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 or Teen Scene, and they must be chapter books, nonfiction (applicable for some genres), or graphic novels (and, of course, audiobooks and ebooks are fine, but not picture books or easy readers). We each read a book and share a booktalk at our monthly Reading Widely meeting. This meeting is separate from our monthly department meeting if at all possible. Everyone is welcome to read more than one book, but only required to read one. I allow them work time to read only if their date-sensitive work is done.
At times, I have provided staff a related article to read. What worked best for me to make this happen was to research and save the articles ahead of time (in December for the following year), but I just wasn't always able to find the time to make it happen. In some of the genre recaps below you'll see an article noted that we read.
For the first year, I selected genres based on what our patrons are frequently asking for, on seasonality, and on areas I saw that my staff needed to expand their horizons. I also provided a list of suggested titles to give my staff a starting point. After that, I turned it over to my staff to brainstorm and select genres for the next year. It's worked well for us to create a list of suggestions for the next upcoming genre at our meetings. This gives everyone a starting point and helps add to our genre lists.
After each meeting, I update our genre book lists that we keep in our Evernote account, which gives everyone ready access to them. This gives staff a good starting point with reader's advisory questions.
Here are our genres/topics for 2016:
January: Reader profile swaps (basically reader's choice, but you can read about what we're doing in this post)
June: Reader's choice, but Teen staff read something from Children's and Children's read something from Teen (and if you read equally, then you pick!)
July: Graphic Novels (always accepted, but my staff don't always choose them)
August: Transitional chapter books (2nd/3rd grade)
November: Gentle ("Clean" reads, although I hate saying "clean")
In 2017, I'm very excited to announce that we'll be partnering with the inimitable Sarah Bean-Thompson of GreenBean TeenQueen and her staff to share our reading and expand the number of books that we're all sharing. Sarah and I collaborated on genres for 2017 after getting input from our staff and we came up with a schedule for this year. There are a couple of months that we differed on, based on our different staff's needs, but we're very excited to collaborate this year!
Here are our genre/topics for 2017:
January - Reader's Choice*
February - Own Voices
March - Romance (NAFCPL) / Early Chapter Books (SGCPL)
April - Manga (NAFCPL) / Graphic Novels/Comics (SGCPL)
May - Reader's Choice*
June - Reader's Choice*
July - Reader's Choice*
August - Nonfiction
September - Dystopian (NAFCPL) / Fantasy (SGCPL)
October - Horror/Scary
November - Edgy
December - Animal Stories
* I like giving everyone free choice during times that will be really busy (i.e. the holidays and summer).
When we started, I asked everyone to fill out a book review form so that I could track that everyone was participating. As we got more comfortable with the program, I lifted that requirement, although staff are certainly welcome to use the form if they find it useful. Here's the book review form that I developed. Please feel free to use it and to edit it as you wish.
Reading Roundups by Genre/Topic
Looking for a place to start with a genre or need a book list? Here are our reading roundups by genre/topic:
- African-American authors/protagonists (see also Diverse Books)
- Chapter Books (2nd/3rd grade level)
- Contemporary Realistic Fiction: 2014 and 2015
- Diverse Books (see also African-American Fiction)
- Fantasy: Animal Fantasy and Fairy Tale Novels
- Funny: 2013 and 2016
- Gentle Reads
- Graphic Novels
- Horse Books
- Nonfiction: 2013, 2015, and 2016.
- Scary (or slightly scary): 2013 and 2015
- School Story
- Science Fiction: 2013 and 2015
- Sports: 2014 * 2015 * 2016
We've had way more meetings than this, but the ones not linked are either months I missed blogging about our meetings or months that we had reader's choice or some other activity. You can find all the posts about Reading Wildly by clicking on the Reading Wildly label.
Any questions about our program? Leave them in comments!