have not attended a conference before, I encourage you to do so. See if their is a local library association near you. Check out your state association. Find something that fits with your needs and attend the next available conference. You won’t regret it.


How Old is the Oldest Library

Have you ever wondered when the first library was founded? Or how old the oldest operating library is? Well, according to this article, the world’s oldest operating library opened in the year 859. The library has been undergoing repairs and rehabilitation to reopen to the public. It will do so in May 2016! Take a few minutes and read about this exciting project!

Trigger Warnings for School Reading Assignments?

This is a topic that hits close to my job right now. As a school librarian I am faced with issues of book challenges and out right banning. While I won’t go into details on specifics of how my district handles these issues, I will say that the process can be frustrating and make my job more difficult than it needs to be. But, and this is a big but, that is not the issue. As a school librarian it is my job to encourage literacy and a love for reading. But when community members try to censor what students read, then it can be difficult, if not downright impossible, to get a reluctant reader to pick up a book.

This article discusses the issues facing classroom reading assignments across the country. While I have no issue with parents who want to protect their own children, I do have issue with parents who want to protect other people’s children. While the issue in question isn’t an outright book banning, it does tread closely in that it boils down to one parent trying to determine what is appropriate for children who are not her own to read. What policy is enough? At what point does an educator’s professional discretion come into play? At what point will all lesson plans need to be parent approved before they an be taught?

We are supposed to be fostering a love of reading, but when we can’t provide children with books which they need or want to read for fear of parental disapproval, the curriculum is walking a fine line between school curriculum and parental control.


Black Girl Books

Here me out. This post is not racist. It’s actually an appeal for greater diversity in books. It’s also a shout out to one little girl who made it her mission to find 1000 books with strong black female lead characters. You can read about it at this link. Marley Dias has surpassed her goal. Have you read any of the books on her list? What are your favorite diversity books? Let’s focus on books for African Americans here and discuss other diversity needs elsewhere.

Retellings Hot for YA Lit

Retellings have been popular for quite some time. We need look no further than much of what is coming out of Hollywood to know this is true with movies. According to this post, it’s true for books as well, especially YA literature. Marissa Meyer’s debut novel Cinder, is an ultra-modern/futuristic and feminist retelling of Cinderella. The book is also the first in a series, The Lunar Chronicles, which retells other similar fairy tales. Have you read a retelling lately? What was it and what did you think?

Librarians vs. Government Spies

Librarians are protectors of your freedom to read. We help you find whatever information you are looking for and we don’t think it’s anyone’s business but your own when it comes to what you read. In fact, this premise is the third principle in the ALA Code of Ethics. In 2001, the USA Patriot Act brought this issue to the forefront. In 2013, with the actions of Edward Snowden, we saw that this issue is still in the forefront of the issues that librarians are dealing with. This article provides an overview of the issue.