In January 2013, I posed the following question to my Twitter followers:
@abbylibrarian: Can you give good readers' advisory without reading widely yourself? Please discuss.
In response to the ensuing awesome Twitter conversation, I developed a reading program for my staff to encourage all of us to read widely in different genres. I call this program Reading Wildly and here's how it works:
Each month, my staff members are required to read one book from a certain genre. Books must be from our Children's Room (not teen or adult) and they must be chapter books, nonfiction (applicable for some genres), or graphic novels (and, of course, audiobooks and ebooks are fine). We each read a book, fill out a book review form, and share a booktalk at our monthly Reading Widely meeting. Everyone is welcome to read more than one book, but only required to read one.
Here's the book review form that I developed. Please feel free to use it and to edit it as you wish.
I've chosen the following genres for us to explore this year:
February - Mystery
March - Science Fiction
April - Adventure
May - Funny
June - A book on the New York Times Best-Sellers List (either Middle Grade or Series)
July - Reader's Choice*
August - School Story
September - African-American Fiction
October - Scary (or slightly scary)
November - Nonfiction
December - Award Winner
* Summer is so exhausting, I want our reading to be as pleasant as possible this month.
I selected genres based on what our patrons are frequently asking for, on seasonality (school stories), and on where I see that staff need to expand their horizons (nonfiction, award winners).
We meet each month to share booktalks, discuss that month's genre, and suggest readalikes. This meeting is separate from our monthly staff meeting.
I have a staff of four full-time (including myself) and two part-time employees. Of these, I have one MLS librarian besides myself. I do allow them to read on work time IF their date-sensitive work is completed and/or if they're on desk and it's really slow.
I provide a list of possible choices for each genre, but staff are not required to choose a book off the list. I want to make it as easy as possible for my staff to participate. I note which books are available in our audiobook collection because I know that "reading" on their commute might be easier for some.
I've invited our teen librarian to play along with us (although she's reading teen books, obviously). I've found that some of the books we're sharing have solid tween potential, so she gets to hear about those books and she contributes to our discussion. Since I don't supervise our teen librarian, she's not required to participate or fill out any of the paperwork. I let her decide how involved she wants/is able to be.
Any questions about our program? Leave them in comments!