Library Corner: Libraries offer freedom from reading expectations, limits |

Library Corner: Libraries offer freedom from reading expectations, limits

Jeanie Johnson
Grand County Library District

When I was an elementary school librarian, a fifth grade boy named Brad hated to read.

He reluctantly read what the teacher required. He came to the library with his class and I asked him what he liked to do when he was not at school.

“I like to hunt,” he replied.

“Oh! I have a back room with copies of magazines, and I’ll bet you’d love American Hunter,“ I told him.

I allowed him to go into that back room and get back issues of the magazine. He was allowed to take as many copies home as he wanted. Through the school year we kept the arrangement. By the next fall he was reading adventure stories such as My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George.

His parents came to me with a gift, saying I had changed Brad from a boy who hated to read to one who read voraciously.

How do you choose a good book? Is it the cover, the author, the pictures? Did a friend recommend it?

While adults have the freedom to choose books to read based on their interests, work or leisure needs, schools sometimes put students into a “reading level” box. What this means is the books they are required by teachers to read fit into an ability range, often called a Lexile range.

When offering a book to a child to read for pleasure, librarians often hear, “I can’t read that one”. “It is not on the list,” or,” it’s not at my level.”

What a problem for both the child and the librarian.

It may seem innocuous to assign reading levels to students but these actions can have powerful and lasting effects on how children think about themselves and how they are perceived by others. Leveling becomes fodder for bullying and ridicule. Levels, meant to be kept private and nonjudgmental, become public knowledge within the classroom and shape the choices students make outside of it.

Grand County Library District employees believe that children, teens and parents should make choices freely about what they want to read. While there are “summer reading lists” given to students by many of our teachers and schools, children enjoy browsing the library shelves to find a book they would like to read.

Often this free choice is the “ticket to read” that leads one to success.

Reading books one chooses changes lives. Stop by your local branch library and choose a good book today.

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