Saturday, September 20, 2008

Answers to that pesky junior high question....

I conducted a workshop with Grand Prairie and Irving ISD librarians and a question came up that I wasn't so sure I could answer. First, I should say that I have worked in a library that was both junior high and high school, but it was a 1-A school, so I knew all the kids. It's different in a bigger school.
The question? How do you keep the books that eighth graders from getting into the hands of the sixth graders where a possible censorship case could develop? Well, after thinking about it, I knew this was a difficult question. We as librarians should not censor, but then again, as educators, we have to make the best possible choices for our students. So my answer to them was, "I'm not really sure. But here are some possible solutions."
1. Booktalk specific books just for sixth graders. They're coming out of a reading environment filled with series books, and if you find some really good books from authors they'd enjoy in sixth grade, the possibility of them checking out books by those same authors are bound to follow, even if they aren't series books.
2. Create and excel spreadsheet of books that are amazing for sixth grade and throw these around the library - on the top of shelves, on the magazine rack, on the circ desk. I do this at my high school and it's amazing what kinds of little notes are put on them by the end of the year. It's quite fun and I can see student recommendations of which books they've loved.
3. Do NOT think that lists, either state or national, will be the perfect fit for this age group! They are there as recommendations only - and you must tailor them to fit.
4. And someone mentioned putting YA stickers on the books that are more appropriate for older readers so that you can gauge whether or not a sixth grader coming fresh out of elementary might enjoy and which may be beyond their maturity level. Excellent idea!

So, anything else out there I may have missed since I've been in the high school for the last eight years? I will say two things before signing off of this -
1. I still believe elementary librarians are the hardest working librarians in the public school system bar none; and
2. Junior high librarians are a very unique group I have high respect for because of what they may have to go through and the compromising they see everyday.

1 comment:

Bobcats Read at Travis Middle School said...

Hey, Naomi.

I'm the Irving librarian who talked about putting YA stickers on the books to help the kids choose books. I use them to mark realistic fiction which helps the kids as they are looking for their next great read. I explain to all of them (grades 6-8) what realistic fiction is and I let them decide if they are ready.

Middle school is a challenge in the library for the very reason that we do have to have materials for the most na├»ve of sixth graders to the most mature of 8th graders. Happily n Irving we have inter-library loan, so our kids can borrow books from all the IISD libraries—elementary through high school.

We very much enjoyed your Web 2.0 presentation and many of us have begun our blogs—some for the first time and some with more background in their personal lives. Check out mine—in it’s fledging stages—at

Amy Jensen
Travis Middle School Library
Irving, TX