Student library assistants play a vital role in the efficiency and success of a school library; they become champions for reading and, in the process, can build self-confidence and social skills.
If your student library assistants seem a little disengaged, or you’re struggling to get students to sign up, this article is for you. Here we explore strategies to effectively engage your helpers and provide them with meaningful experiences beyond basic book scanning.
According to the National Literacy Trust, one in 15 children does not own a single book, and the same research found one in five children struggle to read and write.
Reading brings joy, builds self-esteem, improves vocabulary, promotes confidence and security and supports overall academic performance. Data from Welldoing found 66% of primary school children suffer from anxiety, so you should encourage children who suffer from anxiety, struggle in social situations, find reading difficult, or, of course, those that generally show an interest in books, to become school library helpers.
As you know, your school environment has always been the perfect place to nurture a love of reading. It allows students to make new friends, reap some rewards, and improve their self-confidence and academic abilities. So how can you better engage them?
“Find out their likes and strengths and give them tasks you know they will like doing—things like tidying up, sticking barcodes on, and designing shelves.
“You can also get them to act as champions to promote reading initiatives or events around the school with their peers. But remember to reward them too, including early lunches and house points.” — Annette Jones, Learning Resources Administration Manager, Rougemont School
Here are five ideas to help you engage your library helpers:
Get your helpers to wrap up their favourite book in parchment paper and write their own blurb on the front cover encouraging other students to read the book. This promotes creative writing and allows them to share their favourite books with others.
Reading to other pupils can help student library helpers push a love of reading across the school. Ensure children are matched with lower-ability readers so it’s not too daunting. This scheme gets children out of class and gives them an important responsibility — to pass on their love of reading.
If you implement a reader of the week prize, you can give them out in assemblies with the help of your student library helpers. They can take turns supporting you by giving weekly prizes including things like early lunch tokens, books, or bookmarks.
Help your student library assistants contact local authors, parents or other guest readers for reading events. This can help build confidence when talking to others outside of the school environment. Get them involved in the choosing of guest readers to help pique their interest further.
Representation matters, and so does respecting other world holidays and religions. For example, Yom Kippur is coming up in September, so consider creating a section of your library dedicated to changing themes — other ideas include mental health week, shark awareness week, international friendship day etc. Encourage your helpers to take charge of this section for holidays and events personal to them, and display books associated with the theme.
Giving your helpers repeated tasks helps give structure to their duties. Natasha Stevenson, Library and Accelerated Reader Manager at The Hazeley Academy says: “[our library helpers’] first task is always to reshelve books and make sure the library is in order. We like to give them different tasks each working from book preparation, using the ‘Accelerated Reader bookfinder’ to ensure books have the correct information. We are a small team so the work, so they do is invaluable and integral to keep the library running smoothly.”
“[our library helpers’] first task is always to reshelve books and make sure the library is in order. We like to give them different tasks each working from book preparation, using the ‘Accelerated Reader bookfinder’ to ensure books have the correct information. We are a small team so the work, so they do is invaluable and integral to keep the library running smoothly.”- Natasha Stevenson, Library and Accelerated Reader Manager at The Hazeley Academy
Rewarding your library helpers doesn’t have to cost much; recognising their achievements by throwing an end-of-term ‘thank you’ party with the headteacher or deputy headteacher can make student library helpers feel they’ve contributed positively.
Other ways you can reward your student library helpers:
“We open the library just for helpers on Friday lunchtimes. They can bring their lunch and spend some time together, a bit like VIPs.” - Frances Patterson, School Librarian at Monks Walk School
Our online reading community gives students a voice. They can review books, recommend titles to others, and take part in reading challenges, all through a simplistic digital library interface.
Train your library helpers and empower them to not only help others navigate the resource but encourage them to lead by example, reviewing their favourite titles, taking ownership of reading challenges, and guiding students to similar books based on past reads.