Do You Have Any Good Books?

good-books-binCindy: So many of our middle school students walk in the library and ask this question: “Do you have any good books?” My flip comment to them is always, “No, we only buy bad books for the library…” and then I wait for them to laugh, but many of them just look disappointed and start to walk away until I fess up and tell them I am kidding and start my one-on-one readers advisory work to help them find a “good” book. But the repeated question gave us pause and so for years now we’ve dedicated one side of our Worden book display rack to a display labeled “GOOD BOOKS.” This is positioned near the entry door so it is in a high traffic zone. The display above the books also encourages students to find books on the shelves that they have read and liked and to add them to the display to recommend to others. It is fascinating to see what they add…far more classics than I often think to promote in my booktalks, sadly. This remains a very popular display and is a place where I add new books and also those gems that I love but don’t know how to booktalk. The students will check out almost anything if it is in this bin that proclaims it to be GOOD. 🙂

Lynn:  I’ve been out of “my” library for three years now but one of the things both Cindy and I noticed in the years before my position was eliminated (and she is still seeing) was the increase in the amount of reader’s advisory we were doing.  Our student populations were large and we both did quarterly booktalks for both the English and World Studies teachers.  Both of us noticed the increasing dependency on our recommendations by students.  In a way it was gratifying to think that we had established a trusting relationship with our students but in the long term we were concerned.  As we observed successive groups of 6th graders it dawned on us that many of our students did not have browsing skills and our large middle school collections overwhelmed them.  The ability/confidence/knowledge to look at the shelves and the library organization and locate a book was diminishing.  We are lucky to still have elementary librarians in our district but sadly they must now spend their time teaching technology skills in a lab.   They have little to no flexible time in the libraries with students.  There seem to be more and more students who don’t have a clue as to how to identify a book that might appeal to them.  If I had a dime for every student who said that the book one of us booktalked was the first book they every finished, I’d be building a house on the Loire as I write!   In far too many schools in far too many states there are no librarians at all.  Is it any wonder that more and more students are hungry for ways to help find that elusive “good book?”  Hats off to those of you still fighting the good fight and doing whatever you can to help kids despite overwhelming schedules and class-loads.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

6 Comments on "Do You Have Any Good Books?"

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  1. Angela.Craft@gmail.com' Angela says:

    I remember doing my internship duties and picking out a few titles to throw in the Good Books bin!

    Wil Wheaton shared an excerpt on his blog today about an inspiring librarian he had as a child. It made me think of all the wonderful work the two of you have done and continue to do!

  2. I hear your concerns. Just yesterday, an 8th grade student approached me during the class I teach asking if I had created a booklist for his English teacher’s Term 3 project. Another student said, “No, you can read anything.” He looked completely helpless at this point, and another kid chimed in with, “Yeah, can I see the list?” I confessed I was not asked to create a list, and then offered to do so after school. Both gentlemen stayed after school – on a Friday – while I compiled the list, pulled the books, and waited for them to make their selections. Readers’ advisory is definitely one of my most important tasks.
    By the way, I love your bin idea. May I borrow it?

  3. Angela–thank you. I needed that this week. And Kelly, I’m glad we are not alone and salute your efforts to provide RA for your students. Love that story. You are most welcome to use the Good Books Bin idea…that’s why we share those things here. Let us know how your students like it.

  4. bsawg@yahoo.com' Briar says:

    I get the same question and always give the same answer! Love this idea.

  5. ddungey@gmail.com' Danielle D. says:

    Cindy: What do you include in your “Good Books Bin”?

    -Danielle

  6. Danielle, I add new books and titles that I see as I pass through the library and want to bring attention to and ones I love but don’t know how to booktalk or promote otherwise. But, often it is the students who add books to the bin that they have read and want to promote with their classmates.

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