by G.L. Cronin
Want to add more leadership opportunities for students? Consider the school library to encourage student involvement.
Make it a privilege to participate: In our junior high school, only incoming eighth graders may become library leaders. Interested students must complete a form stating why they want to be a library leader. Obtaining a teacher’s recommendation and agreeing to clearly stated expectations encourages them to take the volunteer work seriously.
Make it meaningful: Skip asking students to shelve books. Our library leaders correspond with the second-grade classrooms. The second graders write about their favorite books while the eighth graders recommend age-appropriate book titles. Toward the end of the school year, the library leaders take a field trip and visit the second-grade students. The eighth graders eat lunch with the second graders, provide read-alouds, and play book-related games. Library leaders leave “feeling like rock stars.”
Make it fun and social: Students enjoy writing letters, creating videos, and including pictures within their correspondence. They relish the opportunity to provide reading advice and encouragement. By meeting in the library at lunchtime, students can chat more easily with their fellow leaders.
Make it easy: All volunteer activities can be completed within one lunch period. The once-per-month meeting feels manageable for busy students. In addition to writing letters, library leaders have planted a garden outside of the library. They crafted cards for teens with disabilities and visited a nursing home. Library leaders help with library programs and encourage their classmates’ participation.
Recognize leadership: At the end of the school year, library leaders receive school-wide acknowledgement at the awards assembly. They receive a certificate and a letter detailing their volunteer activities. After the assembly, the soon-to-be eighth graders clamor to learn how they can join the program.
G.L. Cronin earned her MLIS degree from Dominican University, River Forest, Illinois and her Bachelor of Arts degree from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois. For the past eleven years, she has worked as a school librarian in a suburban Chicago junior high school.