Why Increased Access to Books is So Important in Building Strong Reading Communities
Children and adolescents need meaningful and consistent access to books at school and home. When they have access to books, they read more, and they read better. Period. It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s true.
As elementary and middle school classroom teachers, we have witnessed the power of book access to improve children’s reading confidence and competence. Access to dynamic school libraries and degreed librarians influences students’ academic achievement and how they feel about reading. Thoughtfully curated and well-organized classroom libraries ensure necessary instructional resources for teachers and engaging literacy invitations for children. And when children own books and library cards, they see themselves as readers. Book access is a game changer for kids.
It is going to take all of us to guarantee children’s book access. In Game Changer! we outline the actions teachers must take to increase children’s meaningful access to books. With these six steps you can build a strong reading community within your classroom:
- Create a sense of urgency to motivate change at school and home.
- Increase the number and variety of books in libraries, classrooms, and student homes.
- Increase children’s interactions with books through independent reading and read alouds.
- Help students develop strong rituals and routines for independent reading.
- Encourage students to listen, speak, and write about their reading.
- Model a literate life.
Without access to books, the persistent gap between children who have access and those who don’t will remain. Our students will not reach their full potential without books, regardless of the educational reforms schools implement.
About the authors:
Donalyn Miller is a leading expert on independent reading, children’s literature, and the author of two bestsellers, The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild. She has taught 4th, 5th, and 6th grade language arts and social studies in the Fort Worth, TX area and was a finalist for 2010 Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year.
Colby Sharp is a fifth grade teacher at Parma Elementary in Parma, Michigan. He is the co-founder of Nerd Camp and Nerdy Book Club and author of The Creativity Project: An Awesometastic Story Collection.
6 Tips for Building Your Book-Knowledge Muscle
Many educators, librarians, and caregivers ask us how to increase their knowledge of children’s books and remain current about books for their students and children to read. We’ve learned a lot since our teaching careers began and know exactly what it takes to build up book-knowledge muscle. Here are six ways to do it:
1. Dedicate daily time for reading
If you want to increase your book knowledge, you must commit to reading more. While reading reviews and researching books can improve and extend your book knowledge, there is no substitute for reading the books yourself and determining how to share them with other readers.
2. Read winners and nominees on national and state award lists
The American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards, the National Book Awards, and many educational organizations like the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) select outstanding books and media for young people. Many state library associations create recommended reading lists of children’s and young adult literature each year, too.
3. Befriend a librarian
Librarians know about the latest books and resources and can support educators and caregivers in locating texts that support both curricular and independent reading goals. School and public librarians can also connect you with books in various formats like audiobooks and e-books and help you locate credible book review resources.
4. Ask kids what you should read
If we see several kids reading a book that we have not read, we will track down a copy and read it. No matter how strong our book knowledge, the best people to recommend books to young readers are their peers.
5. Read with your ears
Do you listen to music or podcasts while exercising or working? Do you have a long commute or spend time traveling? Downloading a few audiobooks to your phone or device provides boredom insurance and opportunities to squeeze in a few more books. Many students benefit from audiobooks, too. Also, ask your public library about their audiobook database access.
6. Start a book club
Find a few colleagues or parents who share your interest in children’s literature and schedule regular meetings online or in person to discuss the books you read and ways to share them with young readers.
These are just a few ways teachers can build up their book-knowledge muscle and support kids’ adventures in reading. Pick one or two suggestions to start and add more as it suits your needs.