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Building a Culture of Reading

Building a Culture of Reading
Amelia Herring, Middle School Librarian; Emma Johnson, Upper School Librarian; & Dana Sly, Library Director

One of the things that most impressed me when I started at Dana Hall this fall was how actively our patrons use the Helen Temple Cooke Library for pleasure and recreation as well as research. This is, of course, no accident, but rather the result of intentional, embedded efforts on behalf of our library staff to build and cultivate a true love of reading.

As a member of the Greater Boston Cooperative Library Association (GBCLA), a consortium of peer independent school libraries, the Helen Temple Cooke Library shares a digital collection of eBooks with other independent schools in the area. Usage statistics are taken monthly, and Dana Hall is consistently the #1 user of the GBCLA eBook collection by a wide margin — a ranking we have maintained all school year so far! Our impressive library use isn’t limited to eBook use either; Dana Hall library users actively use our physical collection as well. Over the past year, patrons of the Helen Temple Cooke Library checked out our renewed library materials over 15,000 times — more than double the amount for our peer independent schools!

How do we achieve such impressive circulation? By embedding intentional programming and initiatives throughout a student’s career at Dana Hall that are designed to cultivate and inspire a love of reading.

Ms. Amelia Herring, our Middle School Librarian, regularly meets with students in the Middle School to discuss reading for fun and to provide personalized recommendations. Ms. Emma Johnson, our Upper School Librarian, visits English classrooms with carts full of carefully selected books for “book talks,” spotlighting each book with a brief pitch in order to connect students with their latest read. And every other year, the library runs our “Read the World” initiative, during which students are provided a passport and encouraged to read a book by an author from every continent, plus books relating to space. Filling these passports with stamps is not only fun, it encourages our students to expand their horizons and discover new authors.

Student reads Catcher in the Rye inside the Helen Temple Cooke Library

In addition to classroom programming, reading is also celebrated through annual events such as the Book Fair and the annual Summer Reading List. Each Spring, our librarians coordinate with faculty to select enticing books for every grade level for summer reading assignments and publish the Summer Reading List, a booklet containing synopses for each book designed to help students select which books they’d like to read. At the Book Fair, students can shop the summer reading list selections (courtesy of our local independent booksellers at Wellesley Books) and take home their books of choice. This year the library has also added our Winter-tastic Book Fair, a free event featuring books that have been donated or removed from the library collection, student-designed posters, and fun items like pencils and stickers. By hosting events designed to get students excited about reading, we continue to cultivate positive associations with reading for pleasure.

Through regular programming and events designed to celebrate reading, the librarians at Dana Hall continue to foster a lifelong relationship with books among our students. But programming can only go so far, and our remarkably high circulation statistics are just as much a testament to the Dana Hall community and its joyful and enduring embrace of reading as a core part of our community culture.