A School Library Theme to Inspire the Love of Reading
Each year in the school library, I display a reading theme along the back side of the library bookcases that run lengthways through the school’s main transition hallway, which also happens to run through the library. The reading theme becomes the library’s year-long collaborative tool for supporting a school-wide reading culture and developing the library’s reading programs. It also serves as a vibrant visual to inspire students to read.
It takes a bit of planning and creativity to determine the theme each year, but typically, what I look for is the current vibe taking place among our students and other stakeholders. For example, last school year, the chosen reading theme was our school district’s Twitter hashtag #lovetoreadhere. As a school librarian, I am always looking for ways to instill the love of reading, and so I took the opportunity to share how our district and school community value it by creating a visual display.
The Transition Hall that Provides Uniqueness to Our School Library
Our school library is unique in that it has a transition hall going through the middle with the main library commons area on one side and our makerspace and computer lab on the other side. Middle school students transition to class every 50-90 minutes throughout the day using this hall. Many people question how I can handle the noisy hustle and bustle of the students as they travel through the library. Truth is, I have gotten used to it, and I have turned it into an asset for inviting students into the library. I use every space, wall, and bookcase to display the exciting books and the engaging learning activities taking place in our library.
We are a middle school, but the students love the bright and vibrant displays as they walk through the hallway, and it really makes my day to hear their positive comments. The displays are eye catchers to be sure and thus quickly bring students into the library without hesitation. Students are often known to plead with me and our library paraprofessional to stay, rather than go to class. Pretty enticing, the school library. Their eyes exploring, they don’t want to continue on to class once they have been entranced, and they always find their way back to the library as soon as they get a chance. Our students learn quite quickly the library is the hub of the school. We are quite fortunate because the transition hall has certainly done wonders to build our school library. What was once an “open concept” school remains as such for the library. Not only do the students get to see what’s happening between classes on a daily basis, but I’m fortunate they get to see me, their school librarian. You see, the transition hall is a relationship builder, and it has been a blessing to my practice as a school librarian.
This Year’s School Library Inspirational Reading Theme
This year’s reading theme was adopted from the American Library Association (ALA) CelebrityREAD Poster Campaign. This successful ALA reading campaign initially took place years before I became a school librarian, but when I saw the nostalgia being brought back with their current The Child Poster, it gave me the idea to create our own staff celebrity read posters to inspire our students. (For a bit of history behind The Child Poster, read this short article from I Love Libraries.)
My goal was for students to see our school staff as the celebrity readers they are, but I also wanted students and staff to feel the personal connection that reading creates between people, especially during these unprecedented times. Though I have not personally seen the movie, one of my favorite quotes is from C.S. Lewis in the movie Shadowlands by William Nicholson, “We read to know we are not alone.”
Our school staff is not alone because we are a team of readers, and if there is one thing I have learned as a school librarian: students love to see us actively engaged in reading with them. I have seen numerous smiles, abundant laughter, and valuable social-emotional happiness between students, staff, and our administrators by creating a welcoming, enthusiastic, and positive reading environment in the school library. It has been so much fun with this project to see the students stop in the transition hall and look at each staff “celebrity” poster. The surprise and wonder that lights up on their faces is worth the investment.
I can’t thank my school principal enough for her participation and support of this initiative. Here is a look at her school celebrity read poster. For a complete Adobe Spark slideshow of our amazing staff that participated in this collaboration, I have included the QR Code.
To create the read posters, I guess you could say we had a theme within a theme. Staff were introduced to a new hashtag #ReadEverywhere to help inspire their creativity for capturing the desired moment. Staff were asked to take their photos in their favorite reading spot. Or, they could simply share a photo with their favorite book to help students gain insight into different reading interests. Working together as a team, we created a personal reading connection with students, which is now proudly displayed in the transition hall. Our students now see our staff as authentic readers, see the places we read, and see the books that bring us joy. We wanted them to realize they too can #ReadEverywhere with their favorite books to experience the same joy of reading. Equally important, the students now know they have reading buddies in our staff at school. Imagine the book talking potential that will take place!
Creativity with Canva
One of the greatest technology tools I have ever discovered is Canva. I use it for all our school library visuals and more. For this particular project, Canva once again came through and provided the creativity tool to produce our Read posters. After I received the staff pictures, I created a read poster template in Canva, uploaded the photos, and then selected Canva backgrounds that matched the staff member’s location or that tied into their favorite book’s theme. After this was completed, our library paraprofessional helped me print, laminate, and hang them on the back of the bookcases in the hallway. School librarians who have not used Canva, there is a basic free version. However, educators can upgrade for free and have access to several stock photos, elements, text fonts, backgrounds, templates, and more. I highly recommend it to school librarians to create visuals to enhance the library and library programming. It’s also great for collaboration, and you can create student accounts to teach students new technology and for teaching media and visual literacy.
Our Read Poster Success and Results
Overall, we had 19 out of approximately 100 staff members participate including teachers, administrators, and paraprofessionals. What an awesome start to a new initiative considering how busy educators are during the pandemic. We filled the back of the bookcases, and I’m immensely grateful to everyone who took the time to collaborate and share their love of reading with our school community. The library transition hall is so lively with familiar reading faces. Even more exciting is that since the display is finished, students are asking me to help them create their own read posters to display in the library!
A New Daily Reminder
My school library world has been rocked a bit since the start of the pandemic, and l know it has been for other educators who have shared the same sentiment. This project may seem simplistic, maybe even archaic to some. However, what matters most is that my colleagues and I had the opportunity to work collaboratively to reach and inspire our students. In a world where I find myself scrambling to reinvent our school library during the pandemic and feeling anxious to find new ways to meet evaluative expectations, there is some comfort and peace in knowing the expectations that matter the most are those of my students. The smiles, laughter, and content gained with students and my colleagues are daily reminders that school librarians matter in the world of education and that we are uniquely unique in how we determine what’s best for our students and how we contribute our expertise to create the best school-wide outcomes. I will always remember what my former principal told me five years ago in my first year as a school librarian. I questioned one of the library activities I had created and whether the students would enjoy and learn from it. His response was, “What’s most important is that you are doing something [for the kids].” I look back to this comment often during these difficult times, and I share it now so that others realize the magic is in the doing. As long as your heart is in what you are doing, the students will know, and that’s what truly matters [to them]. That’s why our library spaces are the heart of the school.
Celebrity Read Posters Available in the ALA Store
In closing, a really great thing for school librarians who may not have the technology to create customized read posters, or who may have budget, staffing, or other constraints, is that current CelebrityREAD posters are available for sale in the ALA Store. My inspiration for this project comes from my adoration of these posters and the desire for our students to see teachers and staff as readers. However, I am purchasing a few of the ALA posters for student reading rewards because I know our students will be delighted to see their favorite movie, music, and sports figures as readers, too!
Author: Lori Quintana
Lori Quintana, Ed.S. earned her Master’s and education specialist degrees from the University of West Georgia and is a library media specialist at Griffin Middle School in Smyrna, GA, for the Cobb County School District. She began her library career as a library media paraprofessional and is now in her fifth year as a school librarian. She is an active member of her local, state, and national school librarian organizations, CCALMS, GLMA, and AASL, servicing on the Board, Leadership Team, and as the Affiliate Liaison. She is also a member of her district’s library media leadership team (MLT) and graduated from Cobb’s first school librarian teacher leadership cohort. Lori is a strong supporter of GLMA’s mission to serve, advocate, and connect. As part of her advocacy, she is a member of the podcast trio for Overdue: Conversations from the Library. Follow her on Twitter @linthelibrary.