Branding your Library Reading Program: #SunsetReads

When I started at Sunset High School three years ago, I knew I wanted to “brand” my library program and create a hashtag that could be used for sharing cool things happening in my library on social media.

I decided on #SunsetReads and began creating posters and library displays to brand my program. One of the first things I did was take photos of the administration and faculty members sharing their favorite books holding a #SunsetReads frame.


I passed out “What I am currently reading ….” laminated posters to all the staff and asked them to hang them outside their classroom door and keep it up to date.  I created #SunsetReads vinyl stickers and passed them around. I created a Twitter and Instagram account and started sharing library events or recommended reading on social media. All of these ideas were good to get the name out there and start building the #SunsetReads brand among the Sunset Community.

Helpful hint: Make sure the hashtag you choose isn’t being used by someone else.  I didn’t realize when I first started that a romance novelist was tweeting using the #SunsetReads hashtag — but maybe because some high school in Oregon used it all the time — the author has decided to move on.

When the English department received classroom libraries with current YA novels, I was thrilled. I began booktalking lots of YA titles and used this opportunity to pass out #SunsetReads bookmarks. Rebecca Larson, a fellow English teacher began posting on social media and included #SunsetReads whenever she discussed a book.

We convinced the administration to begin a free choice reading program throughout the school — not just during English classes. One thing we emphasized was that our students need to build reading stamina and one way to do that is to encourage more choice reading. It also aligns with one of our school goals to help students become career and college ready.

We received donated books from students, Multnomah Country Library Titlewave Used Bookstore, and from Washington County Cedar Mill Library thanks to parent and WCCLS librarian, Mark Richardson. I created #SunsetReads book bins and placed them in every classroom in the school with the donated books. I labeled every donated book with a #SunsetReads sticker. The book bins run like a Little Free Library — students could borrow a book and then return it to any classroom library. Students now could choose a book from the bin, from their classroom library, or from the school library. We even placed a #SunsetReads bin in the hallway.  Books are everywhere!

We got the staff onboard to include 10 minutes of choice reading twice a week during homeroom. #SunsetReads was really starting to take off. I asked our Parent Club to make a donation to the school library so we could purchase additional YA titles to support our #SunsetReads program. (Note: this year we switched to 30 minutes of choice reading every other week – wish it was more often, but that is what works with our schedule. They still read in English class)

We continue to use #SunsetReads for promoting library events. We hosted a special edition of GLOW-IN-THE-DARK #SunsetReads where students could come to the library for their choice reading time and we turned off all the lights and passed out glow sticks and lollipops! When authors, Fonda Lee and Carmen Bernier-Grand visited, we had them take photos with our SunsetReads sign. The SHS book club is now posting book reviews to our #SunsetReads website and has adopted the hashtag themselves. I am constantly looking for ways to create a reading culture at our school and having a brand helps to promote it.

My next goal is to include the parent and neighboring community with the #SunsetReads brand.  Why not have local businesses sponsor #SunsetReads programs or have parents share what they are reading on social media and use our hashtag? It takes time and persistent action to build a loyal brand. Look for some #SunsetReads graphics and branding coming soon from our very own Graphic Design students!!!

Today when I was leaving school, a teacher asked me, “How was the SunsetReads event in the library?” I smiled because I had just been working on this post. I guess the branding is paying off.

Role of Teacher Librarian and literacy

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Literacies as defined by Loertscher (2008), are the skills necessary to function successfully in school and the world at large as a “literate” citizen.  Literacy skills are lifelong learning skills that include reading, writing, listening, communicating, media literacy, visual literacy, information literacy, ICT literacy, and emerging literacies (124).

The primary role of the teacher librarian in a school’s literacy program is one of advocate and collaborator.  First and foremost, the teacher librarian must know their library collection and understand how it supports the school’s curriculum.  The print and electronic resources in a library are dynamic – always changing and growing to support the learning of the student community.  The teacher librarian is not only passionate about reading and writing, but involving students in all kinds of activities, such as listening to novels on CD, using collaborative technology tools to support group work, and using databases for research and evaluation.  They must be knowledgeable about all types of resources and be the “go to” person in the school who keeps up on current research, who takes the time to learn about and practice emerging technologies, and who collaborates and encourages teachers to try new strategies – especially when it comes to information literacy.

The teacher librarian should be part of curriculum teams.  Because they work with a variety of classroom teachers and with a variety of subject areas, they are in a good position to share best practices and strategies that have been proven effective.  They are they to support, offer advice, and be positive and encouraging of those who are trying new strategies.  They should always been on the lookout for new resources and take time to share what they’ve discovered with their community.  Teacher librarians are the ultimate coach – co-teaching the necessary skills to be successful – and directing and encouraging from the sidelines.

The teacher librarian can have a significant role in content reading skills.  Especially at the higher grade levels, content reading can be quite challenging for some students.  There is a huge jump in the readability of the material and it may contain a lot of technical and unfamiliar terminology.  A teacher librarian who is familiar with content reading strategies can assist classroom teachers in suggesting effective strategies so students have better comprehension of both print and electronic resources.

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When planning a collaborative Social Studies assignment, the teacher librarian can suggest note taking strategies.  The Cornell note taking system encourages students to take notes while reading a selection from text sources or listening to a lecture and or watching a historical movie.  Students take notes on one side of the paper.  On one side of the page, the student writes “cues” – which are questions which the notes answer.  The page summary at the bottom of the notes provides a concise review of the important material on the page.  This activity reinforces many informational literacy skills and assists the students in understanding the “bigger picture” that is being presented.

Too often in Social Studies, students don’t see the connections from one event to another or they get confused by all the names and dates that are presented.  Encouraging use of a concept map or graphic organizer allows students to “show” the connections and gives them a visual representation of events, people and dates.  The teacher librarian can also provide background reading material that helps make sense of the social studies content.  They can suggest fiction books about the time period being studied.  They can provide access to multimedia collections in databases.  They can encourage individual exploration of interesting websites or DVDs.  Surrounding the students will all types of resources makes understanding social studies content reading much more manageable.

Loertscher, D., Koechlin, C., & Zwaan, S. (2008). The New Learning Commons Where Learners Win!: Reinventing School Libraries and Computer Labs. Salt Lake City, UT: Hi Willow Research