Close reading I: The reader-friendly library service

Open book

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Chapter one: Starting with the reader

I think school libraries have a bit of an advantage over public libraries when it comes to being reader-centric. After all, our readers are literally in our face every day! However, when it comes to displays I think we do still fall into the same trap of making them about the books rather than the readers. I certainly jotted down a lot of display ideas while reading this chapter!

Reader development means active intervention to:

  • increase people’s confidence and enjoyment of reading
  • open up reading choices
  • offer opportunities for people to share their reading experience
  • raise the status of reading as a creative activity

This (page 14, with my emphasis) should be at the heart of what school libraries do for their readers. One thing I need to especially work on in our school is raising the status of reading. It is invisible and I battle the pervasive myth that “boys aren’t readers”. They are and they do, despite the time available for them to do so becoming increasingly squeezed by schoolwork, extra curricular commitments, paid employment, and digital distractions.

Reader development begins from valuing and respecting individual reading preferences; each reader is expert and judge of their own reading experience.

This quote (page 15) stood out to me because of the attitude I encounter with some of the English teachers at school. I work quite hard not to put my value judgement on the books that students select (because I am a book snob – but at least I know I am so I can work on not showing that to the boys!). However, I am often dismayed at teachers that bring students into the library and list off the number of things they are not allowed to read (newspapers, magazines, non-fiction, graphic novels, picture books, easy reads…). I understand that part of the teachers’ job is to raise literacy levels, but surely one of the best ways to do that is to encourage reading for pleasure! I will definitely be tackling this issue when I put together my literacy manifesto for the principal and head of department.

Reading is a creative partnership with an author, providing a way to embrace different lives, cultures and new experiences as well as supporting us in confronting the things we fear.

It is important to remember this (page 27) particularly when faced with controversial or challenging material. But also when we are endeavouring to open up students’ reading choices and encouraging them to experiment or read outside their comfort zones. Reading is a safe and supportive way to encounter dangerous places and behaviours.

Actions arising from this chapter:

  • Raise the status of reading as a creative activity; make it more visible (both for students and staff)
  • Educate teachers about the “and” of selecting books; ie, you must issue a novel and then you can have a book of your choice


Riel, R. V., Fowler, O., & Downes, A. (2008). The reader-friendly library service. Newcastle upon Tyne: Society of Chief Librarians.

3 thoughts on “Close reading I: The reader-friendly library service

  1. Steph, I’m also reading this book so deliberately waited until I’d finished reading this chapter before reading your blog (thank you for getting me to hurry along!).

    I highlighted the same points as you. In terms of raising the status of reading, we’re in the middle of taking photos of our readers with their books and will put that on display on our TV.

    The only thing I disagree with is the statement that ‘Bookworms send a negative image of reading’ – I still think they’re cute!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha! I’m sure there’s lots of stuff there that others would find controversial – and maybe things come across differently to different age groups or communities?? Definitely so signs of bookworms in our boys’ high library 😉


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