Sparking a Passion for Books in School-Age Children

Beth Simon

You are not done with a book, until you pass it to another reader.” – Donalyn Miller

Libraries are a treasure. Is there anything better than the quiet, the smell, the sheer number of books that a library can offer? I would call myself an avid reader, although I often take breaks from reading for months, just to dive book after book for months on end. I often claim a book “hangover,” meaning I’ve just read the best book and can’t imagine there’s anything better and I’ll never read anything as good as what I’ve just finished. Check the link…it’s a real thing!

How do we help our young readers find a passion for books? Well, we provide a variety of books, we find out children’s interests and offer books that they might like, we talk about books we’re reading, and show a love for words, books, reading, and all that it entails.

One way to encourage a love for books is to take trips to the library. Ideally, we could help children get a library card and share in their enthusiasm as they check out that first book. Unfortunately, not all programs are located near a library, have the time to take a trip in after-school programs, or have the transportation to take a trip to the library. Bring the library to you! Some communities have book mobiles that are willing to set up a time to visit your program so that children have access to books, or you can bring the library books to your program.

Summit Early Learning Center for School-age Development

In the School Age Care Environment Rating Scale – Updated (SACERS-U) there is an expectation in Item 23. Language/reading activities, indicator 7.1, that “Staff take children to the library to borrow books weekly.” At a recent SACERS-U visit, assessors observed an exciting practice that the program put into place to suit their program, which only operates part-day (after school hours) and meets their children’s needs.

Teachers have created a request form that children can fill out giving either a topic of interest or a desired book title and submit it to their teachers. Teachers go to the library weekly to check out books that are requested and share them with the child who requested it. Books aren’t taken home by the children, they stay at the after-school program, but children then have something that piques their interest while they attend the after-school hours.

Although the program can’t take all children to the library due to many factors (travel, time restrictions, logistics, etc.) and children won’t get to experience the ambiance of the quiet shelves and that delightful smell, they will have access to books they are interested in reading. Teachers at this program made the effort to set up a request system and went the extra mile by going to and from the library to borrow and return books for the children. The program was able to meet this high quality indicator because they understood how important books are and came up with a plan that works for everyone.

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