There’s a certain symmetry about 2013. The calendar won’t have any of the pretty patterns of the last 12 years like 12/12/12 but 20 + 13 = 33 and if you convert 2013 seconds, you get 33 minutes, 33 seconds! Just perfect for a reading challenge that will follow on neatly from the National Year of Reading 2012 and keep the library at the hub of reading in your school.
Challenge both staff and students to read for 33 minutes, 33 seconds as a whole-school session to kick off a year of reading for this time on at least 13 occasions during the school year. Given the Australian academic year of 40 weeks, that’s about once every three weeks of trackable, traceable opportunities that can show your school is doing its bit to try to improve those global reading rankings. Invite the local media along to the kickstart so the word is spread and there is a sense of accountability to continue. Formally schedule those 13 sessions into the school’s program, perhaps instead of an assembly or pastoral care session, so that they are must-do events that everyone, including staff, participates in.
Use the challenge to reach out and show those who think that because Internet access is so easy, books in libraries are not necessary that they still have a very real place in the education of our young. The format may vary but story is as old as humanity.
Have the students help you organise 13 Literary Luncheons and invite prominent community members, particularly political candidates in this election year, to come to read aloud to the students. Make each session for a target age or interest group rather than aiming for one-size-fits-all each time. (Offer to help them with selecting an appropriate title, and prepare a tips’n'tricks sheet with suggestions for successful reading aloud because it can be daunting for the uninitiated.)
Introduce students to new titles, authors, genres, and series that they might like to explore and challenge them to try 13 somethings that they haven’t tried before. Devise ways for them to share their new discoveries with their friends. Get them talking and writing beyond the library’s walls about what they’re doing.
Help students track their individual 33.33 sessions with a catchy slogan, an online or print record, and a certificate to acknowledge their efforts. Make their efforts achievable, visible and valued. Hold a celebration presentation and invite the media to that too.
Schedule 13 newsletter or blog posts that inform parents about the challenge, about how to support reading at home, about titles, authors, series and genres that their child might like, about anything that connects the library to the learning of their child.
Start 2013 with a focused, structured plan that immediately puts the library at the hub of the school for the year – it will spread like ripples in a pond. And share your ways of building on 33.33 and 13 so we can all learn from each other!