We had a bunch of 8th graders come in to the library this afternoon with what I think is a really neat assignment. Their English teacher had instructed them to visit both a library and a bookstore. At each location, the students were to ask a staff member (librarian and bookseller, respectively) for at least three recommended books. They could be any type of books, any length as long as they were "at least an 8th grade level".
The students were to collect three recommendations from each location and write the titles and book locations (e.g. call number in the library) on their worksheet. Both a librarian and a bookseller had to sign their worksheet. Then the students have to choose one of the recommended books and do a book report on it.
I think it's such a neat assignment because it forces the kids to ask for reader's advisory, which is a service I think most people aren't aware of. A gaggle of kids came in for the assignment just before I was on desk and my coworkers alerted me about the assignment. I did help one girl with it when I was on desk. She explained that she needed book recommendations and I asked what type of book she would like to read. She told me that she liked chick lit, but not super fluffy chick lit. Something a little more serious.
I recommended the following books, taking care to let her know that if she didn't like these suggestions I would happily help her find others until we found something she thought she'd really like:
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
Dairy Queen by Catherine Murdock
A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life by Dana Reinhardt
What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones
Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy
I asked her whether she preferred long or short books. She said it didn't matter. I asked her what books she had read that she really, really liked and she said Nicholas Sparks books and Say Goodnight Gracie. (I recommended mostly teen books because she had come to me in the Young People's Department.) She had said she preferred realistic fiction over historical fiction or else I would have added Hattie Big Sky and possibly some others. She seemed happy with these recommendations and I believe I saw her taking at least four of them.
I wish I knew more about what the teacher intends the kids to learn. Is there a reason he's requiring that they visit and library and a bookstore instead of a library or a bookstore? I would love to see the kids' worksheets and see how the recommendations are different. I wonder if the teacher will ask the kids anything about their visits and what he would ask them (and what they would say!). For my part, I'm trying hard (as I do with any patron interaction) to make it a positive experience and show the kids that there is great stuff to be had at libraries.
The teacher probably doesn't realize this, but I think it's a great assignment for us librarians, too. For my part, I was very concerned that this girl get suggestions of books she thought she would really like. She's going to have to do a report on one of these books, after all. I don't want her to be stuck with a crummy book for her book report!
I'm looking forward to more of these 8th graders coming in to do this assignment. It's a challenge, but a fun challenge (hopefully for us and for them).