The books that most delight middle school and junior high readers often straddle a “Middle Kingdom” ranging from upper middle grade to YA. Bookology columnist Lisa Bullard regularly visits the Middle Kingdom by viewing it through the eyes of a teacher or librarian. Bookology is delighted to celebrate the work of these educators who have built vital book encampments in the transitional territory of early adolescence.
This journey takes us to Albuquerque Academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where Lisa talks with librarian Jade Valenzuela.
Lisa: What are three to five things our blog readers should know about your community, school, or library/media center?
Jade: Our school library is a large, multi-functional space with over 140,000 items and is a place students can come before, during and after school to study or have class, and to just hang out!
Lisa: What recent changes or new elements are affecting the work you do with students?
Jade: New school schedule, implementing a laptop program at the school, using new technologies like LibGuides and digital tools have changed the way I work with students, the latter in a very positive way.
Lisa: What five books (or series) are checked out most often by your middle school students?
Jade: Comic books like FoxTrot by Bill Amend. In the past couple of years, Dork Diaries by Rachel Renee Russell, Divergent by Veronica Roth, the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, and Rick Riordan books. John Green, too.
Lisa: What book(s) do you personally love to place into middle school students’ hands?
Jade: Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy – one of my personal favorites that most kids haven’t heard of, but all love it after they read it. I love going through the shelves with students, talking with them about what they have read and what they would like to read and then I offer suggestions based on what they say. It is a very personalized process, and I just love to get students reading something they are interested in.
Lisa: What do you like most about working with middle schoolers?
Jade: The energy and enthusiasm. It can be exhausting sometimes, but I love seeing them light up and get excited about books and reading.
Lisa: Could you share some information about your most popular/successful/innovative program for promoting books and reading?
Jade: I do booktalks with middle grades, so I meet with classes and get to share books that I like and want to recommend. Our lower division also brings students up to the library for Independent Reading hours, where students just pick books and sit and read, and I am available to help them pick. Lots of books get checked out on these days! I also sometimes do displays to promote books.
Lisa: How have books or other things changed for Middle Kingdom readers during your time as a librarian?
Jade: I have definitely noticed a shift toward digital media, not necessarily for reading, but just for everything – playing video games, watching YouTube, etc., seems to have taken over for many students as their favorite hobby. It is always interesting to me to see the trends, especially in my own community. One year, manga may be all the rage, then dystopian, then realistic. It is really interesting and hard to predict. Keeps me on my toes!
Lisa: What do you want your students to remember about your library in ten years?
Jade: I want them to remember it as a place they liked to come to, welcoming and safe, where they could find what they needed, get help, and leave happy.