Large Print Books Are Crucial for Striving Readers

By Ann Wilson, MLS, MA

As educators and librarians struggle to combat the dire reality of illiteracy and its impact on low graduation rates, meager job prospects, low income, and even crime, many remedies have been tried, with little success. Thankfully, one rather old-fashioned tool is gaining traction and showing promising results: using large print books with young, striving readers.

Large print is defined as text formatted in roughly 16 point type, compared to the usual 11-13 point type found in most hardcover books and on computer screens. A clear, clean font is used, and there is increased space (leading) between the lines. The dark, high-density ink stands out clearly from the high-opacity paper, creating a higher contrast, which is easier to read (see this article about helping reluctant readers for more). These characteristics have long been understood to benefit older folks with visual impairments, and for years, most books published in large print have been geared toward this audience. Unfortunately, children and teens with visual impairments have been largely ignored by the publishing industry.

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Not only does a large print format assist those with visual impairments, but large print helps reduce eye strain for everyone, a factor which has become even more important as our population — especially teens — is spending more time on small-screen digital media.

In their quest to make reading an enjoyable experience for students, educators have noticed that too much text, information density, and visual clutter on a page can make reading a daunting task for many students. Large print books have fewer words and more white space, presenting a more inviting visual cue that increases reading performance and builds confidence. Students young and old, who are learning English as a second language, also seem to respond well to large print.

While research is important and can help us understand what’s going on, it’s also important to hear from teachers and librarians on the front lines. In a recent Booklist webinar titled “Large Print, Big Advantages: Strategies for Increasing Youth Literacy,” Camille Freund, ENL teacher at Urban Assembly Media Studies HS in New York, explained how incorporating large print books into her classroom collection has improved student literacy. Freund says that these books have motivated striving readers to keep trying, and that these students quickly make progress with reading and feel successful. In fact, Freund says, students often seek large print titles, refusing to read anything else.

Also during the webinar, Don Giacomini and Shelly Schwerzler from Gwinnett County Public Library System (GA) addressed the “why” and “how” of their large print title program, geared to middle grade students and teens. They explained that the large print titles are interfiled throughout their collections, allowing patrons to browse these books alongside books with normal-sized print. The library staff has worked closely with reading specialists and other education professionals in schools near each branch library to help promote the large print collection. Circulation statistics show that this collection is very heavily used.

Girls reading_470554472According to the presenters, adults’ concerns that the stigma of reading large print books will deter striving readers are almost entirely unfounded, especially for younger teens. If allowed to choose any book they wanted, many students automatically gravitate toward “books with big words.” When teachers and librarians extolled the virtues of “good books” while passing around large print versions, many kids responded favorably. Some students were quite receptive to large print titles, stating that their eyes were tired.

With a wide range of titles to choose from, supported by research and endorsed by the kids who read them, large print books are finding new uses and enthusiastic acceptance in today’s libraries. They’re not just for the visually impaired anymore. Why not consider expanding your selection of large print titles to help reluctant readers?

 

AnnWilson

Ann

Ann Wilson started working for Brodart, where she is affectionately known as The Sourceress, in 2000. Ann draws from her high school/public library career experience to feed sources and choose key titles for our selection lists. Click here for more.

Why Children’s Nonfiction?

By Ann Wilson, MLS, MAGirl wGlasses Reading_69332863

Though Common Core has largely been placed on the back burner, one of the standards that still resonates in the education and library worlds is children’s nonfiction. The CCSS developers noticed that far more fiction was used or encouraged in the classroom, at the expense of nonfiction. As educators scrambled to align curriculum to CCSS guidelines and “correct” this imbalance, publishers rushed to produce more “common core compliant” nonfiction. This prompted the question, “Why nonfiction?” Why indeed…

In an article titled “The Five Kinds of Nonfiction” in School Library Journal (May, 2018), Melissa Stewart notes that many people who become children’s librarians or literacy educators favor stories and storytelling, want to promote this literature, and assume that children naturally gravitate toward stories as well. This may not be true, however, as research shows that children love to learn about the world around them. Many prefer ideas and information over making an emotional connection to a text. These children would prefer books about dinosaurs, firefighters, arts and crafts, outer space, sports, pets—anything that interests them. Satisfying their needs with quality nonfiction books increases their love of reading, motivation, curiosity, and confidence to handle progressively complicated texts.

young girl success_338482142Another benefit to nonfiction reading is the acquisition of background information to build on later in life. As students read more and more content-specific texts through their educational years and into college, they are able to build upon this knowledge and apply more critical thinking skills. Ironically, a 2016 ACT study on college and career readiness found that less than half of the graduating class met the ACT Reading Benchmark. The increasing emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education to meet the demand for well-trained employees in these fields demonstrates the need for classroom teachers to teach students how to handle complex texts. Librarians assist by providing high-quality, inviting, motivating, and challenging nonfiction.

On a practical level, consider your own reading habits. To unwind after your workday, you might kick back and enjoy a light romance or mystery novel. But where do you turn when your dog comes home from an unfortunate tangle with a skunk, you want to plan a vacation to an exotic location, or you need financial advice on sound retirement investments? You turn to informational texts for the answers you need for your personal daily living. You probably even have a small collection of nonfiction materials: newspapers and magazines (Consumer Reports annual buying guides, perhaps?), even cookbooks or an owner’s manual for that new appliance. Consider how much informational reading many of us do at our jobs. How many emails, memos, or instruction manuals do we read daily? Sometimes we are required to stay current in our profession by studying new ideas, trends, or techniques. As citizens of a global community, how do we grapple with complex ideas like global warming, mass shootings, immigration, human trafficking, or tax reform?

Consider this: without the ability to comprehend complex informational texts, our children don’t stand a chance as adults. As librarians, let’s point them in the direction of the quality children’s nonfiction they need.

Resources:

ACT National Curriculum Survey 2016

ASCD: Research Says / Nonfiction Reading Promotes Student Success

ASCD: The Case for Informational Text

ASCD: Too Dumb for Complex Texts?

GreatSchools.org: The Nonfiction Revolution

Smart Tutor: Why Nonfiction Reading is Important

AnnWilson

Ann

Ann Wilson started working for Brodart, where she is affectionately known as The Sourceress, in 2000. Ann draws from her high school/public library career experience to feed sources and choose key titles for our selection lists. Click here for more.

Loving the Model vs. Loving the Mission

By: Ann Wilson, MLS, MA, Collection Development Librarian

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As a librarian, I think a lot about the evolving role of libraries. Sometimes I find insight from unexpected sources.

Our pastor has been sharing with our congregation some thoughts on our changing world and how the church can remain vibrant while seeking to connect with this changing world, which, on the surface, seems to change so much from day to day. Specifically, he has offered ideas from Carey Nieuwhof, a church communicator and strategist who wrote an article called “10 Predictions about the Future Church and Shifting Attendance Patterns” (23 Feb. 2015 blog). Prediction #2, “Churches That Love their Model More Than the Mission Will Die”, caught my eye especially, because I believe it is appropriate not only for churches, but also, for libraries.

Nieuwhof used the example of the invention of the automobile to illustrate his point. As automobiles became common and affordable for average families, carriage and buggy manufacturers lost business and many went under, even though human transportation actually exploded as average people began to travel more than they ever could before. The mission is travel; the model has changed over the years, from horse-drawn buggy, to car, to airplane. Many other examples exist – think of the recent developments in the fields of communication, music, photography – and even publishing. The mission is entertainment, but the model shifts from 8 tracks to cassettes to CDs and streaming audio and video. The mission is information, and the shifting model includes books, magazines, videos, audiobooks, online/digital content, social media use, innovative programming, maker spaces, and much more. Companies that innovate strategically around their central mission (think Apple or Samsung) will outlast companies that focus myopically on their method (like Kodak).

Can we apply this concept to libraries? What is our mission? Could that question be answered differently by different libraries? Could a library have several missions, perhaps dictated by the various populations who use the library (or who we WANT to use our library?) Does the mission of a library change over time?

Answering these questions consciously will help library decision-makers chart a path through a changing landscape. Keeping the mission(s) foremost in the minds of library staff should help the library connect with the changing world. The key to this effort lies in separating the specific means and media we utilize to serve our patrons from our ultimate objectives as community-based centers for learning and the exchange of knowledge and ideas. To paraphrase and adapt Nieuwhof’s summary statement, “In the future, libraries that love their model more than their mission will die.”

Source:

http://careynieuwhof.com/10-predictions-about-the-future-church-and-shifting-attendance-patterns/

AnnWilson

Ann

Ann Wilson started working for Brodart, where she is affectionately known as The Sourceress, in 2000. Ann draws from her high school/public library career experience to feed sources and choose key titles for our selection lists. Click here for more.