Happy snowy Friday! I hope you got to enjoy the little bit of warmth and sunshine we got earlier this week – we’ve almost made it through February and we can anticipate longer, warmer days coming soon. Have an extra cup of tea or cocoa today and hang in there!


I bet you’ve experienced this: a parent approaches your desk with a fidgety, uncomfortable-looking child in tow and says, “Can you help her find a book for independent reading?” You ask the child what she’s looking for, and she avoids eye contact, mumbling, “I don’t read”. 

Challenge accepted.

Kids may not see themselves as readers for a variety of reasons. They may struggle with reading difficulties and have feelings of failure, shame and exclusion associated with books. They may not have been read to by the adults in their lives and lack the experience of immersion in a shared story. They may be burned out on reading titles that they didn’t get to choose themselves. As librarians, we have the opportunity to give every child a positive, non-judgmental path to a book that just might light a fire in them. 

You won’t always have the opportunity to build a relationship before being called on to recommend a book, but by turning the conversation to the things that the child does love you can gather some clues. Ask about favorite hobbies, characters, games and other interests that make them unique. Would they prefer to escape into a fantasy, be creeped out by horror, or empathize with someone going through similar real life events? You won’t sell a kid on a book by making them feel like it’s something they “should” enjoy. If you demonstrate that you respect their opinions and preferences and work hard to find a book that fits just right, you model the ways in which books, stories and literature serve our lives, not the other way around.

Through your conversations with young patrons, you can also help them develop their ability to articulate what they like. Become familiar with vocabulary to describe stories, and practice applying it to your own reading (you may get better at pinning down your own tastes as well!) Olga Nesi calls these terms “appeal factors” while Novelist uses the word “story elements”. This is a great guide to review to build your own arsenal of descriptors.

I often share with kids my own experience of going through a period of being unenthusiastic about reading because I kept trying to pick up bestsellers that just weren’t for me. It took trial and error for me to learn that I prefer realistic fiction with deep character development that makes me look at my world from a new angle (and humor is a plus). It is good for kids to see that even the most voracious readers don’t love every book, and that there is nothing wrong with them if they haven’t found their niche yet – and being there to support them while they find it is a tremendous privilege. 

When I think I’ve found a book that a kid will like, before I check it out to them, I look them in the eye and say “If you hate this, I want you to bring it right back and tell me why, so we can find you something that’s a better fit. If you love it, I want you to come right back and tell me why, so we can find more!” 

Here are some resources for helping readers of all ages find the right books for them and build a reading habit:

A simple introduction to appeal factors and how to dig into what a reader liked about a given story

A few titles to keep in your back pocket if you suspect that traditional text is not the best fit for a child (also keep in mind novels in verse and graphic novels)

Great tips, whether you’re getting back into reading or building a reading practice for the first time


BookRiot is keeping up with developing book challenges around the country, and this is a useful compilation of updates and concrete suggestions of how to help. 


Intimidated by TikTok? …*raises hand* 

Let’s face it – teens are on TikTok, and if your library isn’t you are missing a way to put your services in front of them and connect with what they care about. This blog post will give you a bit more information to help you decide whether to give it a try. If your library is already using TikTok, please hit me up because I would love to feature you in a future Roundup!


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