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New library program teaches boys how to ‘read for growth’

If you’re a book lover, how do you find the elusive book that engrosses you completely? More valuable still are the life-changing books that alter your very belief system or that expand your understanding. Though a critical life skill, learning to develop and research one’s reading interests doesn’t come naturally.

That’s why a new program called “Reading for Growth,” offered through the Macintosh Library (in the context of university counselling’s careers course for Foundation Year students), intends to empower boys to seek out the books they need for intellectual growth and lifelong success. (And no, Upper School Teacher Librarian Mari Roughneen will tell you, Google searches aren’t the only research tool out there!)

“We know the boys are readers but we’re trying to foster a more sophisticated relationship with reading,” says Roughneen. “We need to find ways for boys to connect to personal reading outside their [prescribed] curriculum.”

Started last October, each of the 150 FY students will eventually have an initial, individual consultation with library staff, with the ultimate goal of creating a customized reading portfolio. They’ll be asked about their interests and shown how to use databases and other resources. After a two-week discovery period, they’ll submit three reading choices based on their findings. The boys are required to use  “readers’ advisory tools,” basically online booklists or in-library book collections curated by theme, interest or intended audience.

“The goal is to connect the ‘right reader with the right book’1,” says Roughneen. “We explore the ‘hows and whys’ of making self-directed reading choices, using various processes and tools.”

So what’s the benefit of playing extra-curricular matchmaker between books and boys? For one, it’s great preparation for personal essays on college applications, where being original and widely read is an impressive asset, explains assistant librarian Max Dionisio.

As well, having familiarity with the library in FY is great preparation for heavier research demands to come, not to mention the skills of self-advocacy. “It’s great for boys to be able to seek out help in a structured way,” says Roughneen. “It’s not initially a comfortable conversation for some boys, to approach a librarian and figure out what they need.”

Even more important, creating a culture of reading for growth makes good sense for lifelong well-being, says Roughneen. “Personal growth is important and, ideally, neverending. The ability to support one’s interests and development through reading is essential to that process.”

1Ranganathan, S. R. (1931) The five laws of library science. Madras, India: Madras Library Association