By Olivia Edmonds

Twitter – @MissOliviaReads


Books on a shelf
Books on a shelf in book shop

When you hear the word reading, what comes to mind?

Does it bring you a feeling of joy? A sense of excitement at the possibilities it holds? Or does it fill you with so much boredom that you really are not paying attention to anything I am currently saying?

I have worked with young people, specifically teenagers, for nearly 15 years at both Secondary and Further Education level and overall, the usual response to reading is that it something that MUST be done and will usually stick to a prescribed structure.

However, reading can be so much more than this. Reading can be magical, informative, eye opening, impactful, jaw dropping. I guess what I am trying to say is Reading is Power.

It can change lives and open doors to our young people that may not have been open otherwise, especially those from less advantaged backgrounds.

The question is, how we can we get this importance of this message across to young people?

I am hoping by sharing my ideas here today, I can give you all some ideas about how we as a collective can make a start on getting that message across, both on an educational and personal level.

Reading is Power when …

It is accessible to all.

When I took over the Library, one of the areas I was adamant about was having resources that could be accessible by every student, regardless of ability.

  • I worked with our Languages Department to purchase appropriately pitched materials for our ESOL students. I also set up weekly sessions for ESOL classes to come to the Library and practice reading aloud.
  • This has resulted in the confidence level in even our weakest students skyrocket and their engagement with the Library outside of lessons continues to grow.
Close up on shelf of book spines

It is relevant and engaging

Young people need to be able to see themselves in books. They need to be able to relate to characters who have both similar and completely opposite life experiences to them.

  • Students were directly involved in choosing new stock. This allowed them to become more invested in our stock, and also meant they brought friends along to show them what they had chosen.
  • Displays linking TikTok, TV shows, films, and music to reading were always so well received.
  • For those less engaged and reluctant readers, our Level Up display allows them to access relevant and challenging texts in a video game style display.
Level Up book shelf

It allows you to ask questions and challenges your thinking.

  • I curated a Wellbeing Collection for our students which addresses a range of topics including mental health, self care, identity and healthy eating. It is placed on the edge of the Library (as some students might feel embarrassed looking at it if it were visible to all) and the stock in this collection is backed up by materials from YoungMinds and NHS Choices
Wellbeing sign
  • We also have books that address a wide range of topics to broaden the knowledge of our students, including those relating to Black Lives Matter, LGBTQIA+ issues, racial and religious diversity and women’s rights.
Equality book display

It is a transferrable skill

  • All Departments were provided with posters (created by me) called Reading for Pleasure in your subject with a series of recommendations for our students that were subject themed.
  • We are currently building our subject related nonfiction collection to further reinforce the link between reading and the curriculum, after a phenomenal response to our initial “Reading Across the Curriculum” display.

I am really only scratching the surface of ways that we can truly show young people that Reading is Power. I am so pleased about all the strides forward my students have made so far, and I can only hope that continues for a very long time to come.

I would love to talk more about this, so if you were considering getting in contact, please do! Together, we can truly show young people that not only is reading is educational and life-changing, but Reading is Power.