It seems like we are stuck in a state of limbo at the moment: on one hand, the election results have left many of us alarmed and frightened, but on the other hand, its the holidays! I know that I haven’t been the only educator who has observed some type of anxiety in their students. Whether it is a fear of their parents being deported, being placed on a registry, or feeling like they don’t matter – it is clear that politics have seeped into the consciousness of our youth. So, why not try to improve moods and attitudes? Especially because Christmas! Hanukkah! Kwanzaa! New Years! Yay!!
I came across an excellent reading program that could do just that – I found it on a blog called ‘School Librarian in Action’. It’s called the Christmas Reading Passport, or if you’re adverse to the idea of celebrating just one holiday, you could call it the Holiday Reading Passport, or simply just the Reading Passport. After reading through the blog post, I noted that a lot of aspects of the reading program can be manipulated to the students’ needs or wants.
Here are the directions, which I took directly from the blog post:
1. Students get a reading passport.
2. The reading passport is designed to encourage students to read four books on the themes of hope, peace, joy and love. There are four questions to be answered, one for each book. This way, students are guided on their book choices. Recommended reads, a list of books about the themes are sent out via email lists to everyone.
3. The passport and the books are taken home over the long holiday break.
4. Students come back after the break with the passports filled out. They submit this to the library staff.
5. They get a token from the library.
Now, I absolutely love this idea. But, I think that things could be changed to better this activity.
For instance, I like revolving the reading program around certain ‘themes,’ but in the current societal climate, I thought some others would be more appropriate. Themes like generosity, community, and selflessness are all traits that should be encouraged in our children. Reading can introduce them to different perspectives and identities, which can help to hone empathy, as well as the previous themes.
Another change that I’m suggesting is the idea of treating the reading passport like a real passport. For instance, every time a student finishes a book from a certain theme, they get a corresponding stamp! That way the students can track their progress, and they’ll most certainly get a thrill from watching their passports fill up.
Following on that thread, this activity can be changed to be more intriguing for older students. As a librarian and an avid reader, I love making book lists and I know I’m not alone in the library world. Teacher librarians could be reading lists that correspond to different countries – whether the books are written by people from other countries or take place in other countries, or both, is entirely up to the librarian. Each time that a student finished a book, they could get a corresponding flag stamp in their passport! I especially like this idea, because lately there has been no shortage of good literature coming out from other countries, languages, and cultures. Our students need to read these books! They need to recognize that there is a validity to the people outside their home country; that their identities and stories and experiences matter. I really think that implementing a reading passport program would encourage this.
One reason I really loved the original ‘Christmas Reading Passport’ activity was because it provided a basic framework from which numerous amounts of programs and activities can spring from. I can see this activity being continuously changed and reformed, depending on the student population. What it comes down to is that it encourages students to read and engages them in a new and exciting way. And as librarians, we should always be open to those ideas!