Winning kids over one book at a time

VITAL: Librarian Anne Chin set up the Beckenham School library in a classroom after it was destroyed by fire.
John Kirk-Anderson
VITAL: Librarian Anne Chin set up the Beckenham School library in a classroom after it was destroyed by fire.

In the age of the ebook and digital encyclopedia, one might wonder if libraries are obsolete.

However, modern librarians do more than simply file books - they are vital in helping children learn to love to read.

An American study has found that schools with fulltime librarians had better achievement levels than schools without.

"Some kids think reading is boring or hard, so you buy easier book titles or buy graphic novels," Fendalton Open Air School librarian Desna Wallace said.

Oaklands School librarian Trish Ward sometimes suggests books to children.

"For kids who find reading boring, you try to find a really good book and get them hooked. I've been known to keep some books in the cupboard for certain kids, especially the reluctant readers, and bring it out for them when they come in. I recently got some girls into Enid Blyton, and now all the kids just love [the books]. If you get the right books, they will read them."

Christchurch City Libraries and Information acting unit manager Pat Street said one of the most common librarian requests was from children looking for books to read.

"With some of the more popular authors or series such as Harry Potter, Zac Powers, [and] Rainbow Fairies, we can provide direct guidance to a particular book. We never run out of books to suggest."

Wallace, a school librarian for 15 years, said the job had changed by "leaps and bounds".

"Initially, it was the basic issuing and book returning. Occasionally the kids would come in to look at reference books."

Now pupils come to the library to use computers and iPads, not only for research but also to watch book trailers.

She often involves children in her book-buying decisions. "I say to the kids, 'Look at the trailer. Do you think I should buy the book?'

"I think schools need librarians because they get to know the children and talk to [them]. I get to know the kids from the time they start at age 5 until age 11. I have seen them develop their reading and when I buy books, I know exactly which child will like this.

"You have to think of individual kids and know where they are at with their reading levels."

Ward feels it is a librarian's job to make the library "really cool so children love to come".

Librarians continue to matter in further education. University of Canterbury librarian Coral Black said university librarians worked with academics to teach students how to navigate and evaluate the available information.

The Press