Creating a Culture of Reading

By Rafael Eaton, head librarian

The early 2010s were an awkward time for library science. I was going through graduate school, and in my required, more general classes, there was a leaning among my professors and working librarians toward an attitude of, “Not everyone is a reader of books, and that’s okay.” We were taught “up-to-the-moment” processes to educate others on different literacies—media, information, etc.—that would effectively create an informed citizenry. 

When I became the head librarian at LJCDS in 2018, I worked hard with my team to create a curriculum to scaffold these skills to prepare students for a rapidly changing world. Over the past five years, we have made many inroads by assisting with various classroom research processes, from third graders learning about continents to the eighth grade’s Facing History and Ourselves paper to Upper School students learning to use college-level databases. 

As we continued to work with wide swaths of our community, one trend became apparent: Those students who love reading are more successful in their research endeavors. They can find relevant information quicker, select topics meaningful to them, and quickly strategize and pivot when facing obstacles in the overall process. Reading is not only crucial for improving literacy and language skills, but it also plays a vital role in promoting research and critical thinking abilities.

The reading culture is thriving in Lower School. We have a strong program and a robust collection of books. We meet regularly with students to help them build their identities as readers. Our students’ enthusiasm and excitement for reading are palpable as they eagerly check out books during their library visits. 

We found that when students entered fifth grade, that visceral excitement shifts, and we’ve been working on designing a holistic program to keep students’ enthusiasm for reading through the middle years and beyond. We’ve allocated time for our fifth graders to independently visit the library more regularly. We’ve also begun to build a set of community norms for the 2023–2024 year with student leadership councils in all divisions to make the physical space welcome to all. Regular visitation and an open environment are paramount to maintaining the forward momentum students began in Lower School, which can sustain their love of reading through their later years.

When students—at every age—are encouraged to read regularly, they develop a love for learning and gain the ability to explore different topics, ideas and perspectives. A habit of reading helps them in their research abilities as they become more familiar with various genres, writing styles and formats. They become more adept at navigating a born-digital world, libraries, and databases for personal and academic gain and become skilled at identifying credible sources in their daily lives.

Creating a reading culture helps students develop critical thinking skills, which are essential for research. When students read a variety of texts, they learn to evaluate information and think more deeply about what they have read. They begin to ask thoughtful questions and explore topics from different angles

A love for reading is the foundation of lifelong learning. For our students to become capable researchers, we must encourage them to read widely and frequently. By doing so, they will develop the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in an ever-changing world.

Rafa Eaton
Rafa Eaton

Head Librarian

Knowing how to competently navigate and utilize a world of information is the key to creating well-informed global citizens. Rafa Eaton’s goal is to provide guidance to students’ independent learning and self-discovery through the library’s digital and physical programming.

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