As educators, we know you want to guide your students in the right direction, encouraging them to read and explore new books. The most effective way to do that is to empower them to seek out new books and expand their horizons as readers on their own. Simply handing them titles to read, as you know, will be less impactful in the long run. So how exactly to you encourage that kind of empowerment? We have a few suggestions.
Availability of titles
The first step in empowerment is one with which most school librarians are quite familiar. Making a wide array of titles -- different genres, subject matter, and mediums -- available to readers is a fundamental starting point. What resonates most with students can be surprising, and making sure that they have access to the types of books they find most interesting will encourage them to continue seeking out new titles. For example, graphic novels have become more popular in recent years, and many school librarians are seeking to add more of them to their collections. Indeed, most school librarians excel in this area.
Make your library a destinations
The more time students simply spend around books, the more interested they’re likely to become in reading. A particular book might catch their eye, sparking their interest in a genre or subject matter they hadn’t previously considered. For this reason, making sure your library is a place where your students want to spend their time is crucial. You can do this by hosting events like student open mic nights or inviting local authors to speak. And simply creating a pleasant physical environment -- adding comfortable furniture and colorful decorations, perhaps even offering snacks -- can go a long way.
An interest in writing and a love of reading often go hand-in-hand. Host student poetry slam competitions, form a student literary journal, or create a blog for which students can write book reviews and share it with the school community. As students begin to see themselves as writers, they will likely develop a greater appreciation for literacy and reading, as well.
Making reading a participative activity for students will help them develop a greater interest in it. Rather than simply encouraging students to read, provide reading-related activities, as well. Makerspaces are becoming more and more popular, for example. Provide materials for students to create picture books of their own. Work with students to film short book trailers describing titles they’re reading in class. Put together hands-on activities related to lessons from classes besides Language Arts. What are they studying in math or science? Can you incorporate those lessons into their library time? These activities will help students to see how reading is relevant to their daily lives in real-world ways.
Meet students where they’re at
One of the most significant aspects of helping students feel empowered is to make them feel seen and understood. If a student is struggling, being aware of a few titles at their level can go a long way. If a student is exceling, recommend a few titles that will challenge them and keep them interested in reading and discovering new books. Keep in mind the needs of English Language Learners, as well. Having titles in stock that will support their developing language skills, as well as titles published in their primary language whenever possible, will be highly beneficial. The main point here is the importance of navigating the unique needs of individual students.
At the end of the day, we know your goal is to inspire your students to explore books and reading on their own. Providing the right kinds of titles and engagement can help you do just that.