Inspired by the ideas of educator/author Pernille Ripp’s 2017 book Passionate Readers, I began thinking more deeply about how to emphasize student choice as a greater feature of PS 8’s library program. Early in the year I challenged each student to “Try for 25” and complete at least twenty-five books of their choice–any genre, any format–by June. To that end, each library session begins with 10 minutes of Choice Reading where students are encouraged to continue reading a book from the classroom/home, or to select a book from the library to read.
Books are not leveled in the library, and students are free to try whatever they choose. Sometimes a younger student will choose huge chapter book to bring home to read with family, or simply because an older sibling once read the same book. At other times, an older student will pick out a comforting old picture book favorite to reread. Students are practicing making independent choices from PS 8’s collection of 8,000 books, and mistakes are to be expected along the way. Enthusiastic library users will reach our “Wall of Fame” when their library card has been filled with 44 stamps for books borrowed. Is every student reading all 44 books? Unlikely. But do adults read every book purchased or borrowed from a library? Not me–much of my reading exists in an aspirational stack on my nightstand!
Periodically I will booktalk titles to entice readers to check out a book that they might not necessarily have chosen from the shelf. It is my intention to create an environment where students will feel free to try new things–genres, authors/illustrators, and formats–and set reading goals. Educator Rudine Sims Bishop said:
“Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created or recreated by the author. When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of a larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books.”
Reading is habit forming, and I believe that the key to lifelong reading is finding that first perfect match between a reader and a book, or, finding the right book at the right time. If you are considering gifting a book to a child who is not yet hooked on reading, find out what they’re passionate about, the last great book that they read, or the name of a favorite author or illustrator and go from there. This list of 2019 suggestions from School Library Journal has many hot new titles.