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I had the pleasure of presenting at the Pearson National Learning and Teaching Conference held in Brisbane last week, sharing some of my thoughts and ideas on how we can engage readers and in the process develop in our students a love of reading.

One of my presentations, ‘Repackaging reading for the 21st Century’ was an expansion of an article I recently wrote: The evolving role of Teacher Librarians.   First published in INCITE: November/December 2014 Volume 35 Issue 11/12 under the title New tools to engage readers at school, my article can, with permission of INCITE, be read on page 29 of this pdf version: New tools to engage readers at school   For easy access to links however here’s the text of my article.  Additional links and resources mentioned in my conference presentation can be found under the resources tab of my other blog – NovaNews.

New tools to engage readers at school by Bev Novak

Teacher Librarians are perfectly placed to be school leaders, demonstrating by example, how digital technology can be harnessed to inspire a love of reading.  By being vocal advocates of our own profession, regularly and constantly promoting the value of reading, and by promoting ourselves as experts who initiate programs that connect students with literature, teacher librarians are contributing significantly in guiding students in our schools to become literate, library-loving adults.

Daring to be different and thinking outside the square offers teacher librarians the opportunity to share our passion for literature and reading and, in the process, create a buzz that is both captivating and electrifying.

As we explore the raft of new tools being used in classrooms, teacher librarians are also reflecting on past practices and traditional library programs to develop innovative ways to engage and excite students’ interest in reading.  One example is replacing the traditional book review or oral report by submitting reviews to the school library management system or the school library blog.  Harnessing the power of peer-to-peer support, students can submit their book reviews to online forums such as Inside a dog or Spine Out.  Their interest in reading can be excited by locating new titles on any one of the many online sources: What should I read next?Which book?, Any new books or for something very different The Literature Map.  For those students over the age of 13, participation in GoodReads opens new doors to the world of reading.

Our school students are true digital natives, engaging with the world in new and exciting ways. This offers countless opportunities.

Bringing our advocacy skills, passion and lateral thinking to the mix, enables teacher librarians to embrace digital technology to transform past methods and practices.

Today, for example, authors can be brought into our libraries in ways we could never have previously imagined. Face-to-face sessions can be set up via Skype or Twitter and students can connect and familiarize themselves with authors, their writing and their latest books via Facebook.

It’s a great idea to visit and like the Facebook pages of organisations such as ALIA, Get Reading, Wheeler Centre, Love2Read, Centre for Youth Literature, State Library of Victoria, What a difference a library makes and Good Reading Magazine for a steady stream of inspiration about literature.  These are valuable resources for developing school library programs.

Digital technology can also be embedded into other traditional library programs, such as book clubs, literature circles and literary festivals.  The Global Read Aloud is one exciting way to connect readers across the world. The Global Book Club on the other hand is an example of how the traditional ‘Book Club’ can be moved online.

Literary discussions, the focus of literature circles, can quite readily be moved online by having students post discussions on a blog created for each novel. Social Media also enables Literature Circles to exist beyond the boundaries of one school and it won’t be long before a plethora of literary festivals are a real option for our students to attend via these channels.  In Australia, the State Library of Queensland is leading the way by enabling students to attend an Online Literature Festival.

With so many more inspirational digital technologies to explore, including tools like Jigsaw Planet, BookCrossing and QR Codes, not to mention the many ways in which books today are spilling out of their covers into online worlds such as Pottermore and fandoms, this is a very exciting time to be a teacher librarian charged with the responsibility of engaging readers.

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