Promoting the Benefits of Reading for Pleasure to New Teachers

Lucas Maxwell


Lucas Maxwell has been working with youth in libraries for over fifteen years. Originally from Nova Scotia, Canada, he's been a high school librarian in London, UK for over a decade. In 2017 he won the UK's School Librarian of the Year award and in 2022 he was named the UK Literacy Association's Reading For Pleasure Teacher Champion. He loves Dungeons & Dragons and is the author of Let's Roll: A Guide for Setting up Tabletop Roleplaying Games in Your School or Public Library. You can follow him on Twitter and on his blog.

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Promoting reading for pleasure can be tough, especially when it’s not the teens you are trying to reach. Bringing great books and ideas to teachers can be even trickier. Teachers are extremely busy, they have negative free time. Often, they will only use the library as a place to photocopy or even as a shortcut through to another area, they are also deeply embedded in their own departments that they will sometimes not venture outside of that realm.

My role as a librarian is to try to get teachers involved in the library as something they want to do, not something they have to do. It can be really tough, sometimes teachers don’t realise that they can even use the library, or they think the material within isn’t for them even though there are so many great middle grade and YA books out there. Promoting reading for pleasure in a school where even the students can feel overwhelmed with homework and other pressures can feel like a losing battle, but there are many different ways to go about promoting great books to the teachers.

I’m going to go through different ideas that have worked for me in the past, I hope they will work for you too!

Ask to Speak to New Teachers

I’m very fortunate that I get to promote reading for pleasure to new teachers every year. I speak for 35 minutes on why reading for pleasure is important and I also promote graphic novels and comics a lot to help dispel the negative aura that can surround them, especially from those who haven’t engaged with them in a long time. I also remind them that they too, can borrow from the library, they are often pleasantly surprised by this. I give them bookmarks with my email on it and some book recommendations!

Whole School Assemblies

This obviously introduces you to students but also to staff, especially new ones. I’m lucky in that I get asked to speak at whole school assemblies a few times a year to promote events like World Book Day or other special events that are upcoming. Standing in front of 1,800 people might not be everyone’s idea of a good time, but it’s a great way to get your voice heard and ensure everyone knows what’s going on in the library.

A school library containing bean bag, shelves and tables and books
Photo courtesy Lucas Maxwell

Staff Meetings

A lot lower key than a whole school assembly, but still effective. We have two staff briefings a week, and at the end of each one the floor is opened up to any staff who want to promote an activity or idea. This is a perfect opportunity to get something across or ask for assistance on a particular topic. I use briefings constantly to promote the library. I’ve also brought in our student library assistants to briefings to promote programs that staff are invited to. It’s a great attention-grabber and a good public speaking experience for the students. In addition, I asked the head teacher if I could have a space in the staff room to advertise our events, he said it was no problem so now I have a board to promote all of our activities, provide sign-up sheets and more. 

Bring the Library to Them

I had our student library team, known as The Booklings, create a staff room pop-up library where they wrote book reviews on postcards and attached them to books that they thought staff would like. These books were then brought to the staff room and a manual check-in/checkout sheet was provided. It was so successful that we had to restock all of the books that were provided.

We also run a pop-up library every year in the courtyard outside of the library. Anyone, staff and students alike, who borrows a book gets a homemade brownie. We bring in year 11 music students to provide a nice backdrop to a fun and hectic event. Info on this program can be found here.

Another successful event includes having students wrap up books before the holidays to give to staff. Staff then read them over the break and provide reviews.

Staff Bulletins

Our staff bulletin comes out every Friday, again, a really effective way to introduce yourselves or promote an idea. I use bulletins to augment something that I’ve spoken about in staff briefings for the most part. I use bulletins to advertise things like our staff coffee morning where homemade brownies, doughnuts and coffee is provided for staff who come and sign up for a library card. I also use it to promote author visits, our book award and our open mics, which staff are also invited to attend and take part. 

Invite Staff to All Events

As mentioned above, any time I hold an event in the library, staff are invited to attend. This includes open mics, poem in our pocket daysbanned books week, surprise summer reads and much more. This has resulted in being introduced to many new staff and finding library allies that will come and support you in the future.

Whatever you do, promoting reading for pleasure can be really tough and sometimes exhausting, but it’s worth it. I have been in my role here for nine years and I can say that I’ve seen teachers from all different departments take up reading and become fixtures in the library!