09 Using the library to engage readers

Libraries are key components of every school’s reading and information skills programmes.

This narrative shares some of the strategies used at TAMAHERE SCHOOL to encourage reading, particularly for reluctant readers.

A librarian funded by the board of trustees had a variety of responsibilities aimed at engaging children in reading. These included supporting children to access books at school and in other libraries, promoting a love of reading and building children’s reading mileage.

The board funded 18 hours a week for a qualified librarian, as part of their commitment to developing successful readers. Two of the activities the librarian helped with aimed to foster children’s love of reading. The first specifically supported reluctant readers and the second encouraged children to read over the holidays.

Support with selecting books

The librarian used a variety of strategies to support reluctant readers to become more engaged with texts. Teachers let her know which children were reluctant readers or who needed extra support choosing books. The librarian also used the library software to track the number and kinds of books children borrowed. This quickly identified children who:

  • were reluctant readers
  • had difficulty choosing what they could read
  • were stuck on a particular genre or series of books.

The librarian then interviewed each identified child to support them to read more. A consistent factor she noticed with children who were underutilising the library was that they felt overwhelmed.

“I ask them, ‘when you come into the library and you’re asked to choose a book, do you feel like there are too many books?’ Astonishingly every single one of them says yes. Then we talk about what they like to do and what they don’t like, and if they’ve liked any particular books.”

Reading Advisory list for G******* B***** 25/04/17
Book Title Author Where to find it Did you like it? Yes/no What did you like/dislike?
Tom Gates series Liz Pichon Senior fiction area PIC
Tiny Timmy Series Tim Cahill Senior fiction CAH Didn’t enjoy it
Super Soccer Boy series Judy Brown Senior fiction BRO
Diary of a rugby champ Shamini Flint Senior fiction FLI
Weirdo series Anh Do Senior fiction DO I really enjoyed it.

She talked to them about their interests and reminded them of the areas and ways books are stored in the library. She then developed a ‘Reading Advisory’ list of books for each child based on their preferences. An example is shown in the box.

The list stayed in the library and was available to the student each time they went to the library. The student was then able to access their individualised sheet and select from a variety of books that considered their particular interests. Sometimes other children asked for their own reading advisory list. The librarian would then interview them and provide personalised choices.

Summer reading

At the end of the school year, the library was open to parents and students to select books for issue over the summer holidays. A newsletter was sent to parents outlining the library opening times and inviting them to select books with their child. The librarian was available to help choose books.

The newsletter also provided parents with a link to the National Library providing information about the summer slide.

50 book challenge

An additional activity that children and parents told us helped with reading was the 50 book challenge undertaken every second year. Students could choose whether they took part in the book challenge, where they recorded each book they had read, or had had read to them.

Parents commented on how motivating this was for their children. Including a record of books read to the child, meant that even the youngest children were able to participate, and this encouraged families and whānau to read to their child at home.

This image is of the Tamahere school library book challenge.

Other activities to encourage reading

A library blog shared such things as online books, reading activities, links to authors, the latest books, book awards and information for parents of reluctant readers.

The librarian taught children how the library is organised using games that explain the Dewey Decimal system, and how to use and online public access catalogue (OPAC).

Children’s information packs shared what was available and popular with reluctant readers.

Covers of some books in the library were displayed together as posters to show children some of the options available to them and to encourage them to read more widely.