I firmly believe that fostering a love for literacy starts with creativity and engagement. That’s why my passion for passive programming centered on literacy is so crucial. I have witnessed firsthand the magic that unfolds when students explore books, genres, and themes at their own pace. Through themed reading challenges, thoughtfully curated book displays, and author spotlights, we create a vibrant atmosphere that invites learners to embark on literary adventures. These quiet moments of discovery, whether it’s uncovering hidden book quotes or designing bookmarks inspired by beloved tales, empower our students to embrace their own learning journey. Passive programming encourages independence, critical thinking, and accomplishment, as each page turned brings them closer to new worlds and fresh perspectives. As high school learners traverse the literature landscape through passive programming, they strengthen their reading skills. However, they also nurture their imaginations, empathy, and a lifelong appreciation for the written word.
Four of my favorite passive literacy programs are themed reading challenges, monthly author spotlights, book cover redesign contests, and mini-writing prompts.
Themed Reading Challenges: Offer students a variety of thematic reading challenges where they can read books related to a particular topic, genre, or era. Themed reading challenges can be a fun and engaging way to encourage students to explore different genres, themes, and time periods in their reading. Here are some creative ideas for themed reading challenges that learners will find fun and engaging:
- Around the World Reading Challenge: Choose books set in various countries around the world. Create a map where students can mark the locations they “travel” to through their reading.
- Classic Literature Challenge: Encourage students to read classic novels from different time periods, such as Victorian, Romantic, or Modernist literature.
- Dystopian Delights Challenge: Have students explore dystopian fiction, discussing the themes of society, government, and human nature in these works.
- Biography and Memoir Exploration: Encourage students to read about real-life individuals’ experiences and accomplishments through biographies and memoirs.
- Genre Fusion Challenge: Select books that blend multiple genres, offering unique reading experiences that challenge traditional categorizations.
- Fairy Tale Retellings: Explore how classic fairy tales are reimagined and retold in modern literature.
- Nature and Environment Expedition: Showcase books that highlight the natural world, environmental issues, and our relationship with nature.
Monthly Author Spotlights: Display the works of different authors each month along with interesting facts about their lives. Monthly Author Spotlights can be a wonderful way to introduce students to a diverse range of writers and their works. Some of my favorite author spotlight themes are:
- Thematic Tie-ins: Align the spotlight with the themes prevalent in the author’s works. For example, if the author writes about nature, integrate elements of the natural world into the display.
- Quote Walls: Decorate the display area with thought-provoking quotes from the author’s books, sparking curiosity and interest in their writing style.
- Character Profiles: For fiction authors, create profiles of their most memorable characters, delving into their traits and development.
- Book Covers Galore: Display the author’s books prominently with eye-catching covers, encouraging students to explore their works and read excerpts.
Book Cover Redesign Contest: Encourage students to redesign classic book covers to showcase their artistic skills.Energize student creativity with a Book Cover Redesign Contest, a platform for learners to reimagine classic book covers and unleash their artistic prowess. By tapping into their imaginations, participants breathe new life into timeless tales through captivating visual interpretations. This contest celebrates literary heritage but also empowers students to engage with literature in a fresh and visually compelling way.
Mini Writing Prompts: Provide students with prompts for short stories or poems they can use as a jumping-off point for their writing. Display their finished works in the library once they are finished. These themes are helpful for learners to get inspired and write. I leave these prompts near the circulation desk for learners to pick up and go. Some prompts I have done in the past are:
- Genre Mashup: Challenge students to combine two unrelated genres in their writing, resulting in unique and unexpected narratives.
- Image Inspiration: Display evocative images that students can use as visual prompts to spark their writing ideas.
- Opening Lines: Provide intriguing opening sentences that students can build upon, exploring different directions for their stories.
Inanimate Objects: Encourage students to write from the perspective of an inanimate object, adding an element of imagination to their stories.
Author: Jessica Fitzpatrick
Jessica Fitzpatrick is a high school librarian in Houston and is in her tenth year of education. She holds a Bachelor of Science in education from the University of Houston and a Master of Library and Information Science from the University of North Texas. She is a 2022 Library Journal Mover & Shaker, 2022 TLA MVP, an AASL Inspire Special Event Grant recipient, 2022 YALSA’s MAE Award for Best Literature Program for Teens, the 2022 TLA Branding Award Winner for Reading Program, the 2020 TLA Branding Award Winner for Community Engagement, YALS article contributor, and on the TAYSHAS Reading Committee. She enjoys running, reading, and spending time with her two daughters and husband. You can follow her on Instagram at @librarian_fitz and on Twitter at @librarianfitz .