I read sometime last spring about this idea of Read It Forward programs–in the case I read about, the library planted multiple copies of a single title around campus, with the idea that the books would be read and then passed along to other students, creating a Common Read experience in a more informal, organic way than assigning it. I loved this idea, and then in talking with colleagues multiple times over the summer and this fall, we came up with our own twist on it, described as follows (this is copied from our library blog):
Middle school English and Reading teachers have been asking students to bring in a copy of a book they loved to give away. The morning announcements this past week included this:
What book made you laugh, cry, or a little of both? What book changed your life? What book would you most like to share with other kids? Please bring a copy (used or new, doesn’t matter which) of a book you loved and that you are willing to give away, and give it to your English or Reading teacher by October 15.
So, what are we up to?
A few things, actually!
1. First, we want to continue celebrating the Middle School’s love of reading (last year, we did this with Mad Millions). Our vision is to have every student bring a beloved book to share with other Collegiate students. These books will get a “Read It Forward” sticker for the front, and then as each student reads the book, they will add their name to a list in the back. After 10 years of working in the library, I know that there is no more powerful recommendation for a book than someone, especially a peer, saying, “I LOVED that book!” With this program, we hope to really encourage this sharing among peers.
2. But it doesn’t stop there! The most significant aspect of this project will come at the end of the school year. We haven’t yet decided exactly where the books will go (it will depend in part on how many we have! we might need to have multiple recipients!), but we do know that they will go to kids who don’t have the access to great books that our kids have.
Whenever we “weed” books from our library collection (books that we don’t need any more in our collection), we give them away to other schools or to Better World Books. This is important, and I’m confident the books are useful to those who receive them. But it occurred to me that so often, our donations are books that are outdated. What if we were donating the best books, the ones that are still loved and popular? They don’t have to be shiny new, in perfect condition. They can be worn and well loved! The idea is that, in spite of the condition of the book on the outside, the power comes from the fact that this is a book that a middle school student chose as one of their favorites, one they wanted to share.
Let’s Read It Forward!
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My vision is for every kid to donate a book–right now, that is looking like it might be a bit lofty! But I’m curious to see what does happen, and how it all pans out.