The Joy of Lifelong Reading

New Year’s Resolution fanatics take over New York salad eateries! Not the exact headline, but reports noted that there were record lines at restaurants like Just Salad and Sweetgrass instead of McDonald’s. Eating healthy is a popular resolution. Another one is de-cluttering one’s space. To capitalize on this trend, Netflix is airing a new show with Marie Kondo, the Japanese guru of organization and clutter-free environments. Her methods for deciding what clients should discard is to have them keep only those items that bring them joy. I’ve weeded enough school libraries in my years as a library director to know not every book on the shelf is going to bring a reader joy. If you have to read a book on global warming for school, it might bring a sense of hopelessness and despair. But that is true only if you think of joy as being akin to happiness. I don’t. I believe joy equals engagement–the spark that captures the reader. And it could be a spark of delight, but it might be a spark of outrage, thrill, being moved, or challenged. Good books should provoke a reaction. As librarians and educators, we’re thrilled when we match the right book with the right reader because we want students to love reading. But all too often, how reading is taught is devoid of any sort of connection between the text and the reader. Teachers cram too many instructional goals into their lessons so students can’t focus on story or narration. Not enough read-alouds are done because they are perceived to lack rigor. Students are corralled into reading books based only on their “level.”

As educators, we have fixed beliefs about how children learn or how we think they should learn. We take it personally when children don’t follow our path because they don’t like it or another one works better for them. When my two-year-old son doesn’t want to hear a book I love, I feel a little hurt. How can he reject what I know is a fabulous treasure? But it isn’t a rejection because his choice has nothing to do with me. By not getting out of our own way, we prevent our students from becoming lifelong readers and learners. We have to learn to accept them as they are and where they will go in life.

So that brings me back to Marie Kondo. Cleaning up clutter and mess is not something most people like to do. They dread the task, thinking it dreary, a waste of time, may be difficult. But Marie Kondo brings her clients into the process by listening to them and making it personal. She doesn’t scold or shame them, do the work for them, or dismiss them as lazy and unmotivated. Kondo brings joy into the organizational process, just as we need to make resolutions to bring joy into our students’ lives through reading. We need to have collections that appeal to all interests and perspectives; displays and marketing to attract their attention. And most of all, we need to listen to what our kids need and what they want.


Author: Leanne Ellis

I am a School Library Coordinator for the New York City Department of Education’s Department of Library Services. I plan and deliver workshops, provide on-site instructional and program support to school librarians, coordinate programs, administer grants, and am program coordinator for MyLibraryNYC, a program administered with our three public library systems.

Categories: Blog Topics, Collection Development

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1 reply

  1. This is so true! Excellent article!

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