Recently schools and libraries have considered the problem of “book deserts.” These are generally described as geographic areas where there are few books for young people and families to read. This is a serious issue which certainly needs to be addressed. The research of Susan Neuman and the United for Literacy's quantified literacy landscape interactive map are well-worth studying.
This post describes the changes that I implemented in the Book Shop at Ronald McDonald House.
My first order of business was to change the arrangement from massive piles of books to neatly shelved books with all spines facing out. I also limited the selections to children's books. It looked better. Afterward, there was a slight increase in reading activity.
I decided to take book organization one step further. Approximately half of the books were displayed with covers facing out. The remaining half were shelved by topic or series, with the spines facing out. Altering the display resulted in increased use of books.
Could I Do More?
- It is better to have fewer books. An overabundance of books is difficult for youngsters to browse. Especially when dealing with nausea and other side effects, selecting a book should simple, not a chore. This requires frequent monitoring of the selections, replenishing and refreshing stock as needed.
- Pay attention to what the youngsters are interested in. Fill shelves with books that tie-in to popular TV shows, movies, games, and other forms of media. Consider the entertainment factor. Interacting with text and/or illustrations should be fun.
- Make book displays attractive and engaging. Place as many books as possible with the covers facing out. Include some board games, puzzles, activity and coloring books as well as wearable items such as book buttons, paper crowns etc. A local book shop donates cardboard display stands. This gives the area a dimensional effect which invites youngster to come and explore. I modify the stands slightly to fit the space and the interests of the children.
It is important to carefully curate the books offered to youngsters. Frequently ask readers what they like. Try new books and display approaches.
When a child finds "just the right book" that will help them through a tough round of treatment, it's a good day.