Reading Promotion for Middle and High Schools

I imagine most school librarians have a range of experiences with professional learning/development. At times I feel like I’ve simply been checking a box that I’ve completed some kind of training, something I’m required to do. Then there are the times when I feel like I’ve really learned something new and I walk away with all these new little idea seeds to plant.

Recently, at my school’s District Learning Day, I sat on a Q and A panel addressing reading promotion in secondary schools. Promoting reading has never been a critical issue for us, because our library has readers and supportive teachers and administration. Turns out I didn’t have much to add to a discussion on reading promotion, but I had a lot to learn, and I left feeling inspired by my co-workers and all the wonderful ideas they shared.

A few tested ideas for reading promotion in middle and high school:

  • Host a literary social hour. Instead of the traditional book club format, students come prepared to discuss/review books they have read. The social hour platform is customizable, and school librarians can tailor the meetings to fit their school’s needs.
  • Meet in the morning. Some students might not be able to stay after school, especially in middle school when they are dependent on others for transportation. Early-bird meetings of any library type club could open up opportunities for students and staff who struggle with meeting after school.
  • Make a bookmobile from a book cart and a bicycle bell. Rolling carts of books to classrooms isn’t a new idea, but in this version the cart is rolled to classroom areas like an ELA hallway or suite. The bicycle bell is to let students and staff know the bookmobile is outside their area if anyone wants to checkout a book.
  • Building on the bookmobile with a bicycle bell, use the cart to promote specific genres or collections. Align book choice with different diversity awareness months or events like Banned Books Week or National Poetry Month to create focus on books that may be getting overlooked.
  • Throw a silent reading party after school. A librarian in my district invited students/staff and their families to visit the library between seven and nine on a Friday night for silent reading. Student volunteers from a school club earned service hours by babysitting younger family members, and approximately sixty-eight people, including toddlers and grandparents, participated in the reading party.
  • Hang up “What I’m Currently Reading” signs, and encourage teacher/staff to do the same. If possible provide staff with some signs, and make a point to find out what teachers reading.

Ideas for schools who participate in programs like SSR or DEAR to some degree:

  • Let students see you read. If your school does SSR or DEAR type reading programs, encourage teachers to model reading instead of grading, writing lessons, etc…
  • Hang up book covers. If your school only has a couple of teachers doing planned reading in class, celebrate student success by hanging pictures of the books they read. Give students a physical representation of their work, and take advantage of the chance to highlight some specific titles. 
  • Audiobooks for reluctant read aloud teachers. In a school wide reading program where ten minutes of a specific class is dedicated to reading a designated book, there may be some teachers hesitant to participate. Provide these teachers with audiobooks and the technical support needed to play the book for students.

Even though we have a strong reading population at our school, reading promotion is key in perpetuating the reading culture. Ultimately, how successful I am in promoting reading seems tied to my level of authentic excitement. Thanks to the librarians in my district, my excitement about reading promotion has been reignited.

Outside of displays, how do other libraries promote reading, and does anyone have a super focused promotion?

Simple sign I made to just get started.

Author: Mica Johnson

I’m a school librarian at Farragut Middle. I like the lib to be loud, messy, and full of student activity. I love tech stuff as much as I love books, and I’m part of an awesome rotating maker space.



Categories: Blog Topics, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

2 replies

  1. Thank you for sharing some great ideas. I am a future LMS and am excited about trying new ways to get teens excited about reading. I believe that when we talk about what we are reading and allow are students to talk about what they are reading students will read more and become better readers.

  2. Could not love this more. All great ideas, Mica!

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