Getting teenagers interested in reading, or rekindling a childhood interest that has waned, is the mission of school librarians everywhere. Only a stone’s throw away from Chapel Hill, one School of Information and Library Science (SILS) alumna is developing innovative programming to do just that.
Janice Hodges (MSLS ‘07), media specialist at Knightdale High School (KHS) in eastern Wake County, is making every effort to get students excited about reading. Hodges has helped KHS continue to be one of 5,000 school and public libraries nationally to participate in Teen Read Week, an initiative of the Young Adult Library Services Association. KHS has participated in Teen Read Week for the last eight years.
This year, Hodges and the KHS community personalized their efforts to the high school by initiating their own teen reading program, The Reading Project. In collaboration with the Knightdale Business Alliance, on October 19 the KHS Media Center hosted a day of speakers from the Knightdale area who were invited to talk to students about how they found their way to a love of reading. According to the Eastern Wake News, which covered the event, one of the speakers – Nicola Borman, a media specialist who has since moved from KHS to East Wake High School – told students that it is okay if they did not grow up loving to read. Borman herself was converted to a love of reading by the Harry Potter series as a young adult, and she encouraged students to keep searching “for that book that is your Harry Potter.”
Other Reading Project speakers included KHS principal Carla Jernigan-Baker, Knightdale Business Alliance chairman Johnnie Darden, Wake County's East Regional public librarian Andrea Pearlstein. Young adult author Melissa Paegler also spoke to students on October 10. Her recently published book, Lost Creek, has been described as like Twilight, minus the vampires, set in East Tennessee.
Hodges emphasized that, though The Reading Project has considerable support from the community, KHS students were the driving force behind the events. Students created the program, PowerPoint presentation, and introductory materials for all the speakers. They were rewarded for their efforts not only with inspiring talks and many book recommendations, but also with drawings for basketballs, soccer balls, and footballs.
The Reading Project at KHS will not end there, according to Hodges. The Reading Project, Part Two is planned to take place in April 2012 to coincide with National Library Week and National Poetry Month. Student favorite Melissa Paegler will return to discuss the next book in her Lost Creek Saga. Janice Hodges says that other readers they have lined up include her son, Marcus Hodges, a professional basketball player for the Carolina Cougars. "Teachers have asked to read and our principal, Carla Jernigan-Baker wants to read from one of her favorite titles," Hodges says. "We plan to ask the mayor, the superintendent and the fire chief. Depending upon participation, we may need to extend The Reading Project (Part 2) over several days. I'm excited!"
Photo is of author Melissa Paegler speaking to Ben Vessa's English class, with student Morgan Morse in the foreground. Photo credit: Shea Kerkhoff.