Share your ideas of how you create a reading culture within your school and your community.

Building a reading culture across the school is a broad issue and centres on reading being seen as a valuable activity throughout the community, including that beyond the school walls. Clearly that starts in the home so while we might be able to reach out to pre-schoolers with our programs, there would need to be a broader base of community support that reaches out to non-reading, perhaps disengaged, parents but also embracing the students' role models both in and out of school.

So perhaps one of the prongs is to identify those agencies within our communities such as public libraries, community health centres, preschools and day-care centres, youth centres, churches, whatever who can support the big picture goal that we have and contact them to see what they can offer.

There also needs to be leadership and expectation and commitment which clearly can't be accomplished by one person although the teacher librarian could take a leadership role.Developing a plan, such as that outlined in the builder's hat and following the steps in the planner's hat is a way of clarifying thinking about what needs to be done and maximising the chances of success.

Meanwhile, if you haven't read "Reading in the Wild" the follow-up to "The Book Whisperer" by Donalyn Miller, then that is the best place to start to build a reading culture. She identifies five characteristics of "wild" readers - those for whom reading is a part of who they are...
  1. They make time to read and dedicate part of each day to doing so.
  2. They have the confidence, experience and skills to self-select reading materials
  3. They share their books and reading experiences with other readers
  4. They have a reading plan - they know what they will read next.
  5. They show and share preferences for particular authors, genres and topics.

While Miller focuses her writing on what can be done in the classroom with an extensive classroom library, I believe that students' access to reading resources shouldn't be dependent on the depth of the teacher's pockets or his/her ability and willingness to put their hands into them, so I've taken those key elements (and others) and written both The Reader's Hat and The Reader Leader's Hat from the teacher librarian's perspective and how the library can support this in the primary school setting.
Barbara Braxton

I arrived at EPPS at the start of the 2005 school year. An experienced casual teacher, with no Library training, had done a sterling job of “minding the store” during the previous year. My predecessor had left at the end of 2003. I visited the school in December 2004 and met the outgoing principal who advised that the greatest challenge I would face would be to try to reposition the Library as a focal point within the school. Mike B.,Emu Plains, NSW
Read more about Mike's journey, strategies and success.
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I’ve provided virtual spaces, Destiny Quest and Edmodo, but they don’t seem as inclined to use those. A few years ago I tried a virtual book club on a blog but that didn’t take off either. I’m not sure if it is because I’m not promoting it enough or if our students are not as inclined to share conversations virtually as we think. I’m going to find ways for these students to meet during our enrichment period in the library.
Sandra C.

In my library...a public library... I am beginning to notice a phenomenon with the younger readers. Our schools have adopted the Guided Reading Level system and students are being assigned letter levels.. i.e. they may be a "J" reader or an "O" reader. One of the untended consequences of this seems to be that has become more and more prevalent is that students are beginning to associate reading with school....only with school. Reading is seen as a subject to learn. It's not being understood or experienced as something to do for enjoyment or self-improvement.

This is a HUGE shift. I have mentioned it to parents as I work with them and they all nod and say, "Yes, I'm glad you realize this. It's really a problem for us." I am wondering if others are seeing the same lack of love of reading and understanding that reading is part of their lives beyond the school door even at the elementary level. So there is a piece of the definition of the problem.

One solution I offer is to CONNECT students to books by making reading personal and unique to them and their personality. On ABookandAHug.com, we have the Which Reading Superhero Are You reading assessment. It's a tool with 10 questions that individuals answer to define who they are individually as a reader.

I think if we demonstrate to our young readers that reading is "about" them and not just a subject for school, they may choose for themselves to pick up books and to read at home, etc.
Barb L.

I have started using Twitter to connect with authors and publishers, we follow all the popular ones and chn have started asking to follow other people they're interested in eg: surfers. It helps when we don't have any books left on surfing or cricket but we can still get an idea of where their interest lies and use that when buying new non-fiction.

Also when Andy Griffiths tweets back: thank you for reading my stupid books - the kids really love it!!

I use a library twitter page I have made and it is also a good way to bring a little bit of cyber safety and netiquette into library lessons.

Giulia M

I just had to jump in here because we have a culture of reading in our school and that is because the 6th grade ELA teacher followed his gut and took a huge risk. He came to me and asked, "What would be wrong if we just read the book?" Our conversation continued as he described his thoughts after reading both of Donalyn's books and digging deeply into literature based instruction. He knew that novel study in two weeks was better than six, but the students wanted more of the story. It started in November, and he hasn't turned back since. We work closely together, and I'm often in his room. We have done more research this year than every because the students want to know more after reading. This teacher has read six novels with students since mid-November. We have done 3 research activities and they have produced 3 persuasive writing pieces.

This by itself is phenomenal, but the students are simply devouring books. I know many don't like AR but our students are using it the way it was intended. They talk books, share books, buddy read and take more tests that we have ever seen. They beg to have higher goals set but we are committed to the idea that AR is just a part of the Reading program so quarterly goals are kept relatively low, and students just continue to read anyway. LOL. I have taken many pictures of these students engaged in reading, and it still amazes me. The effects are beginning to spread throughout the building and we now have teachers on 4th and 5th grades reading novels straight through (taking about 3 days to read and reading 1 to 2 hours each day. Classroom libraries have never been used more, and my circ stats are higher than last year even though we are 75 fewer students this school year. We have found the way to produce a culture of learning. We have great books, share the stories and just enjoy the luxury of reading.
Lisa H. Moore, Oklahoma

In our Year 7 - 10 Government high school we do lots of little things to encourage a reading culture:
In English classes - regular Sustained Silent Reading

In the library:
  • Regular displays of books on a theme in conjunction with eye-catching slogans or visual displays;
  • Face-out displays of interesting or new books on all available and appropriate surfaces;
  • Suggest a book' at the circulation desk where students write down books the library doesn't have that they think the library should purchase. TLs make every effort to purchase the books if possible/appropriate;
  • Heavy before-school and lunchtime use of the library for a variety of things besides school work (e.g. recreational reading, board games, card games - but *not* sitting chatting) to create a comfortable and happy familiarity with the library and being surrounded by books, which will hopefully catch their eye and tempt them to pick up a book and read;
  • Lots of comfortable couches and bean-bag chairs around the library to invite quiet reading;
  • A large collection of magazines, graphic novels, picture books and popular series (e.g. 'TinTin', 'Asterix', 'Book of Records' etc) on face-out convenient display around the library and near comfy chairs to attract all kinds and levels of readers;
  • Frequent competitions about books and reading that are aimed at a wide audience across all Year levels to maximise participation (with prizes);
  • Posters around the school corridors (e.g. "If you like Science, why not read these library books...");
  • Back-of-the-toilet-door posters advertising new library books;
  • Mystery challenges - under-utilised books wrapped in brown paper and string - to be borrowed without knowing what's inside, with rewards if they read the book and can tell you about it;
  • Literacy celebrations - lunchtime party with food, and students performing book readings or poetry performances;
  • Great book' trees or displays where students nominate their favourite library book or good library books to read on paper (with title, author, genre and a one sentence reason) which is added to the visual display. At the end of the time, papers are collected and made into a book for the circulation desk so that students looking for something new to read can see what other students have suggested;

Teachers as reading role models:
  • Guest Readers Week / Fortnight (a different teacher each day in the library at lunchtime reading from their favourite book and explaining why they like it; chance for students to also be guest readers);
  • 'What am I reading?' badges (staff volunteer to wear a badge for a week with 3 titles of books/magazines/newspapers etc with one that they are reading and two that they aren't/wouldn't. Students talk to the teacher to guess the correct book and hopefully have a discussion about their guess or what the teacher likes to read. Teachers give out stickers as rewards for correct guess);
  • Guess which teacher...?' In daily notices for a week/fortnight (Teachers nominate their favourite picture book describing why they like it and TL writes up a blurb about it for the daily notices to go to Home Groups, leaving out the teacher's name. The following day the answer is provided with a new blurb for the next teacher's favourite book.) This goes with a display 'Picture Books: Not Just for Little Kids';

I think there are more things, but I've forgotten them right now! We don't do all the teacher-related reading activities every year as our teachers are keen but too busy. We try and involve them in a big way as role models at least once a year, though.
One thing I'm planning for this year is to add a one sentence blurb about a 'brand-new and ready to borrow' library book to each day's Daily Notices -or at least several times a week for a period of time. I might get teachers and/or well known students (e.g. School Captains or House Captains) to recommend some of our new books for this, too.
Peta W.

My Foundation is making big progress on this in China. A few things that work are:
  • Principal reading to one child each day.
  • Teachers inter-school reading clubs
  • Book Fairs
  • Reading area for parents outside front gate (books kept in book "box"
  • Reading ideas as a component of the outside space: in gardens, up trees, in ponds, in foyers etc
  • Bad Boy Reading Clubs under stair wells
James H

We have had the reading promotions and character dress up days that I have written about before but I think our space contributes to privileging and thereby encouraging reading behaviours. We have a large north facing open space signed as a learning lounge and a quiet zone. In that area are many couches, ottomans, newspaper and magazine stands, large tv, the picture books box, spinners containing quick reads and series such as horrible histories and, most importantly, a display stand with deep serial shelves containing our graphic library collection. Students know that if they want to talk or work in groups they go to the learning commons zoned for talking - tables and mixed furniture. The most desirable space is the learning lounge and it is filled every break with quiet kids reading. It isn't cool so much as not uncool. Reading is something that is okay to do. You hang in the library, you accept that. Of course the library is not the whole school but coupled with our character dress up days where it is okay to dress as a storybook character, we've come a long way as a high school.
Clare T.

I do a "book borrowing lottery" where really popular new titles are "raffled". The winners are announced at school assemblies and they get to be the first to borrow the books (I often have several books each time). The kids love it. And it really raises the profile and value associated with borrowing books.
Holly G.

In my opinion, this is a long term battle, not just a quick fix that can be changed in a year with a clever activity.
When I started at this school, no one came to the library to borrow. We would turn over perhaps 2000 loans in a year, that was a good year. More often than not, the answer to the question "Do you have...?" was "No."
It was heart-breaking.
With a lot of soul- searching, a thorough and aggressive cull, a renewed collection, and a huge shift in support from the English faculty, we now have students using the library again. Admittedly, we are a secondary school- we don't have compulsory library time. Our lovely English teachers have instituted a DEAR (drop everything and read) program to begin each lesson with Years 7-9. It must be at least ten minutes, and students must read something that they like, NOT something that the teacher tells them to read. It can be a magazine. It can be a graphic novel. The effectiveness of this is reflected in our NAPLAN results and our borrowing rates. We turned over 4000 loans last term. I'm having conversations with students about great books. I'm offering our standing order books to Year 10 students who are looking to expand their reading horizons. I give a talk to Year 7 each year before they start borrowing for DEAR about the importance of reading, and how it's the one skill you really can't afford to be bad at. And finally, the best bit; more often than not when some asks "Do you have...?" the answer is "Yes!"
I'm a reading promoter, a reading campaigner, and the battle will be long and drawn- out but worth it.
Marnie E.

At our State 7-10 school of 700, We promote reading in a number of ways:
  • students are encouraged to add to a 'wishlist' and I prioritise student requests over all others.
  • we have just created a Comics Corner, with subscriptions to several monthly 'floppy' comics and our collection of Graphic Novels. We have stopped calling them that, however - they were rarely read as Graphic Novels but are foought over as comics. We had a comic expo last year, when Kings Comics in Sydney sent up books for the students to look at and select from. we are building a collection that is complementary to that of our Shire Library to encourage use of both libraries and share resources. Together we have just hosted the inaugural Central West Comics Fest.
  • I have several competitions throughout the years, inc. a 'World Series Series' Competition for those who can read the most series'.
  • we have Cafe Library every Thursday lunchtime. We have a coffee machine and students can buy coffee/hot choc, bring their lunch and their book, and read. No computers or other games are allowed during cafe. Sometimes teachers come and read too.
  • I teach the use of the online catalogue to Year 7 each year so they can find their own choices without having to ask.
  • we have genre stickers on book spines to ID romance or horror etc.
  • I have been given permission to hold a Sydney Festival style 'Library on the Lawn' with our culled books, where each students & teachers will be allowed to take home 2 free books.
  • Tracy D (AKA The Grumpy Librarian)

I promote reading and the library in many ways at my 500+ students R-7 State School.
  • I have continuous competitions which the students love! I give every student that enters a small "token" gift and the ones that win a canteen voucher or small prize. The competitions are usually based on something topical.
  • I hold a Book Fair every year and encourage parents to come in to browse as well as the students. I have two close by Kindys visit 4 or 5 times per term each. The Kindy is paired up with a particular class for the term. The teacher from that class will read a story to all the children and then the children find a "buddy" from the Kindy and they read together.
  • All the deleted books become part of a Book Sale which I hold twice per year. All books are only 20c each and staff and students look forward to the day very much!
  • I hold National Simultaneous Storytime every year and get the Year 7 students to perform a play for the R-2 classes. I provide an activity for the younger students as well as providing biscuits and cordial for them. They love the day!
  • I have an informed speaker to talk to the Year 6 and Year 7 students about new books. I get the students to vote for the books that I purchase for them. The students place a Reservation slip into the books and once the books are processed they get to borrow them straight away. They love being part of the purchasing process.
  • I badger the teachers for art work to display in the library. They love seeing their work on display and the students will come into the library to look at their art work!
  • From Year 3 onwards each student is given access to the Catalogue and can place their own reservations.
  • I run a Makerspace on Wednesday which is typically a craft session with material, glue, pencils, stencils, boxes, glitter, stickers, feathers, tape and staples. The students just love it! On Thursday I have Lego Club and on Friday I have a Chess and Games Club.
  • All students are able to request a book by filling in the Student Request book. I usually manage to purchase every book requested. Whomever requests the book gets a Reservation made for it and I give it to them as soon as it is processed.
It has been interesting to see the library becoming "the hub" of the school. All year levels are in the library at recess and lunchtimes. The students line up at my door to tell me what they are reading or to ask me questions about what they can read next!
Debbie (SSO Librarian)