It’s a simple idea, but a really good one.
High-interest teen books can be dropped off or picked up at Reds Reads, a book area located at the other end of the Newark High School hallway from the Reds Threads used clothing exchange area.
If the partially empty shelves are any indication, the idea has caught on since its inception in December 2018.
NHS English teachers attended a young adult literature conference at the Rochester Institute of Technology in November and were inspired to find ways to get more students reading titles they are interested in. They kicked around ideas with department leader John Dalton, who teaches English 11 and Advanced Placement literature.
Focusing on how they could foster a greater love of reading among students, Dalton suggested something similar to the Little Free Library book sharing movement. English 10 and humanities teacher Amy Austin, who initiated the conversation after the RIT conference, suggested a space be dedicated for the same purpose in the school.
An alcove in the hallway near English 10 and 12 teacher Katie Ganter’s room seemed like perfect spot. Dalton asked Principal Tom Roote for permission to use it.
With Roote’s permission, English 9 teacher Chelsea Fladd donated a bookshelf. The department got the word out and asked staff to donate popular teen titles. Soon, books began appearing on the shelves. Curious students were stopping to take a look and leaving with one in their hands.
The difference between Reds Reads and the school library is that these books don’t have to be returned. With no restrictions, books are disappearing from the shelves nearly as quickly as they are donated, and that includes some popular children’s titles that students are taking home to younger siblings.
Dalton said NHS library media specialist Jackie Miller is on-board with the concept that gets more students reading just for the fun of it with no obligation to return books within a specified time frame.
“There are certain titles students are reading in English class and should have knowledge of, but of equal value is for students to read what they enjoy,” Dalton said. “Our goal is to create lifelong learners and reading is a wonderful part of that.”
People wanting to donate popular teen and children’s books can leave them at the high school office. The English department will accept monetary donations to purchase more titles to put on the Reds Reads shelves.
Email john.dalton@newarkcsd.org or amy.austin@newarkscd.org for information.