Libraries should engage readers and provide high-quality, high-interest, fascinating materials. A good library could be organized like a good bookstore—trying to sell books to readers. And the librarian is such a key person in the school in guiding students according to their interests, not their levels. The librarian may recommend books that are especially good for a particular age group or even for individual children that the literacy team is working with based on what they know about the books and the readers. We believe that choice is a really important part of going to the library and using the library. It’s at the heart of what it means to become a confident reader. If you have an opportunity to choose what you read, and then to talk about it with others, maybe to draw and write about it, it builds your sense of yourself as a reader and your self-efficacy as a reader. That’s where confidence really begins.
How do educators create a society of readers? It’s not by restricting reading to an accepted range of Lexile levels or only books that have a quiz attached to them. Reading levels can be a useful tool to assist in guiding a child to the right book for them, but when those numbers become the only determining factor of what is acceptable to read, we have a problem. School librarians, especially those in the elementary and middle school level, are often pushed either by administrators or classroom teachers to label all of their books with Accelerated Reader (AR) levels. Then students are told to pick books that have AR quizzes so that they receive credit for reading and are eligible for prizes or rewards. A friend recently told me that students in her elementary school would come to their check-out time, go quickly to their AR leveled section of the collection, grab a book off the shelf without looking at it or reading the blurb, and check it out. The goal wasn’t to find a book they might enjoy reading, it was to find a book they could take a quiz on so they could meet a reading goal.