Reading for fun is important!

Middle school student in the library reading a book.School is a place to learn to read and also to read to learn. Students begin learning letters and sounds and by the time they are through the primary grades they are reading longer passages and beginning to understand that reading is a skill they will need in all subject areas. Sometimes students begin to feel frustrated when they can’t keep up or the content begins to be challenging. Guess what helps with instructional reading skills and even improving test scores? Pleasure reading. Reading for fun! Reading without purpose, choosing their own material, and engaging with books that are not even assigned is all part of pleasure reading. And guess where students can access pleasure reading materials and also have an expert to help them find books they want to read? You guessed it! The school library. The school library is a safe place without any assessments or assignments where students are free to choose books that speak to them.

Reading Unbound by Michael Smith and Jeffrey Wilhelm shares many research studies that show that students need exposure and opportunities for pleasure reading. “Pleasure reading is a more powerful predictor than even parental socioeconomic status and educational attainment” (Wilhelm). It is our job as teacher librarians to promote pleasure reading to all students and work to provide them with a diverse collection of materials to support them.This builds lifelong readers but also builds better students and lifelong learners.

Students reading a book in the library.

What does this look like in Vancouver Public Schools? As teacher librarians, we work hard to encourage students, inspire readers, and develop collections where students can see themselves and also learn about others. Teacher librarians, with help from our clerks, purchase and process materials that are new and exciting for our students, build displays and bulletin boards, do book talks, and talk with students about great reading choices that support reading just for fun. You can find literature clubs, Battle of the Books teams, student book reviews, special collections, and even book “tastings” at all different levels in our schools. And you will also find a teacher librarian, with a clerk by their side, smiling as they add new books this fall that they just know students will love. 

You can learn more about the benefits of pleasure reading here:

The Benefits of Reading for Pleasure

How Reading for Pleasure Helps Students Develop Academically

Reading for pleasure — a door to success

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Pleasure Reading


Working to help all VPS students be “Future Ready” one library at a time!

by Traci Chun | Teacher Librarian | Skyview High School

Students working with on iPads at Alki Middle School.You may have heard the term “Future Ready” or thought about what schools are doing to help support students for future careers and industries. Future Ready Schools is a national effort to provide students with digital learning opportunities and help move school districts toward preparing students for success in college, community and careers. Future Ready Schools provides districts with resources and support to help align technology and digital learning plans with best instructional practices. The goal is to inspire and guide educators to create personalized learning experiences for all students. Vancouver Public Schools has signed the Future Ready Pledge and is honored to be a part of the network of educators from all across the country.

But what is a Future Ready library and how are teacher librarians involved?

Part of the Future Ready Schools program is designed especially for librarians! School librarians lead, teach and support the Future Ready goals of our district including curriculum support, instructional support, as well as managing technology. Teacher librarians in Vancouver Public School are excited to be leading others in collaboration, empowerment, and advocacy for all students. By following the Future Ready Librarian framework, teacher librarians are able to design innovative lessons, provide instructional support for classroom teachers, and work on building a program to support digital learning opportunities. Future Ready libraries are more than providing resources and innovative projects; they are about providing support for educators so our students are ready for anything the future may hold!

Check out Future Ready Schools for more information on the Future Ready movement in libraries or to check out the framework that is guiding our work.

Find innovation in your library

by Traci Chun | Teacher Librarian | Skyview High School

Shh! Shh! Shh!  Gone are the days of the library being a silent space filled with books and a shushing librarian. Today’s libraries are filled with technology, innovation, learning, and yes, books. As information is shared globally with only a few keystrokes, the need for a library and a librarian is greater now than ever.

Students reading and working on robots in the library!In VPS, our libraries are staffed with teacher librarians; many who taught in classrooms before completing graduate programs in librarianship. In addition to developing and maintaining a library collection of books, our teacher librarians also manage curriculum and the circulation of iPads. They collaborate with teachers to teach information literacy skills, digital citizenship, and inquiry-based learning. Teacher librarians provide students with innovative learning experiences to support and enhance standards and projects in all subject areas. Often times it is in the library where students get their first opportunity to test out new tools adopted by the district. Spheros, BreakoutEDU, and Hummingbird robotics are some examples of innovation that have been making appearances in libraries at all levels.

Libraries will always be havens for readers and learners seeking out a safe place to study or learn new information. Books and literacy will always be the heart of a library. However, libraries are evolving to meet the needs of our students and to rise to the challenge of supporting future ready students and graduates. This means incorporating technology, new instructional strategies, and literature for an exciting library space.

Check out @VPSLibraries on Instagram to get a glimpse of exciting things happening in your student’s library. New photos from all levels will post periodically. We doubt you will find a “shushing librarian” in our photos but you will see exciting learning spaces and opportunities for all students!

Battle of the Books creates powerful readers

Battle of the Books by Eric Bindewald | Teacher Librarian | Sacajawea Elementary School

Marshall accidentally “buzzed in” due to the adrenaline rush that took control of his pointer finger. Teammates turned to Marshall with bated breath while he stared at the emcee as though he was just caught peeing in the library.  The five seconds of silence seemed like an eternity. As each second passed, Marshall’s expression repeatedly screamed, “I DIDN’T PUSH THAT BUTTON!”  

The emcee broke the silence, “Well, I can’t repeat the question since you buzzed in before I finished. But, I will need you to give me an answer.” For the next ten seconds, the emcee, spectators, Marshall’s teammates and competitors all replayed the first nine words of the question in their minds, “In the book Pax, why did Pax chase Runt…”

Marshall was on fire that day, and he wasn’t going to let an ill-timed finger-twitch stop his team from securing a spot in the school’s championship battle.  As though he wrote the question himself, Marshall answered, “Because Bristle gets irritated with Runt when he is around Pax.” The emcee’s jaw hit the floor… Marshall answered correctly!  The library erupted with cheers.

This was a scene from one of the weekly Battle of the Books matches at Sacajawea Elementary. Marshall’s team eventually went on to win the school’s championship battle and compete in the Vancouver School District battle at the downtown location of the Fort Vancouver Regional Library. While such intense moments may not be commonplace during a school’s regular season battles, the district championship is always filled with such moments.

The Battle of the Books program is one tool that Teacher Librarians at both the elementary and secondary levels use to meet the goal of turning students into powerful readers.  One student named Ryan began his fifth grade year with fall iReady literacy scores at a beginning third grade level. He wanted to join a Battle of the Books team to compete against his brother.  Like all battle contestants, Ryan was accountable to his teammates to read a minimum of four books from the battle book list. He read his minimum, and many more. Ryan ended the regular season as one of the top five point scorers at his school.  Even more impressive, his spring iReady literacy scores were all at benchmark. What?!?! Two and a half grade levels in a single school year?!?! When asked how he did it, Ryan replied, “Being on a Battle of the Books team made me want to read all the books on the list.  The more books I read, the better I got at it.” Ryan’s personal testimony provides anecdotal support to research studies that show a correlation between time spent reading and reading achievement gains.

School’s throughout the district have numerous students who join battle teams because of the competitive aspect.  The battle participants revel in the competition and the cheers from spectators. And like school sports teams, battle teams focus on teamwork and sportsmanship.  Whatever the reason a student joins a team… these readers become more powerful!

If you happen to see any of the 2018 Truman Elementary Trailblazers battle team, be sure to tell them congratulations on their district championship.  And, when you happen to see your Teacher Librarians, tell them you support their efforts to keep making powerful readers.