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Culture and Creativity

Pick the Right Books and Create a Life-Long Reader

We are excited to have a guest post from Katy Hostman, Collection Development Manager at Booksource. Booksource is a division of GL group and is a leading distributor of authentic literature for K-12 classroom libraries.

If there’s one thing common to all book lovers, it’s their passion for books. Readers can’t imagine not being readers. One of the most fun and beautiful elements of being a reader is selecting what to read. Do you like novels, catching up on news online, or magazines? The best part is… it doesn’t matter. It’s the reader’s choice.

As a life-long reader, books have always been part of my life. Some of my earliest memories are of my mom reading aloud to me. My favorite authors as a child were Shel Silverstein, Frank Asch, and later, Louis Sachar and R.L. Stine.  In high school and college, I fell in love with the classics. Jane Eyre is still my favorite book of all time. I continued to share my love for reading as I began my career in education as a seventh-grade communication arts teacher. After moving back to St. Louis, working with books at Booksource was a very natural transition from teaching.  As the collection development manager at Booksource, it’s my job to select the most engaging and quality books for young readers. Through my career experience as a seventh-grade communication arts teacher and making title recommendations at Booksource, I have compiled a list of strategies both parents and teachers can use to encourage life-long readers.

I recently attended the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) annual conference. The sessions covered a broad variety of topics, spanning all grades, from preschool to high school. I was pleasantly surprised to find that nearly all of the sessions were rooted in the idea of choice reading. Choice reading is just what it sounds like – allowing students to choose what to read. Choice is important because students are most engaged in reading when the books are self-selected. When students enjoy what they are reading, learning doesn’t feel like work.

With choice reading, students’ grades will be better, and their writing will improve. They will also learn empathy and many other life-long skills like summarizing, text interpretation, and comprehension. Even the littlest learners in preschool can begin to develop relationships with books through pretend reading, reciting stories from memory, and listening to read-alouds. Above all, choice reading is absolutely necessary in the effort to create life-long readers.

At Booksource, we sell choice reading; we sell the opportunity to create life-long readers.

I was recharged by the consistency of the messages at the NCTE conference and have created a list of strategies both parents and teachers can use to encourage life-long readers.

  • The first step is to create a culture of reading. This requires having plenty of books and determination. Some children enjoy reading more than others. When I was a teacher, my goal each school-year was to establish a strong culture of reading so even the most reluctant readers could find something they enjoyed reading and look forward to reading time. Great school and home libraries include a variety of genres and also formats. Try digital options, graphic novels, or novels-in-verse for the most reluctant readers.

  • Next, instill confidence in your readers with predictable content. Experts suggest book series, mysteries, humor, and adventure books for reluctant readers. The structure of these books creates familiarity for readers to build a foundation and grow. With book series, readers will find a consistent storyline and build strong relationships with the characters. Mysteries provide a familiar structure because readers know to look for clues as they progress. Similarly, adventure and humor books provide relief from academic reading, and students find the content relatable.

  • To coincide with familiar content, children must be able to relate to the text. All cultures, personal backgrounds, and experiences should be considered for each child. This is a challenging goal; however, the best solution is having a wide variety of books available. Booksource proudly considers diversity in title selection and collection curation. The public library is also always a great option for diversifying a child’s options for reading.

  • Finally, create time! Readers may not have a lot time outside of school for reading, and having time during the academic day - every school day - matters. Children are most invested in their learning when they are given choice, voice, and opportunity.

Following these suggestions will create the foundation to build life-long readers. The saying, “Students who read, succeed” could not be more true. By providing the culture and reading materials, young learners will have the opportunity to develop skills that will last a lifetime.

AUTHOR: Katy Hostman