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Home > RHI > Reaching Reluctant Readers > Ten Ways to Build a Reluctant Reader Library

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1. Ask young adults (YAs): What do you think?

Incorporating teen advice lends peer credibility to selections and should increase turnover. Form a YA advisory board to gain input about their reading interests. If your YA advisory board is merely embryonic, you can ask teenaged volunteers and teenaged staff to help breathe life into your collection. Create evaluation opportunities by “walking and talking” the YA shelves with teens. If teens seem hesitant to weigh in, hand these coy advisors a pack of sticky notes and a couple of publishers’ catalogs, then ask them to highlight titles that look interesting.

2. Include books that reflect pop culture.

Teens become reading advocates when books can enhance their social conversation: an instant messaging (IM) discussion of the latest buzz in the entertainment world provides an easy connection with friends. As a book selector, make time to track teen trends. Don’t order books reflecting outdated interests; appeal to their desire for all things new or current. Hip Hoptionary by Alonzo Westbrook; So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star by Jacob Slichter; and Masters of Doom by David Kushner are fun, hip titles that will keep your teens edgy and current.

3. Select alternate formats.

Mix things up with manga; audiobooks; e-books; zines; magazines; school newspapers; teen news media—anything without a library binding! Clay Aiken’s Learning to Sing is available as an e-book and as an audiobook, as is Star Wars: The Dark Nest III: The Swarm War. In fact, many titles are only available as e-books that can be downloaded to electronic devices. Top priority for teens is, has been, and always will be the coolness factor; connecting teens with information and stories via the latest technology is guaranteed to raise their coolness ratings.

4. Read. Read. Read.

Be the go-to gal (or guy) for good literature! Keep on top of the titles by reading the newest and hottest books to hit the stores. If you don’t know the content, you cannot enthusiastically pitch a book to an already-uninterested teen. It’s the old book-talking standard: “You can’t sell a book that you don’t like yourself.” Read all genres, even those that are not your usual interest, so that you are well prepared to make a variety of recommendations for these diverse readers. If you can’t put down a fast-paced love story like The Man Who Ate the 747 by Ben Sherwood [an American Library Association (ALA) Alex Award winner), you know library patrons will get swept into the tale as well.

5. Pair movie titles and books.

Check sources such as the Yahoo! Movies website for what’s on the burner in Hollywood. When you find a cool movie/book tie-in, think merchandising. For example, the buzz right now is that Batman II is in the works. “Merchandise” your Batman collection with face-outs featuring DVDs; video games; graphic novels; and books such as Batman Inferno, Batman Begins, and the Batman Beyond series. Your teen advisory committee or local high school art club may want to create signage featuring a slogan such as Will there be a Batman II in theaters? You decide at your library! Consider offering programming in which multiple copies of movie-inspired books are distributed; a few weeks later, ask readers to reconvene to watch the movie and compare formats and presentations. Another tie-in to consider is Eragon, which has a related movie release scheduled for this winter. In addition, with the expected release of the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie in Summer 2007, new books such as Pirate’s Passage and classics such as Treasure Island would make a great foundation for any collection that covers pirates.

6. Be their connection for addictive series.

Introduce your hesitant readers to can’t-quit series that keep them coming back for more. Offer girls The Princess Diaries (available through Random House as an e-book or audiobook) and Megan McCafferty’s Sloppy Firsts [included in the New York Public Library’s Books for the Teen Age 2002 and designated as one of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) Best Books for Young Adults]. Push a guy-friendly series by Jeff Stone or David Eddings. For nonfiction fans, try National Geographic’s American Documents series.

7. Poetry, plays, prose, chat-style books, short stories, essays -- give them a book that they didn’t know counted as a book.

Variety spices up every book rack, so revive a neglected collection by replacing low-circulating monographs with literature that breaks up the traditional book format. Add short stories, such as Dan Chaon’s Among the Missing (named as one of the YALSA Best Books for Young Adults), and anthologies, such as Short Stories by Latin American Women: The Magic and the Real and Short Shorts: An Anthology of the Shortest Stories. Poetry 180 (edited by Billy Collins); Cool Salsa (edited by Lori Carlson); Alice Walker’s Absolute Trust in the Goodness of the Earth; and The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou are poetic works friendly to shorter attention spans. Completing the last page of an exciting book -- of any genre -- empowers and inspires teens who otherwise have difficulty following a story through to the end.

8. Collect new nonfiction.

Many reluctant readers will never consider reading a novel, and therefore nonfiction is often more appealing. Nonfiction is generally visual; thus it can help reluctant readers make the connection between an idea and the written word. If an entire book is intimidating, readers can browse through and read only sections that interest them. Connecting teen hobbies to appropriate titles is aided by the nature of nonfiction categorization. Pat Conroy’s My Losing Season (an ALA Alex Award--winning title; T.R. Reid’s The Chip: How Two Americans Invented the Microchip and Launched a Revolution (an Editor's Choice for Young Adults by Booklist); and Jon Katz’s Geeks: How Two Lost Boys Rode the Internet Out of Idaho (one of the YALSA Outstanding Books for the College Bound) are excellent titles to include in your collection. In addition, in September 2006, look for Osprey Publishing’s graphic-novel series covering individual wars and battles, a series geared specifically to the YA set.

9. Rotate your collection frequently.

Teens’ interests and tastes change quickly. A newer, fresher-looking collection is more engaging and interesting than the same thing every day. To ensure access to new titles for rotation, buy fewer titles but buy more frequently. Rotating books also allows you to make the most of the space you have. Feature new books in face-forward displays, and store older titles that circulate infrequently. Teens’ senses will be delighted by shelves of attractive books coupled with shiny, new face-outs. Stay current on the latest titles by signing up for the Random House High School e-newsletter at www.randomhouse.com/highschool/newsletter.

10. Visit publisher websites to request exam copies.

Searching for an easy way to familiarize yourself with the latest in teen literature? Many publishers offer educators the opportunity to obtain discounted exam copies of titles that are being considered for purchase. Visit www.randomhouse.com/highschool for more information on and requirements for obtaining exam copies.

Suggested Reading

Hip Hoptionary™: The Dictionary of Hip Hop Terminology by Alonzo Westbrook

Star Wars Dark Nest III: The Swarm War by Troy Denning

Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture by David Kushner

Learning to Sing: Hearing the Music in Your Life by Clay Aiken and Allison Glock

The Man Who Ate the 747 by Ben Sherwood

Batman™ Inferno by Alex Irvine

Batman Begins™ by Dennis O'Neil

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Pirate's Passage by William Gilkerson

The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Sloppy Firsts: A Novel by Megan McCafferty

The Malloreon: Volume One, Guardians of the West King of the Murgos Demon Lord of Karanda by David Eddings

American Documents: The Constitution by Paul Finkelman

American Documents: The Emancipation Proclamation by Marianne McComb

American Documents: The Bill of Rights by Judith Lloyd Yero

American Documents: The Declaration of Independence by Judith Lloyd Yero

Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry edited and with an Introduction by Billy Collins

Cool Salsa by Lori Carlson

Short Stories by Latin American Women: The Magic and the Real by Celia Correas Zapata

Short Shorts: An Anthology of the Shortest Stories edited by Irving Howe

The Chip: How Two Americans Invented the Microchip and Launched a Revolution by T.R. Reid

Geeks: How Two Lost Boys Rode the Internet Out of Idaho by Jon Katz