Creative Book Displays to Get Students Reading (Part 1)

This post is the first in a series that will focus on book displays in school libraries.

When students enter my middle-school library, they come with many different backgrounds and opinions about reading. Some of them are super excited about all the different choices around them; in a sense, it is their version of being a kid in a candy store. Other students walk in with a sense of dread; it wasn’t their idea to come in the first place, but maybe a teacher or friend coerced them to come. Then other students might be overwhelmed with all the choices, much like looking at a pages-long restaurant menu and having no idea what to choose. How do we meet all of these students’ needs in our library? Having creative book displays can help suggest interesting titles that students may not have selected otherwise. The key is to keep displays as engaging and innovative as you can.

For the beginning of the school year, I like to focus on displays that are either related to something they are going to learn about this school year in class or are just fun. I want our library and the collection to be as friendly, welcoming, and accessible as possible, so I choose topics that I know students like or might pique their interest.

Nonfiction-Only Displays

One of my displays is dedicated solely to nonfiction books that I change monthly. Some topics include recipe books, titles that reflect a variety perspectives, and fun facts. Right now, my nonfiction display is called, “Learn something new everyday!” It’s a hodgepodge of different topics that are newer to our collection but don’t get the attention they deserve. Many of the books have been checked out, and I’ve had to refill the display several times.

Sometimes, I start the year with a display called, “What electives will you take this year?” It includes nonfiction books about all kinds of elective classes our school offers, including coding, music, engineering, cooking, and world languages. Students love this display because it gets them thinking about what classes might fit them best and gives them a head start on what they might be learning in those elective classes.

photo of a nonfiction book display

Our current nonfiction display: “Learn something new every day!”

Book Pairing Displays

A new display in my library this year pairs books together on similar topics. My co-librarian and I wanted to give our biographies, nonfiction picture books, graphic novels, and nonfiction a time to shine so we created “Book Pairs that Tell the REAL Story.” Some topics we included are music, science, history, cooking, and sports. We encourage students to take both books to learn more about the topics. Students have been intrigued, and it has done well as a display to show off books that have rarely or never been on display before. Also, paired books are similar to the paired texts that students encounter on standardized tests; putting books together like this helps students dig deeper into topics while helping them build skills for those assessments, too.

a picture of a book display with book pairings positioned next to each other

Our book pairings display

Recommendation Displays

Like most librarians, my co-librarian and I are frequently asked for recommendations. However, sometimes we are busy helping others and aren’t as available as we would like to give recommendations. We created a new display this year called “Books We Love.” It is a large display in the center of our library with some of our favorite recommendations, including all genres as well as nonfiction, graphic novels, and picture books. It has been incredibly popular this year with our school community, to the point that we are constantly replacing books on that display. It is easy enough to scan shelves to find books that I enjoy and put them on the display. I’m pretty sure that every book on that display has been replaced since school started not even a month ago. It is our most successful display!

display of books with the title Books We Love

Our “Books We Love” display

My students love talking to each other about books, and the staff at my school are readers, too. I channeled this into a display called “Staff and Student Recommendations.” I leave out a bunch of post-its and pens with empty display easels. Anyone in the school can choose a favorite book off the shelf, add a sentence or two why they like the book, and add it to the display. It’s a hit! Students frequent that section, looking to see what their peers or teachers are reading.

A student writing a book review on a post it

A student adding a book to our staff and student recommendations display

Making It Practical

So, what does this all mean for you? Displays can help increase awareness about books in your collection that may not be getting the checkouts they deserve while sitting on the shelf. Consider your school population and what topics might interest them the most. Select books on topics or themes that might encourage them to read and create displays that include those topics in a variety of formats, including fiction, nonfiction, and graphic novels. Check in with your staff to see what topics or units they start teaching and pull any books you have on those topics into a display. Stay on top of student interests and trends, too. Be okay with letting go of displays that you might really like but aren’t getting any attention or checkouts. After all, it is your students’ library, and you want it to be an engaging, low-stakes place that they want to visit again and again.

What book displays do you create for the beginning of the year? Share in the comments below!

Author: Rachel Grover

Rachel Grover is a middle school librarian in Fairfax County, Virginia, and a member of the board of directors for the Virginia Association of School Librarians. She has published articles on ways to make school libraries accessible for Knowledge Quest and on genrefying the library collection for School Library Connection. She also has developed workshops for beginning librarians for School Library Connection. Rachel was an elementary school teacher for two years before beginning life as a middle-school English teacher in 2009. In 2014, she joined Libraryland, finding a dream job she didn’t even know was her dream! When she is not working, she loves reading, tinkering with technology, traveling, taking photographs, and sleeping in. Her passions include genrefication, makerspaces, technology, collaboration with teachers across the curriculum, and making school libraries equitable and accessible for all learners.

Categories: Blog Topics, Collection Development, Community/Teacher Collaboration, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

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