Building Readers in a Pandemic

Online learning is the reality of education as we know it in 2020. While I sit at home, devouring books, I can’t help worrying about whether or not my students will want to do the same come fall. We no longer have the luxury of physically putting books into the hands of our young readers, and that strikes many English teachers (myself included) with fear. As policies change surrounding the Coronavirus, it’s important to start adapting our classroom library to reflect online or socially distanced in-class learning.

Ripp explains a few approaches to altering our classroom libraries around COVID-19 on her website. I loved seeing her suggestions for in class modifications, like a “used” book cart where read books can be sanitized before returning to the shelves. I also like the idea of providing students with Clorox wipes as they browse, though I can see the cost issues this might cause. Perhaps, though, what I get most excited about are book talk videos.

Throughout this semester with Dr. Kajder, I really looked forward to weekly book talks that always left me with plenty of ideas to add on my “To Be Read” list. One of the most effective ways we have to get students reading is by generating excitement about a title on our own accord.

There are a number of ways to make these videos fun and casual, something easy for students to return to when they aren’t sure what they want to read. It reminds me of the shelf-talkers I used to get so excited to write when I finished a book while I was still working as a bookseller at Avid Bookshop. Word of mouth is a powerful thing, and when we can tell students what we are reading in ways that engage them, we making reading more approachable and comfortable, especially in a time marked with distancing and uncertainty.

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