Reaching out to Non-readers
As a high school librarian it is important yet challenging to encourage students to read books. This is particularly true for our students who consider themselves non-readers. They are intimated by hardcover books with hundreds of pages with few white spaces. The advent of social media encourages the reading of snippets. Students glance at stories that often take 5 minutes or less to read. After reading they are informed about popular news and entertainment. They aren’t challenged in their thinking or even exposed to new literature, but they are satisfied. It seems social media and other high-interest multimedia platforms serve their purposes. These same students are surprised when I tell them that they are readers because of their engagement with these platforms. They are highly responsive and sensitized to the Internet, and they read what they see and what is offered.
A larger objective is to help students understand that reading is a form of communication, both oral and written, and that these skills are essential to their development as young adults regardless of what path they choose after graduation.
Better Space, Better Displays
To that end, I set out to do something different with new titles and other books buried in between shelves. This transformation of the physical library space, including new furniture and technology, was due to grants and budget increases. I wanted a style and aesthetic that resembled smaller bookstores and larger chains like Barnes and Noble. These places are popular and visited by students because they provide good reads, WiFi, and a comfortable community space.
After a clean sweep and weeding of approximately 1,100 books, I was set to display some great titles that students may have never noticed when looking through the online catalog system.
The displays I created featured the following:
African American Male Authors. Many of our students were pleasantly surprised to learn that black men choose writing as a career. Authors like Jason Reynolds and Kwame Alexander are simply following a tradition of writers who produced rich literature. I recall reading an article about Reynolds in which he relates how Christopher Myers encouraged him to write. Myers noted to Alexander that the next generation of black men writers should continue the legacy of telling stories that need to be heard. In this section I include the works of Kwame Alexander, James Baldwin, Ernest Gaines, Walter Dean Myers, Jason Reynolds, and Richard Wright.
Spoken Word and Hip Hop Culture. The popularity of hip hop culture permeates a variety of music genres. From country to classical music, artists have found ways to collaborate and create new work. However, hip hop’s origins and impact on the social and political landscape of the world is lesser known. In this section, I include an anthology of rap lyrics throughout the decades, hip hop curriculum, and information on the origins of hip hop culture. The Anthology of Rap, Blues, Funk, R&B, Soul, Hip Hop and Rap, The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip Hop and Hip Hop World are some of the titles I display.
Graphic Novels. The graphic novels sections is one of the most visited sections in the library. It includes more than 50 titles, including Speak, The Odyssey, Monster, and Black Panther 1, 2, 3, and 4 written by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Graphic novels are used to ease the non-readers into print books because they include great artwork that does not dismiss the integrity of the story line.
Contemporary African American Women Authors: The Legacy. Last school year, our school’s theater department performed the musical The Color Purple by Alice Walker. It was a superb performance but students were unaware that the novel preceded the musical. I showcase other works by Alice Walker for those who desire to read books of similar themes. Authors like Toni Morrison, Gloria Naylor, Nikki Giovanni, and Chimamanada Adichie are also included.
College and Career Ready. Recently I decided to de-clutter a space in the library that was primarily used for storage. Old technology, textbooks, and trophies made their home there. It was time to refresh the area and give our students an additional space with resources. In collaboration with our college adviser and counseling department I created the College and Career Ready section that includes college brochures, career readiness books, resume writing manuals, and ACT and SAT prep materials. Additionally, I have five Chromebooks available for students to fill out college applications, search for scholarship opportunities, and write personal statements.
Adam, Chuck D. The Anthology of Rap. MacDonald School Research Services Library, 2016.
Anderson, Laurie Halse. Speak: the Graphic Novel. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018.
Charnas, Dan. The Big Payback:The History of the Business in Hip Hop. New American Library, 2011.
Hinds, Gareth, and Homer. The Odyssey: a Graphic Novel. Candlewick Press, 2010.
Meadows, Eddie. Blues,Funk, Rhythm and Blues, Soul, Hip Hop and Rap: A Research and Information guide. Routledge, 2010.
Parks, Andre, Michael Gaydos-Jonathan Kellerman. Monster. Ballantine Books,2017.
Walker, Alice. The Color Purple.Walker, A. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1982.
Author: Chiquita Toure
I am an educator, school librarian, writer and wellness advocate.
This is my 23rd year with Columbus City Schools. Currently I serve as the head librarian at Eastmoor Academy, a college prep high school. Although memoirs and biographies are my favorite, I am not afraid of sci-fi and fantasy. Using my role to promote social justice and culturally relevant literature is one of my favorite things to do.