My Very Own Library: granting kids the autonomy of picking their own books

“If there is one thing you’ve learned here, you need to remember: ‘If it is to be, it is up to me,’” said Clarence Allen, principal of the South 17th Street School in Newark, New Jersey to an auditorium full of attentive and excited elementary and middle school book lovers.

Last week I visited the South 17th Street School in honor of the 2018 launch of My Very Own Library (MVOL), an international education initiative that encourages kids to read by supplying them with children’s books to help them build their own libraries at home. Scholastic Book Fairs partners with MVOL, providing 38,000 students in 6 states and the Dominican Republic with 10 free books each.

The launch at South 17th Street School brought authors like Ross Burach, Laura Terry, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Elly Swartz and Laurie Calkhoven to their fans. Students were invited to ask these authors/illustrators questions about their books and writing. Some were even lucky enough to hear Burach read from his book Truck Full of Ducks.

Seeing the kids of South 17th Street excited about reading, eager to talk to and meet the authors of books they’ve read already, and ardently skimming through shiny new Scholastic books that they’d get to take home and enjoy for themselves brought me back to elementary school when I got to pick out books for myself at Scholastic Book Fairs. It made me really happy to see these kids love and get pumped about reading, just like I did when I was younger.  

Going to the launch of My Very Own Library also showed me how important it is for students to read and want to read, and I think a big part of that is letting them pick their own books. That’s what makes the My Very Own Library program successful.

“My Very Own Library has given me an opportunity to find what I like and what I find interesting,” said Kiera, a 7th grade student representative from South 17th Street. According to the Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report™: 6th Edition, 89% of kids agree that their favorite books are the ones that they get to pick out themselves. I think that’s what makes My Very Own Library such a significant program—not only does it grant kids the autonomy of picking out their own books, it makes it more likely for them to read those books and others, thus making them more frequent readers.

Principal Clarence Allen made a good point when he told his students if they want to succeed, they need to take charge so they can be the person they want to be and make the things they want to happen, happen. I believe the same applies with reading and children’s literacy. If kids are encouraged to read and given the freedom to pick and choose what they read, it helps them take charge, be proactive, figure out what they like or don’t like, and make informed decisions.

Click here to learn more about My Very Own Library and Scholastic Book Fairs.

Guest post by Amanda Livingston, Corporate Communications intern