How many times have you wished you had the power to change your school’s summer reading program? Well, maybe you do! I had all but given up on making major changes to the long list (250+ titles) that had been in place for years, but when there was a shift in the English department leadership, I jumped at the opportunity to suggest some significant changes in the list and the program.

In my first few years here, I had only managed to add a few contemporary YA titles. I also tried to move away from the paper-consuming process of printing a multi-page list for every one of our 700 students by creating a goodreads account with just the summer reading titles. It was a well-received shift and created a better visual impact – especially the “cover view” option – and also allowed for students to search for a book by genre and other tags. The paper version had been sorted alphabetically by title, with no other information except the author given. Goodreads was an improvement, but seemed like a tiny one. What I really wanted was to give students and teachers a place and time to talk books; for students to see that reading is a lifelong habit; that reading can actually be fun; AND that teachers read things that they don’t necessary teach about! To me, the writing prompt that had been used for years as a schoolwide assessment was unnecessary at best, and a hindrance to getting kids to read for pleasure, at worst.

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As librarians, one of our most basic goals is to get people reading. Here in Fresno County we have statistics thrown at us daily reminding us of what a challenge this basic goal can be. High school graduation rates? Some of the lowest in the state. Poverty levels? Some of the lowest in the country. And yes, we have more than your average number of teens incarcerated.

One place where incarcerated young men are sent is the Elkhorn Correctional Facility Boot Camp. The cadets there must embrace a traditional military lifestyle, including physical training, discipline and drill; but it also acts as a school, featuring stress education, leadership building courses, positive decision making and self-accountability. We also have a library there. Read More →