As a high school librarian I view my job as the #1 reading cheerleader at the school. It is my goal to
get reading materials, specifically books, in the hands of readers after helping them make a selection they will like. I love it when students return books and tell me they really liked a book I suggested they read. Every year I scour book review sources to select those books which I hope will excite my readers. I plan and execute reading promotions and create displays to introduce new books and highlight old favorites. My library is beautiful, light, airy, and welcoming. The library is part of the culture of the school and it is a very busy, happy place.
So why am I sad?
My book circulation numbers are down. Way down. This September we checked out over 500 fewer books than the year before and I thought that year was bad. Fewer and fewer students are selecting free reading choices. New books, purchased over the summer, are still sitting in the display area with their bright pink bookmarks announcing their newness with no one even picking them up. Kids who check out the first book in a series aren't returning for the second or third. Sequels to popular books in the past like Every Day by David Levithan or Lair of Dreams (Diviners series) by Libba Bray haven't generated any interest at all. Even a book everyone is talking about, Everything Everything, hasn't circulated once. The horror book display, which is usually the highest interest of all monthly displays, has barely registered an interest except among the most dedicated of all readers.
It is so sad and disheartening.
Now, to be fair, one BIG thing has changed in our school this year which is a likely culprit to the almost near demise of book reading...iPads. Every student at our school has their own iPad now. Likely some of my students have simply moved their reading over from print books to e-books. But my guess is there is less reading happening altogether because the iPads are so enticing. As I walk around the school I see students playing games on their iPads during their free time. Only once, in our six weeks of school this year, have I spied a kid actually reading what looked like a book on her pad. It is so sad.
The second thing that has changed at our school is our English curriculum, which focuses on strong writing and close reading, is so scripted teachers don't feel like they have time to bring their students in for free choice reading selections. Kids are no longer being asked to read entire novels but smaller sections of books or essays for closer inspections. I'm all in favor of teaching students how to read text closely but shouldn't they also know how to read a whole book, to see the whole thing from start to finish?
If English teachers aren't promoting reading, who will? It is pathetically sad.
At a meeting earlier this week with other librarians, my colleague at another high school in the district started crying when we were swapping stories about our circulation woes. We both have bought our first selection of e-books this year but don't hold out hope this will make much difference in our numbers. Kids are reading less.
I have felt like crying, also. It breaks my heart how easily everyone seems to have let reading go.
Nearly every futuristic dystopian novel I've read envisions the demise of society with the demise of reading. Are Sci-Fi novels coming true today?
Please help cheer me up! Do you have any ideas of things I can do to get my readers back before it is too late? Any and all help (and condolences) are appreciated. I'd love to hear from you. I need help.