April is National School Library Month, and that is a great reason to celebrate! But, there’s no reason to wait until almost the end of the school year to have some fun, build community, and promote your library program.
“There’s always something worth celebrating” is one of my personal mantras, but it’s especially true in our school library. It is frequently the site of team-building activities and after-school baby showers, so the library is known as a happy gathering spot. But, the celebrations that mean the most are focused on students and literacy and growth.
What we celebrate shows what’s important in our library. So, of course, we celebrate reading. Our school has a 25-Book Challenge in which all students are encouraged (but not required) to participate. We set quarterly goals and we celebrate the students who read at least six books. While we have fun with our celebrations, we work hard to keep the emphasis on students being readers. For my students, many who are performing 2-5 years below grade level, finishing six books is definitely worth celebrating.
And, since it’s the students who have earned it, they’re the ones who help plan the celebrations. No one has ever turned down a good ol’ pizza party, but my students have planned events that involve me cooking breakfast or serving hot cocoa and microwave s’mores. Just before our spring break, we’ll be having an egg hunt with over 500 candy-filled, plastic eggs. (Notice everything they plan includes food.) Their involvement in the planning definitely increases participation, and they take pride in generating unique and fun ideas.
But, we do more than just host food-filled events to celebrate reading. Our library celebrates students being readers with announcements over the PA system, posting students’ names on our large library bulletin board in the school atrium, giving out certificates during awards ceremonies, featuring the students on our website and social media, and doing shout-outs during assemblies and PTA meetings. All these small (and free!) gestures help build a culture of readers. We are creating a community that values and celebrates reading.
There’s more celebrating throughout the year with our book fairs. We have family nights that coincide with PTA meetings and report card pick-up. What better way to celebrate good grades than with a new book from the book fair? And, we have started having spirit weeks that support our book fair theme. This year our students chose an Alice in Wonderland theme, “Don’t fall into a rabbit hole, fall into a book,” and created spirit days like Mad Hatter Day when students wore crazy hats and Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum Day when students dressed as twins. These are just a few more ways that our library continues to celebrate the joys of reading.
Beyond reading, the library hosts essay contests in conjunction with some of our community partners. Yes, we celebrate and honor students’ thoughts and writing, not just their reading. One of my all-time favorite lessons is helping students prepare to be public speaking rock stars before they make presentations in the library. We’re also the site for many project displays and the 6th-grade annual poetry slam. These collaborative celebrations of student work and achievement continue to foster our culture of applauding students and finding joy in everything.
Most school libraries are bigger spaces that can accommodate more students, and they become default locations for many events solely on their size. I’m so glad that our library is the default location for so many events because it’s where we celebrate all year long. Please share how your school library celebrates students and literacy.
Author: Christine James
I am the teacher librarian at Northwoods Middle School in North Charleston, South Carolina. This is my twentieth year in education, all of them working with middle school students. When I’m not trying out crazy ideas in the library, I like to read on the beach, play with my puppy, and try new restaurants with my husband.