As summer approaches, it’s time to ramp up our readers’ advisory skills for the onslaught of summer reading. (Hopefully) Coming out of the pandemic, avoiding the summer slide will be more important than ever, and more kids may be struggling with reading thanks to disrupted schooling. How do we make sure we get the right books into the hands of students?
The first method would be to build our own personal knowledge base. I read a LOT of kids and teen books. I read MORE reviews than books, so I at least know what’s out there. My library has RSS feeds of new titles and highlights several new children and teen titles each month in an internal blog. Awareness of new books is so important for those avid readers who have already read everything you suggest.
Then there’s the flip side. The kid who says “nothing” when you ask for a book they’ve liked in the past. I have a couple “go-to” methods for this child. First, maybe you could tempt them with a favorite character or movie. There are many tie-in books that hold high appeal. And don’t forget nonfiction! Many kids labeled “reluctant readers” are really non-fiction readers and are never given that option. They might love to pore over a book about a favorite animal, sport, or vehicle. Colorful kids’ almanacs, record books, or “weird but true” titles also fit this bill.
Parents tend to focus on reading levels, especially in the early grades when children are still learning to read. In some ways, that is a positive—you don’t want to discourage children with a book that is too difficult, for example. However, I’ve seen parents take reading levels to the extreme, not wanting a child to check out a book leveled 3.6 in Accelerated Reading because the child’s teacher said her level was 3.4…and I could not convince the parent otherwise. Instead of focusing on leveling, I share the Five Finger Rule for Reading with parents. This rule typically allows you to choose a book that stretches a student, but that does not overwhelm them.
My system’s catalog allows for tagging, and library staff have created great readalike tags, along with tagging themed picture books. Both are amazingly helpful when searching. Our catalog also embeds Novelist at the bottom of the record, which gives you great readalike ideas for kids’ favorite titles.
There are so many tips and tricks for good readers’ advisory. What do you use?
This post addresses the core competency of I. Commitment to Client Group and IV. Knowledge, Curation, and Management of Materials.