Sometimes the best library ideas are simple and come from the most unexpected places. I’ve not worked in Middle School since 1993 and I’m having a great time. After spending the last 15 years as a high school librarian (don’t get me wrong, I LOVED high school) I’ve found working with 7th and 8th graders quite refreshing. With Teen Read Week approaching I knew we needed to celebrate the event with a school-wide project. I thought of a dear friend’s program that I worked with in Spartanburg, SC and Relay for Life and merged the two into what I called Teen Read Week Reading Relay.
Our homeroom was the perfect venue to bring students outside and read. Basically here’s how it worked.
1. Homeroom teachers organized students into teams or 5-6 students each about 1 week prior to the event. Students were allowed to come up with team names, make banners or posters and name a team captain during their daily 30 minute homeroom period. We even had one homeroom that made pink team shirts!
2. I approached the music department (since this year’s logo was Books with Beat @ your library) and made arrangements to have the drumline play on the field during the event. I also made arrangements to have music playing after the drumline stopped.
3. I also contact the PE department to get access of the track and football field.
4. I collaborated with the English teachers from the beginning, knowing the more collaboration the better the event.
5. 8th graders were called out to the track and field (with books in hand) and directed to their location on the field.
6. The first team members walked the track while all other members relaxed to the music and read.
7. After one lap on the track, member #1 tagged team member #2 and the Relay continued with the 2nd member walking while the rest of the team read. This process continued until all team member walked the track.
8. The Relay continued for 30 minutes with students reading, walking, relaxing smiling and loving the experience.
9. The entire event was repeated for our 7th graders.
I must admit that I was nervous and skeptical of the Relay’s success since I’ve never taken on the task of bringing 400 students outside to walk and read in a controlled event. It was a worth while moment when my principal turned to me and said, “They are getting exercise and reading too.” As with any new project there were some bumps (some teachers had not read the explanations of the Relay). Teachers quickly went into their modify and adjust mode and it all worked out.
I had a great time along with many students. Some teachers seemed to have been out of their comfort zone but overall I feel everyone had a enjoyable day. Students now stop by the library to give me hugs, handmade thank you notes and enthusiastically check out books. Being new to a school, new to a district and new to a state can sometimes feel lonely but I believe I have put the library on the school map in this small Texas middle school.
Graphics from video is the Teen Read Week logo from the American Library Association