The books that most delight middle school and junior high readers often straddle a “Middle Kingdom” ranging from upper middle grade to YA. Each month, Bookology columnist Lisa Bullard will visit 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 month’s journey takes us to Dartmouth Middle School in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, where Lisa talks with teacher librarian Laura Gardner.
Lisa: What are three to five things our blog readers should know about your community, school, or library/media center?
Laura: Our school library is busy. There are often three classes in at a time getting and reading books, doing research, creating multimedia projects using iPads/green screens. We have a game corner, lots of computers, the beginnings of a Makerspace, and space for collaborative work. All our students are required to have a free reading book at any given time and we are big believers in choice. Even our summer reading requirement involves choice.
Lisa: What five books (or series) are checked out most often?
Laura: Popular series this year include the Maze Runner and Eye of Minds series by James Dashner, everything by Sarah Dessen, the Spirit Animals series by Brandon Mull, and everything by Rick Riordan.
Lisa: What book(s) do you personally love to place into students’ hands?
Laura: I personally love to put good (sometimes sad) realistic fiction into kids’ hands. Some new favorites include Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (One for the Murphys was on our summer reading list last year and is very popular), Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff, Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan, Fourmile by Watt Key.
Lisa: What do you like most about working with middle school students?
Laura: Middle school students are the best! They change so much in the three years we have them, which I love. It’s so fun to see who they become by the time they leave us. Many of my students are often still comfortable being goofy on tech projects and I have lots of students who love to help out in the library. Here’s an article I wrote for SLJ on my student volunteer program.
Lisa: Could you share some information about your most popular/successful/innovative program for promoting books and reading?
Laura: Our summer reading program has been hugely successful over the last few years. Our students have a choice from 10–15 popular, fun books from four categories: realistic fiction, mysteries, historical fiction, and fantasy/science fiction. Our PTO and the district pay for the books and every student gets his/her choice before school ends. This summer we are even buying books for all the 7th and 8th grade teachers, and when we return in the fall we will have book club discussions for each book on the second day of school.