ROCKPORT—On an overly warm July afternoon, the hallways of the Camden Hills Regional High School were strangely quiet. Inside the cavernous library, stacks of new books and popsicles were on hand for any current or incoming high school students to check out—part of an initiative to get summer readers to return their borrowed books and hit their last month of school vacation with some fresh, new titles.
From 3 to 6 p.m., Iris Eichenlaub, CHRHS librarian, opened the library doors to students and staff, rising ninth graders and new students, as well as community members and librarians from neighboring libraries to check out the new books. This is the first summer they have hosted this “Book Swap Day,” an idea that came from a current CHRHS student.
With a Summer Reading Challenge in place for various levels of English classes, there is a quota of books to tear through before classes start in the fall.
“Some of our English classes have a list of required books to choose from over the summer, but in other classes, over the last couple of years, teachers have basically said ‘just keep reading and pick what you want,’” said Eichenlaub. “And when they moved toward that choice model, some of the teachers asked me if I’d allow kids to take out books over the summer. I told them I’d love to. Why should the books sit here all summer unopened? It gives the kids more time to read.”
Since Eichenlaub took over as the librarian in 2015, some changes were made to the library space, namely how the stacks were organized, so kids can discover books on their own. Instead of categorizing fiction by the author’s last name as it’s traditionally done, some groupings of books are arranged by genre, the way bookstores do. One of the most popular genres for reluctant readers is a genre section of the library called “Thrills and Chills.”
“They’re action-based, fast-paced books that keep the pages turning — suspense, thriller, action, and adventure,” she said. “It’s really been popular, particularly for kids who aren’t that wound up about reading.”
“We’re trying to make a little space for independent reading in some of our English classes, no strings attached,” said Patti Forster, a CHRHS English teacher and department head, who also had a book to check out that day. “We’re really trying to figure out how to cultivate lifelong readers. If the book is chosen by the teacher, for some kids, that isn’t creating that drive to continue reading for fun. In our last unit for 9th graders, when they chose their own books, they were able to apply the skills that we’ve built on, such as analysis and interpretation, which is a great way to demonstrate their learning.”
Eichenlaub does a lot of research on what to acquire at the library, often perusing reviews and book lists. “Some of the best ways we get new books in are recommendations from students and teachers,” she said. “That’s how we create a library collection that reflects the interests and needs of this learning community.”
The titles aren’t just middle grade and young adult either. They range into the adult fiction and nonfiction area. “Some students are advanced readers and gravitate more toward adult topics,” she said.
Though the library only opened for one day in July, Eichenlaub said that the community is welcome to come in on teacher preparation days Aug. 26 through Aug. 27, or during the school year, when the library is open. She encourages people to have a look around, ask about recommendations, and find out more what the CHRHS library has to offer. Contact Iris Eichenlaub for more information at email@example.com.
CHRHS Library is also on Facebook (@CHRHSLibrary) and on Instagram (@chrhs_library)
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org