My dream library, especially for boys, (though not exclusively for boys, as many boys, at a certain age, actually go to the library to see the girls!)
Unlock it and open it! Firstly this dream library designed especially for encouraging boys to read , would not have a locked door! If it really needs to be locked, then I would have a clearly written notice of opening times posted outside the library and details regularly announced in Assembly, to remind children of library opening times. And I would make sure that those times are strictly adhered to, even in places where time keeping is a big challenge! Visitors to a library should feel welcomed, not locked out!
Staff it! This dream library, would have the library staffed with volunteers, adults and older children on a rota basis. I would certainly always have the library open at all breaks and lunchtimes and after school. With enough volunteers it would not be difficult to do this. Certainly volunteer librarians should have badges and certificates and a desk name label to show the school that their work is high status and truly appreciated.
No Special Needs Groups here! I would not use the library as a teaching area for Special Needs Groups. It gives the wrong messages. making the Special Needs Group feel lacking in status, making them feel like an add on! And anyway, if the library is properly used, there is no timetable space for other subsidiary groups to be constantly in it anyway!
Not just shelves of books! This dream library would not be a space for just books on shelves. For example:
- The library would be light, airy and comfortable.The atmosphere would be one of welcome, so boys as well as girls feel it is part of their space in their school. There would be slightly private areas to sit or stretch out and forget where you are. I’d avoid the sort of arrangement of only having high backed chairs at dining room sized tables. Many boys have had enough of that in the classroom setting. Boys don’t always want to sit on chairs to read.
- Because many boys often prefer non-fiction, my dream library for boys would have lots of non-fiction reading material…boxes and boxes of comics to help improve the reading of texts that are entirely in capital letters, and there would be newspapers, mail order catalogues, tourist brochures, company advertising fliers of motorbikes, sports gear, charts and posters, scanning style books where there is no text, but where the reader has to find something in a very full illustration (“Where’s Wally” books).
- I think, non-book objects in a library display, catch the attention of the reluctant reader, who, if there were just books, would probably not notice the display in the first place! The display would stimulate the interest, make the prospective reader take notice, and hopefully tempt him or her to lift a book and open the pages. There would be model cars and trucks (or cardboard box models of cars and trucks) beside books on transport, maybe a fish in a bowl beside books on fishing or on pets. I’d include subject appropriate jigsaws too, so there might be a jigsaw of the ocean with books on Oceanography. I have seen boys rush to the Library to try to put in the next piece and jigsaws encourage shape awareness and shape awareness helps reading skills.
- There would be frequently changing displays, which would include interesting things alongside subject appropriate books or comics. (See Spiderman below, a display which made boys flock to the library to read every breaktime)
This is a Library Display Corner at St Luke’s Primary School, Pointe Michel, Dominica. Hooks from the ceiling were used to hang a strung-up coat-hanger for the Spiderman suit, and also the sheet of styrofoam (polystyrene) in an old pillowcase with the Spiderman notice on.The backing is an old beach mat. (The School has a tub of these for children to take and set up under the mango tree, where they can read and read and read!) The Spiderman fabric was in a fabric box in the School! What a find! The comics were kindly donated and sent by an overseas visitor to www.show-me-wow.com Thanks are also due to a young Dominican who loaned his now outgrown Spiderman suit. This display was set up near the Library entrance, so it was easily seen by passers by who came in to look and stayed to read the comics.
- The shelves would be clearly labeled so they were easily recognised for the subjects or the reading ages they held, so it would be quick to find what the boys were looking for. Think of a supermarket promoting their goods. Customers hate a big change-round because they then can’t find what they need, but conversely they like a regularly changing new display to alert them to a new idea or a “Special this week!” Librarians are promoting books and can use similar supermarket techniques to “sell” reading!
- The silence stress felt by some people would be avoided by playing light, background music in my dream library.
- Special events would happen in my dream library:The Library Week for Boys only. The girls would need to be compensated for this arrangement of course, but it worked brilliantly at one school, with displays of reading material specially collected and selected over the previous weeks for boys and with other items on display to subject compliment the reading materials. The total number of boy visitors that week far exceeded the total number of boy visitors of any previous months.Library Competitions with a prize for a girl and a prize for a boy, and a big announcement and publicity to advertise the event in the first place and to announce the winners at the end, as well as to tell the date for the next competition. The questions could be about the lay out of the library, the authors of certain books, the date a certain book was published etc. It would also include a question, “How can we improve the School Library so that more students use it?” We need to do more customer research if we want things to work!Visiting speakers or authors (male as well as female) to talk about their personally selected books from the School Library, making sure that the arrangements for a good percentage of such activities cater specifically for the interests of boys.Class events, where a child is invited to be an expert at his chosen subject and uses the library resources to give a talk and to have a book box ready for book borrowing, or answer questions on his improved expertise.
- Computers would be in the library for reading research. It seems that computers are too often used only in computer classes, and so boys are often limited when they want to follow their own interests. Boys who do not like reading books, often feel differently about reading computer screens! (Along with this, of course, my dream library would have technicians to keep the library computers in full time operation! It is a dream library after all!)
- The shelves would not be overloaded and too full. These below are definitely overloaded and uninviting, no forward facing books and no labels! There is no wonder the boy has not been tempted to choose a book and read!
My dream library shelves would be easily recognised for the subjects or the reading ages they held, so it would be quick to find what the boys and girls might be looking for. Think of a supermarket promoting their goods. Customers hate not being able to find what they need, but conversely these same customers like a regularly changing new display to alert them to a new idea. Librarians are promoting books and can use similar supermarket techniques to “sell” reading!
- ALL THIS IS MIGHT BE DIFFICULT FOR SOME SCHOOLS TO ACHIEVE, BUT AT LEAST SOME OF THE LIST COULD, WITH WORK AND IMAGINATION, BE PUT INTO PRACTICE.CERTAINLY, IT WOULD NOT ONLY ENCOURAGE RELUCTANT READERS TO LOOK AT BOOKS, IT WOULD ALSO ENCOURAGE THEM TO WANT TO READ THEM.
MY DREAM LIST, BUT DREAMS CAN SOMETIMES COME TRUE, EVEN IF ONLY IN PART!