School Librarians as Leaders of Extracurricular Reading Groups

Cremin, Teresa and Swann, Joan (2017). School Librarians as Leaders of Extracurricular Reading Groups. In: Pihl, Joron; van der Kooij, Kristin Skinstad and Carlsten, Tone Cecilie eds. Teacher and Librarian Partnerships in Literacy Education in the 21st Century. New Research – New Voices (6). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers, pp. 119–137.



The research object of this chapter is school librarians as leaders of extracurricular reading groups in secondary schools. The study was undertaken in England where young people continue to read less independently and find less pleasure in reading than many of their peers in other countries (Twist et al. 2007, 2012). Attention has thus turned towards all those who work to foster young people’s engagement and pleasure in reading, including school librarians (Cremin and Swann, 2015). However, whilst studies of teachers’ practices and reading interactions abound, there is scant research focused upon the practices of school librarians. The chapter’s purpose is to explore the role of secondary school librarians in extracurricular reading groups. The research questions addressed are twofold: What is the nature of the reading groups’ practices and how are these constructed and maintained by the school librarians and the group members, and, what dialogic dimensions to reading are evidenced in these groups? The research draws upon case studies of seven secondary school extracurricular reading groups led by six school librarians and one teacher, all of whom were participating in a national book award ‘shadowing’ scheme.The scheme involves student groups reading the books shortlisted (by UK children’s librarians) for two prestigious book awards: the Carnegie Medal and the Kate Greenaway Medal. The groups spend part of the summer term reading and discussing these shortlisted books and are able to upload their reviews and compare their views with those of the award judges when the medal winners are announced. The research findings indicate that the school librarians, working from a commonly expressed purpose, to develop students’ pleasure in reading, sought to differentiate the extracurricular reading groups from English, and profiled reading choice and agency in the shared social space for reading which they created. Group members, both students and attending teachers, contributed to the shaping of these reading events, and the relatively informal relationships that obtained between group leaders and members, afforded space for readers to construct a more dialogic understanding of the literary texts, and in some instances of the texts of their own and each other’s lives.

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