The one good book that can change everything
'Have I got a book for you!' or 'When I saw this book, I thought of you...' or 'I think you'd enjoy reading this...'. These are the voices of teachers and the school library staff who know the literature and their students, and can successfully bring them together.
For students of every ability and background, it's the simple, miraculous act of reading a good book that turns them into readers, because even for the least experienced, most reluctant reader, it's the one good book that changes everything. The job of adults who care about reading is to move heaven and earth to put that book into a child's hands.
— Nancie Atwell, The Reading Zone
School staff as readers
Ways to discover student interests
Surveying your students
A written or oral survey can produce some very useful information about your students' reading preferences. You might ask:
- What series do they enjoy?
- Who are their favourite authors?
- What books do they already love?
- Which genres do they prefer?
- Which formats do they like? Novels, graphic novels?
- What non-fiction have they enjoyed?
- What do they read in their down time?
- What do they read online?
Rather than using paper surveys or conducting oral interviews, your students might enjoy completing an online survey using tools like Survey Monkey or Google Forms.
Steven Layne, in his book Igniting a passion for reading (see page 16 and Appendix D) provides examples of the reading and interest surveys he does with his students. His strategy is to observe the students who need help the most. And then, using the survey, and with the librarian's help:
...start to do our thing – pulling books, finding, hunting, searching for any type of print that matches a given student's targeted interest... then we pull him or her aside and deliver the message in both word and deed: I thought of you...
— Igniting a Passion for Reading
Other ways to discover students reading interests
- Chat to students informally about what they enjoy.
- Set up a suggestion book or box.
- Provide and review feedback forms.
- Get them to write book reviews.
- Set up a star rating system for books.
What kids want in books
Scholastic research from 2015 looked into the reading attitudes and behaviours of children when they read books for fun. The key findings section of the report, Scholastic kids & family reading, on what kids want in books indicates students will read more books if they can choose them and are able to find more books they enjoy. The school library is in a key position to:
- ensure they have a wide range of books for students to choose from
- promote ways for students to find books similar to others that they have enjoyed.
Scholastic Kids & Family Reading report (pdf, 9.65MB)
What kids want in books — key findings from Scholastic
Helping students choose books for reading pleasure
Using the data to strengthen your collection
Consider how you use the data collected from students in a survey or when talking to them. You could collate their responses in a graph, infographic or summary and share the results with students and staff.
You can also use data collected from reading assessments such as AsTTle, STAR and PATs to ensure there are plenty of books that suit your students' reading levels. Giving the library team a summary of the data analysis, and discussing the findings and implications with teachers will help your school to build a great library collection.
Your library management system or Integrated Library System (ILS) will also have data of what each student has borrowed. Bearing in mind that books borrowed does not necessarily mean books read, you will still be able to view reading trends over time for your students. Find out how to create lists of school's top 10 fiction, or your class' 15 favourites. Display this in the library and around the school to gain student interest.
Working out your library's collection requirements
Find out more
Atwell, N. (2007). The reading zone. Scholastic.
Krashen, S.D. (2004). The power of reading: insights from the research. 2d ed. Westport CT: Libraries Unlimited & Portsmouth NH: Heinemann.
Layne, S. (2009). Igniting a passion for reading. Portland ME: Stenhouse Publishers.