Saturday, February 19, 2011

Notes from a wannabe librarian

Like most school districts, ours has slashed the budget. Unfortunately, our elementary school librarian was let go. Our library stays open because of parent volunteers (including yours truly).

One of my duties as a wannabe librarian is putting away returned books. And boy, we can learn a lot from the books kids check out. I realize this information might differ by location, but here's what I've noticed in our little country school:
  • Boys thrive on short books packed with humor. DIARY OF A WIMPY KID books are always checked out, and boys (and even girls) read them over and over again.
  • Shorter books, like A-Z MYSTERIES and DEAR DUMB DIARY, are regular hits. They're fast-paced, and kids like to breeze through them so they can take their AR tests and move on.
  • Mysteries are popular. GOOSEBUMPS books are constantly checked out. Kids enjoy reading about characters their own age finding clues and catching bad guys.
  • Biographies are dragged out only when book reports are due. Thankfully, our books on Tiger Woods are outdated, if you know what I mean.
  • Kids are fascinated by nonfiction books about creatures and how things work. They want to learn about spiders, horses, tractors, and motorcycles.
  • Fifth graders, mostly girls, read YA. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised, but I am.
As a funny side note, when the class is walking to the library, boys chat about levels of their favorite video games while girls walk with their noses in books. It cracks me up.

For an excellent post about what middle graders like to read, check out Leslie Rose's post, Hooked on a Series. *waves to Leslie*

How does this list compare with what you've noticed?


56 comments:

  1. Wow, this is a wonderfully insightful post but I'm appauled that they let your librarian go. So sad. We lost our music program two years ago and I was horrified at that - especially considering my kids attend a performing arts magnet school. Not sure what I think about the fifth grade girls reading YA except that it kind of scares me. . .

    ReplyDelete
  2. What an ideal place for a writer to lurk!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Never mind, both words suffice. Look at this, Julie, 3 comments on your post all because I don't preview!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Ooh, that's so interesting! :)

    Fellow Crusader here! :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. That is so true! All of it! We also had to let our librarian go; and I, too, have noticed the same trends in books. You also need to add Junie B. Jones books to the list, too, though. My girls and boys can't get enough! I actually have to tell them to STOP reading so that I can teach them. It almost breaks my heart when I have to tell them to put their books down. I want them to read, but I have to teach them Math, Science, Social Studies, and Grammar, too. LOL.

    Being in a school is great research for writers. We know what sells, and it can help our writing. It doesn't mean we can duplicate it, but it certainly gives us an advantage. Wouldn't you agree?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Love this post! Fellow crusader here! Nice to meet you! :D

    ReplyDelete
  7. I like shorter books too; much easier to carry around.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hey fellow crusader- stopping by to say hello- You know my daughter (9yrs) reads all of the above- though I limit her YA reading. lol My youngest girls (7) likes the nonfiction books and doesn't much care for the rest LOL, weird how it works out. Have a great day!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks for sharing this, Julie!

    It makes me sad that librarians and literacy is so undervalued. Choices like closing libraries and letting go of librarians is something that will impact kids both now and down the road. Kids need adults encouraging them to read--thanks for stepping up--you're awesome!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

    ReplyDelete
  10. Kudos to you for volunteering. It's really too bad that you had to though. My boys used to read all of those Goosebumps, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Super Diaper Baby *scratches head, attempts to recall*.
    Keep up the good work, my friend.

    P.S.: Tiger Woods used to be my favorite golfer. Now I can't watch him. I'll forgive and forget one day, but not yet..
    -Jimmy

    ReplyDelete
  11. Interesting. I liked fantasy and horror as a kid, so I can see why the Goosebumps series is popular.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Haha, I remember reading Goosebumps with my daughters. Good times.

    Wow...fifth graders reading YA. Gulp. Definitely something to think about when writing my YA! That makes me cringe even more when I think about some of the subject matter in today's YA...

    ReplyDelete
  13. I see the exact same trends in my students. They don't usually bother with the library though because my classroom has more modern books than it does :)

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hi, Julie! I'm a crusader checking out everyone's blog. My momma was a librarian for years and I love books. ; )

    ReplyDelete
  15. Great points. I also volunteer in my kids' library and Diary of a Wimpy Kid is always being checked out.
    So sad they don't put more value on librarians. :(

    ReplyDelete
  16. Thanks for the shout out, Julie. I see many of the same things in my class with the exception of GOOSEBUMPS. They were ravenous for that series in 3rd and 4th, now they've turned to PERCY JACKSON and THE WARRIORS SERIES (cats). The EYEWITNESS non-fiction book series is also HUGE in our class. As far as "nose in the book" goes, all my kids are that way. I set a challenge at the beginning of the year for everyone to read at least 25 books this year (Thank you Book Whisperer) so all my fifth graders grab every reading chance they get. It's a teacher's dream come true.

    ReplyDelete
  17. That's awesome you volunteer at your library. Thankfully, ours is thriving, with a great staff. It's well supported by the "money" from our town and is hugely packed. Just looking at what my boys read what you see doesn't surprise me at all. My boys read the graphic novel and such for fun but also read up like Ranger's Apprentice and Rick Riordan. My 6th grade girl reads adult and more serious YA. None of the paranormal stuff for her, which frankly, I'm kind of happy about. She leaves that to me. :)

    ReplyDelete
  18. Julie,
    Those are really good tips that I can pass along to my students at school. Often time kids with learning disabilities are so reluctant to read for fun because it is such hard work. Does your library have any Hank Zipzer books? My kids LOVE those!!!
    I will check out the blog you rec'd since nicholas is in middle school.
    Have a great day!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Just wanted to say that it is too bad for the cutbacks but great that you volunteer:)

    ReplyDelete
  20. Hi Julie! I'm a fellow Crusader. Just wanted to stop by and say hello. Can't wait to get to know you better.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Totally useful post - things to think about, which makes me happy. I write MG - and have just discovered (to my chagrin) that I'm writing the second book in a series, not the first. Argh! Which means I'm not more than half-way done with the current WIP, but only about a quarter of the way through. Not even.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Sounds like reading in elementary schools hasn't changed so much since I was in elementary school.

    ReplyDelete
  23. HI Julie...I loved reading this. My girls love Diary of a wimpy kid and I can relate so much to the list with my kids. A big hit with my youngest are graphic novels..quick fast fun. Gonna check out that list for middle graders

    ReplyDelete
  24. So true! We have a writer from our state, Jonathan Rand, that is really popular. He writes mysteries tied to different locations. One series is for the entire US, the other is linked to Michigan cities. The elementary library literally has bookcases full of his books.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I love that Goosebumps is still so popular! Your school is lucky to have dedicated parent volunteers like you. I think it is so shortsighted when schools cut anything from the library. If they want to support literacy they need to keep their library strong!

    ReplyDelete
  26. Interesting observations. Especially about the mysteries. They seem to gather a lot of love from youngsters. My mom defended me to read them before I was 12 because they would "upset me". Now, not only I read them, but I write them also.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I'm not too surprised by the 5th-grade girls reading 'above their age level'. I remember, in 5th grade especially, wanting to outsmart the boys, since it was all about competition back then. And what better way than to read more 'grown up' books. I think the oldest material I remember reading back then was the original Nancy Drew books, but still those were about 16-year-olds!

    ReplyDelete
  28. My son's a 4th grader and practically absorbs anything fantasy (and a series - Rick Riordan is his hero). He's never been a Magic Treehouse/Diary of a Wimpy Kid/mystery/sports kind of guy. But he did have to do a book report last week - ended up with Amelia Earhardt. Even I was bored with it!!
    erica

    ReplyDelete
  29. Wow, I can't imagine having to rely on volunteers to keep my library open. So much of my childhood was spent in libraries and bookstores, I can't imagine going without one. It's so great that there's people like you to help out. It really is true what you say-you can tell a lot from what kids check out. Thanks for the insight.

    <3 Gina Blechman (fellow crusader)

    ReplyDelete
  30. Hi, what about Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, The Three Investigators, and the Enid Blyton series, The Famous Five, The Secret Seven?

    ReplyDelete
  31. What as fun job (though the budget cuts that caused it are a shame).

    I love spying on what other people are reading...maybe I need to volunteer at my library.

    ReplyDelete
  32. My male students prefer non-fiction and the shortest of books for their AR tests.

    Girls also like the short books for AR tests, but I notice they pick the longer YA books for pleasure reading.

    I have a blog award for you.

    ReplyDelete
  33. That's so unfortunate that they let the librarian go, but really great that the parents are stepping up to help out. I haven't had the opportunity to see what kids are actually reading, so thanks for sharing! Maybe I should hang out in my local library more often and see what kids are picking up. :)

    ReplyDelete
  34. That's so sad that your librarian had to be let go! :(

    My third-grade girl goes for the series first, too. I try to sneak some Newbery medalists in there occasionally, but when she has her pick, it's the series books! (Especially stuff with glittery covers.)

    Amy

    ReplyDelete
  35. I'm really sorry to hear that about the school but am glad that the parents, such as yourself, continue to help out to make it a special place for the children. I appreciate your feedback on what the kids are reading these days. I am just thrilled that they are still reading. Fellow crusader and follower stopping by. Great post.

    ReplyDelete
  36. So not surprised that funny and fast-paced books are a hit with the kids. They love novels that get right to the point.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Nice to know. Thanks for sharing this might come in handy.

    ReplyDelete
  38. I've always wanted to be a librarian. :) I'm a fellow crusader stopping in to say "Hi!" I'm a follower now.

    ReplyDelete
  39. As a librarian myself, I find out awful to hear about librarians being let go.

    ReplyDelete
  40. I was looking at librarian job posting the other day... I was a "library helper" back in grade school, and I remember how much I loved it. I'm really happy you're volunteering, but I'm sad as to the reason why... we need our libraries!

    Great, insightful post! :)

    ReplyDelete
  41. oh, thank you thank you thank you, Julie!!! I love the inside scoop from this post! My daughters are this age, and you are RIGHT ON about their book selections.

    At the same time, I'm so sad your school lost the librarian. :o\ xoxo <3

    ReplyDelete
  42. Hey there!

    You know, my 9yo reads a lot of YA. (First I read it, and if there's no drugs or sex, I pass it to him.)
    And he reads a whole book in 2-3 days!

    Thanks for sharing! Interesting post! :)

    ReplyDelete
  43. I've always loved libraries and think it would be so much fun to work in one, especially with a bunch of kids. You must your volunteering there!

    ReplyDelete
  44. Yey for you, volunteering at the library. Your ovservations on what the kids are reading are fascinating.

    ReplyDelete
  45. : ) for you volunteering at the school library.

    : ( for the school librarian being let go. I wonder how many other schools have had to do the same thing because of cutbacks?

    ReplyDelete
  46. Those kids are very lucky to have someone like you as a volunteer.

    ReplyDelete
  47. This is really interesting! Thanks for sharing it. You're awesome for volunteering by the way! That's so sad that they let the librarian go!

    ReplyDelete
  48. First, I hate that school librarians were let go. Very sad. And in many cities, the public libraries have closed or are slated to. I can't even fathom how this is smart. *sigh*
    BUT, yay for parent volunteers (like you) keeping your school library running. :)

    My daughter is 15 and a freshman in high school now, but she was definitely reading YA in 5th grade (Twilight and 'Clique' series were her favorite in 5th grade) (by 7th grade she was 'so over' those series and on to more contemporary/gritty YA, like Sarah Dessen, Ellen Hopkins, etc.)

    Thanks for volunteering and getting books into kids hands. :)

    Hugs,
    Lola

    ReplyDelete
  49. Hello! I'm in your Crusader's group and wanted to stop by. I think that's great that you're volunteering at the school's library (but awful that they had to cut a librarian). I was totally one of those girls walking with my nose in a book! Happy writing and I look forward to reading more of your blog posts!

    Rachele (www.freckle-head.blogspot.com)

    ReplyDelete
  50. Very cool- great to know!
    My kids are much younger so I have no info on what Middle graders are reading.

    ReplyDelete
  51. My son was in fifth grade when Twilight got big, and I was amazed that all the girls in his class were reading it. It doesn't seem like fifth grade level material to me, but what do I know? And yes, my son loves Diary of Wimpy Kid and 39 Clues, those are about all he'll read without being forced (except comic books - Calvin and Hobbes is a huge favorite).

    ReplyDelete
  52. What a lovely place for you to hang around, Julie. It was interesting to read about the kids taste and likes.

    ReplyDelete
  53. I'm with Susan up above. It scares me to no end to realize that 5th grade girls are reading YA materials that they probably shouldn't be. I see it all the time at the school (I'm a PTA mom). I write YA, and I'm always thinking no one under 16 should read this. Yet they do. Better parent control, maybe?

    We own every Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. My sons love them. Anything comic book like, they go for.

    ReplyDelete
  54. It's devastating that they would cut the librarian. My mother was a librarian, my father a principal, so the value of education and books was not lost on me. :( Glad you are learning from the experience though! And very glad there are moms like you who step up to the plate!

    ReplyDelete