From the Office of the Future of Reading

Please join me in welcoming today’s guest blogger, Michelle Glatt. Michelle has been the librarian at Chiddix Junior High School in Normal, Illinois for 17 years and is a member of the Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award Steering Committee. Her family of wild readers includes her husband, Dan, and children: Veronica (17) and Ian (11). Michelle has a blog, I Push Books: A Middle School Librarian’s Adventures in Reading, and is also on Twitter and Facebook.

Wild about School and Public Library Collaboration
For the past few weeks I have been happily devouring Donalyn Miller’s new book, Reading in the Wild. She refers to lifelong readers as “wild readers,” a term I love because it implies both a fierce dedication to reading and the freedom of reading on one’s own.
I am a school librarian because I am a wild reader, and my mission is to help create more of my own kind. Each day, my priorities are to provide an atmosphere that encourages wild reading, to promote books to wild readers of all species, and to support teachers growing wild readers in their classrooms.
By definition, a wild reader’s territory is not limited to the school building. Wild readers thrive when they connect to reading wherever they are. So my involvement in their reading must go beyond our walls. To that end, an excellent way to help cultivate wild readers is to connect them to their local public libraries and librarians.
For ten years, the teen librarians at the Bloomington and Normal libraries have visited my school once a month for Books and Bites. Students sign up to eat lunch in the library, get a treat, and listen to us booktalk. Books and Bites is so well-loved that students run to the clipboard when sign-up begins, and I must turn some of them away because there is just not enough room in the library.
Each Books and Bites has a theme. October is always scary stories. How can we resist starting booktalks like this: “Do you want to hear about the scariest, grossest, and most disgustingly gory book in the library?” (The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey). One of my favorite themes was “Lend Me Your Ears!” when we played songs to go with music-themed books and used The Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the UK” with Gordon Korman’s Born to Rock. The teen librarians always bring titles that are not available in my library, especially edgier ones for the eighth graders, in order to entice students to stop in to see them.

Each Books and Bites starts with “commercials” for upcoming programs at the public libraries. It’s the best way for students to find about Game Day, Teen Advisory Board, book-movie release parties, etc. Promoting the summer reading programs is a must in May, and many students participate. At the Normal Public Library’s hugely successful Doctor Who program this summer, a mad rush of current and former students greeted me at the door. Pretty wild, huh?

Time has shown that collaboration with the teen librarians is one of the best ways to help turn my students into wild readers. A couple of days ago the four girls in my reading intervention group lamented that Books and Bites was full. “We get to sign up early next time because we are in your class, right?” they cleverly asked.
One piped up, “Hey, or you should take us on a field trip to the Normal library—it’s not too far to walk. They have different books there–and more of them. I bet we could pick out some really good ones.”
“Yeah, let’s go,” the others chimed.
“That’s a great idea! I will see if we can do that,” I replied.
On the inside, I was shouting for joy–because now I know that they are on their way to becoming wild readers. And the wilder they become the better readers they will become.
Oh, yes, we are definitely going on safari to the public library. Let the wild rumpus start!

Thank you Michelle for helping to create wild readers!