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 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.
In October 2013, I started providing a genre- or reader's advisory-related article for staff to read each month. This has really helped spark our discussions and has helped staff develop their reader's advisory skills. You can see which articles we've read in the recap posts for each month (linked below).
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. Here are our genres/topics for 2015:
January: Reader's Choice*
February: Transitional Chapter Books (2nd/3rd grade level)
May: Science Fiction (superheroes optional!)
June: Reader's Choice*
July: Reader's Choice*
September: Realistic (Contemporary) Fiction
November: Horse Books
December: Fairy Tale Chapter Books
* 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.
And here's what we've read in previous years:
Each post includes a book list of what my staff and I read for that genre. If you're looking for ideas to expand your genre reading (or your staff's), this is a great place to start!
January: Reader's Choice
February: Realistic (Contemporary) Fiction
March: Books in a popular series
May: Diverse Books
June: Reader's Choice
July: Reader's Choice
August: Graphic novels
September: Animal Fantasy (chapter books with animals as main characters)
November: Historical Fiction
(I fell off the blogging wagon in Fall 2014, but any linked post will contain a book list!)
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
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!