TPiB: One School, One Book
Based on the popular ‘One Community, One Book’ programs that are run in numerous library systems, 6 years ago, I started a program at my current school called ‘Book for All Readers.’ (Henceforth this will be referred to as BFAR.)
Some background information – my school is a magnet school serving 6th through 8th grade students. We have multiple magnet themes, but one of them is ‘Leadership.’ This means we teach the students Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits and try to provide a wealth of opportunities for them to take agency in their own learning. The process I use to determine each year’s BFAR is a direct outgrowth of this philosophy.
Each year, the students at my school have the opportunity to nominate books to be considered for that year’s BFAR. The nomination period usually runs for three weeks – the first two so that all of the language arts classes have a chance to nominate during their regular circulation time, and the third week during our fall book fair (often a wellspring of nomination ideas.)
Students are given certain guidelines for what books they can nominate. It has to be available in paperback (because we are going to buy 15 to 20 copies.) It has to be a middle school appropriate title – I tell them, “No Green Eggs and Ham,” but what I really mean is, “No 50 Shades of Gray.” But most importantly, it has to be a book they read and loved so much they can’t stop telling people about it.
After the nomination period, I narrow down the list of nominations to 9 or 10 titles to discuss with my student advisory group, the Readers Club. This is usually fairly simple, since many students nominate books that have already won (?) or that either aren’t available in paperback or don’t have a published review recommending them for this age group. Students in Readers Club have a chance to explore all the titles, then we do ‘light voting.’ The students get 6 stickers to vote with and can either divide their stickers amongst the books they like or go all in and put all of their stickers towards one book. This gives me an idea of which books are likely to be the most popular amongst the general population. It is only an idea, though, since Readers Club is populated by students who are willing to spend 2 afternoons a month solely devoted to promoting the library (they are somewhat geektackular.)
With this guidance in hand, I choose 4 titles as that year’s contenders. Each group that comes to the library has an opportunity to hear about all four titles and vote for one. I print ballots on different colored paper for each grade level, so I can track the votes by grade level. After everyone has a chance to vote, we announce the winner on the morning news. Depending on the price of the title, we purchase 15 to 20 copies of the winner. Four copies of each runner up title are purchased, along with 3 to 4 copies of each sequel to the winner. (We have yet to have a winner that is not the beginning of a series.) I do a bulletin board with charts and graphs of voting for each title by grade level, etc.
The Readers Club helps me promote the winner by making posters, writing book reviews, and talking it up with their classmates. Then, each spring, we hold a celebration for the book that won. Generally, these celebrations are run as multiple centers, usually including stations for snacks, photo booth, crafts, t-shirt decorating, puzzles and games, and online quizes (which district are you from?) We try to have each of the centers relate to the book in some fashion, so we occasionally have centers like ‘hallway archery.’
The ultimate goal of the program is to get students excited about reading. The hope is that the BFAR process will influence students to take an active role in their own reading choices, get them talking about the books they love, and leave them feeling invested in the library program.
Filed under: TPIB
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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