When 650 school librarians offer their expertise on the most effective ways to promote reading, we might all do well to listen. In our most recent One-Question Survey, we asked librarians to name the strategy they found most effective for promoting reading. The data we received in turn not only reveals the most relied-upon strategies, but also gives us an opportunity to consider why they are effective.
The survey responses rarely yield a result with so many respondents coming to agreement. This month, 50% of those surveyed said booktalks and tastings were their most effective tool for reading promotion. The next most-endorsed idea was school-wide book challenges like One Book One School, 40 Book Challenge, or a book battle, with 12%. Right behind that, as the favorite of 10.5% of librarians, is the use of displays and bulletin boards to pique students' interest in reading.
The write-in option for respondents this month also carried a few common refrains. Most notable: a personal connection with a student is the best way to promote reading. Talking to students and one-on-one time were preached repeatedly.
Building personal relationships with our students and taking the time to advise them as they search for reading material is a fundamental part of our job. I would never suggest trying to replace those moments and interactions with anything else. However, I would like to point out that we are probably not having those moments and interactions with every student. In fact, they are most likely sought out by students who already love reading, and avoided when possible by students who aren't already convinced that they want to read.
This may be why so many seasoned librarians view booktalks as their most effective method of reading promotion. In fact, booktalks serve as a sort of one-sided conversation. The booktalker, whether it is the librarian, a teacher, or a student, is giving their own personal testimony of a book and why they liked it. While this does not replace real one-on-one conversations and advice, this method retains a human and personal quality that should be valued as we consider where to spend our energy and resources.
Not everyone agrees, however. A school librarian in Virginia, argued, "I find book talking super ineffective. Talk up five books and only five kids get the titles. Twenty five are left without the books I talked about. I love activities that really get lots of books into the hands of the kids, like speed dating and book tasting." This sentiment is understandable, and when trying promotions like speed dating our focus is helping kids start a relationship with a book quickly, while we get out of the way.
Regardless of what you end up doing, it is important to note the more we practice building relationships with students through talking about what they are reading or want to read, the better we will be at other reading promotions. As we continue to become better-versed in the differences in kids' interests and needs, this will be reflected in more finely tuned booktalks, more relevant displays, on-point text selections for book clubs and challenges, and in general, our ability to promote reading as effectively as possible.
A goal of the One-Question Survey is not only to collect and share data in this single moment of time, but also to encourage and support continuous conversations and discussions on topics that are important to school librarians. You can read James Allen's take on these survey results on our Community page, and be sure to watch join us on Twitter @SLC_Online.
Judi Paradis. "Building a Reading Culture." School Library Connection, February 2018.
Tanya Parrott and Carolyn Vibbert. "Growing Reading Culture: A How-To Guide." School Library Connection, November 2017.
Cathy Belben "There Are No Booktalking Police: Alternatives to Stand-and-Deliver Presentations." Library Media Connection, 26, no. 2, January 2007.
Sherry York. "Culturally Speaking: Booktalking Authentic Multicultural Literature." Library Media Connection, 27, no. 1, August 2008.
Carolyn S. Brodie. "'Any Good Books?': Reader's Advisory and the Elementary School Library." School Library Monthly, 30, no. 3, December 2013.