At the beginning of the school year in planning lessons and units, I always think “how can I share what we are doing at school and in the library with the community?” Over the last few years, our library has been fortunate to have many guest readers come visit our students. Some have reached out and asked to visit, while I have personally contacted others. Having guest readers is a great and easy outreach program to involve the local community in your library and for you to share and advocate for your programs and students.
High School Students
Sports are huge here! Elementary students look up to our high school sports players like they have just stepped off the stage at the Grammy’s. Ask the coaches if they are aware of any players who need community service or volunteer hours or who would like to come visit and read to your students. One of our teacher’s niece was on the dance team, and she came to read in her uniform and did a cheer for the class!
Local Colleges & Universities
Our local private university is beginning their first year with a football team. Last year, their coach contacted the local school libraries asking if his players could come visit classes and read to our students. The students loved having college players come visit their class and read. I assigned the same book to the players (Jangles: A Big Fish Story) because it was on our state award list. I kept multiple copies available for the players to read, and they enjoyed sharing fishing stories with the students.
Local Library Staff
Many local libraries offer outreach or storytelling programs. Contact your local library to inquire about the programs they offer. If nothing else, ask if one of the staff members would be available to come visit your library or a classroom to read a story and tell your students about how to apply for a library card.
Local community leaders enjoy being invited into the school to share a story with students. Policemen, fire fighters, and even the mayor are just some of the amazing leaders that can be contacted to be a guest reader. These men and women are staples in the community and are great sources for community collaboration. Local state park interpreters and employees are often available for school visits, as well.
School District Leaders
One of the most enjoyable readings done in my library was by our former superintendent. Students said that they had seen him at different schools and events but didn’t know who he was. He shared his job duties, his love for reading, read Balloons Over Broadway, and shared a video clip of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The students talked about it for weeks!
I encourage all school librarians to reach out to your community and seek out guest readers to come visit with your students. The best thing about utilizing the local community for collaboration is that most, if not all, will visit your school at no cost to you. Collaboration is not just something that is done within the walls of the school building. Collaboration should be a collective effort among then entire community.
Author: Ashley Cooksey
Library Media Specialist in Arkansas. Self-proclaimed geek. Lover of nature and music. Always learning.