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Cultivating a Love of Reading for Middle and High School Students

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Mike Slowinski

on 8 August 2013

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Transcript of Cultivating a Love of Reading for Middle and High School Students

Cultivating a Love of Reading
In Middle and High School Students
By Mike Slowinski
What's the Problem?
High Stakes Testing
As a result of school accountability programs like No Child Left Behind, teachers have felt an enormous pressure to focus their lessons around teaching to a standardized test. These practices have reduced reading in school to isolated, irrelevant activities that not only alienate the student, but actually reduce the likelihood that students will read on their own (Gallagher, 2009, vii).
A National Endowment for the Arts study found that , 75% of adults are either non-literary readers or light readers, while only 4% consider themselves to be avid readers (Gallagher, 2009, 3). So it seems that not only are people reading less, but reading comprehension is also on the decline.
What are Students Saying?

Conducted in September 2012
305 Middle and High School Students
Ashwaubenon and West De Pere School Districts
Reading Interest Survey
Major Finding 1: There is a Large Gap Between Avid Readers and Non-Readers
How Many Books Do You Read For Fun Each Year?
Major Finding 2: Students Still Prefer Traditional Books Over E-Books
In what format do you prefer to read?
Major Finding 3: Students Want the Library to Feel Like a Barnes and Noble or Starbucks
I would visit the library more if...
What Does Research Say?
Teachers and librarians must dramatically change mindset from Classic literature-driven, test-preparation to more authentic, relevant, and social reading activities (Beers, 2003; Ediger 2010; Gallagher, 2009; Reynolds, 2004; Tovani, 2004). One key to engaging reluctant readers resides in the choice of the texts themselves. When students can find direct relevance and meaning between their own lives and their text, they are more likely to engage in literacy-rich experiences with the text (Reynolds, 2004). To many students, canonical works do not hold inherent value, and therefore, reluctant readers are less likely to embrace a work because it is highly acclaimed by literary critics. Instead, students are more likely to embrace the edgy and familiar material found in works of contemporary realistic fiction (26-7).
Texts Must Be Engaging to Kids
Reading Must Be a Social Activity
Activities that encourage discussion such as literature circles, informal conversations, and large group discussions help students to reinforce the material they read and make connections between the text and the world around them (Beers, 2003; Ediger, 2010; Gallagher, 2009; Tovani, 2004).
Practical Ideas for Libraries
Collection Development
Offer student choice through a Suggestion Box
Purchase E-Readers, E-Books, and Audio Books to offer students choice in the format in which they read
Add graphic novels and other non-traditional reading materials into the collection
Library Atmosphere
Renovate to add comfortable seating or a cafe-style feeling.
Relax the rules. Libraries don't always have to be quiet.
West De Pere High School Library Renovation
Completed in Summer 2012
Added a Cafe
Added Comfortable Seating
Went Wireless With Computers
West De Pere High School Library Circulation

November 24, 2011:

2,665 Circulated Items
November 24, 2012:

7,338 Circulated Items
Library Programming: Book Clubs
Can be run before/after school, during lunch periods, or online
Great way to promote the social aspect of reading
Have students choose the book
Invite students, teachers, and parents to come to discussions
Library Programming: Thinking Outside the Box
Literary Dinner Night
Cook a meal from the Harry Potter or Hunger Games Cookbooks
Robotics Competitions
Have students create robots with Lego Mindstorms to compete in games against each other
Promotes reading to learn
Gaming Club
Allow students to come in after school to game on consoles or computers
Set up tournaments for them to compete in
Begin to purchase gaming guides and computer programming materials in the library
In order to help cultivate life-long readers, libraries must:
1. Tap into student interests
2. Create a space that students want to come to
3. Create programming that students are interested in attending
4. Make reading a social activity
5. Offer options in format, genres, and programming
Add Diversity to Your Collection
Graphic novels are a great addition to any K-12 library. Not only are graphic novels extremely popular with young readers, but their pictorial nature gives readers visual clues that help them to become accessible by all types of readers. In particular, reluctant and struggling readers tend to find success and enjoyment out of these types of books (Young, 2007).
Make the Media Center the Cool Place to Go!
Some libraries have found success by renovating to make a Starbucks and Barnes and Noble-type feel. One high school library in Texas put in a fully-functional cafe that sells coffee, cappuccino, pastries, and sandwiches. Since the renovation, the circulation in that library has more than tripled (Whelan, 2008).

By getting the students down to the library, it offers many other opportunities for libraries to market books to their patrons. From displaying books in key locations to having more students available to hear book talks, the Northwest High School library in Texas has found that making the library a place that kids want to be results in getting more kids to pick up a book and read.
Psychological Implications
Giving student's ownership over the space and making it more student-centered will increase their participation in the library (Dyrli, 2008).
"A high school library should be a sanctuary--an inviting and comfortable refuge..." (Grayboyes, 2011).
To E-Read or Not to E-Read?
According to a recent Pub Trak survey, many teens are resisting the opportunity to read books digitally. However, data from sales of digital young adult titles tells the opposite story. Companies like Amazon and Barnes and Noble are selling many times more e-books than print for young adults (Springen, 2012). The key, it seems, is to offer kids an option to read in their preferred format.
Allowing student choice increases interest and engagement. This relates to all areas of library functions, including spacial considerations, collection development, and programming.
Constructivism in the Library
Essentially, these psychological factors are the library version of Constructivist learning. Putting students, their choices, and their preferences at the forefront will help to increase student ownership over the space. With increased ownership comes increased participation, which will ultimately result in more opportunities for students to pick up a book and read.
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