Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy from Scholastic. All opinions are my own.
Game Changer! Book Access for All Kids by Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp is a must-read book for elementary school teachers and librarians. It’s eye-opening, practical, research-based, and packed with helpful ideas to get books in the hands of ALL students, particularly students who don’t have consistent access to books or even own a book themselves.
Game Changer! Gives Teachers Helpful Ideas to Get Books to ALL Kids
If you don’t already know it, book access (not test-prep, not worksheets, not summer school) is proven to predict student success. (Allihgton & McGill-Franzen, 2013) (Neuman & Celano, 2012) Miller and Sharp explain that many children live in “book deserts” meaning no consistent access to quality books. “Even children with some access often live in defacto book deserts, where all reading is controlled and managed by adults, offering them few opportunities to connect with reading.”
The authors state, “Without continuous, institutional support for improving book access, it is unlikely reading achievement scores will ever increase.”
To help you understand this lack of books further, you must consider that even with decent school libraries (which aren’t always the case,) school libraries close for three months over the summer. This leaves too many students without book access.
You might ask, why don’t kids just go to the public library? There are actually many reasons which the authors explain. The reasons include that families have a fine they can’t pay, parents might not want the government to know their personal information, or kids might not have transportation.
The beauty of this book — one of the reasons I highly recommend it — is that the authors don’t leave you with only depressing information and statistics. They always accompany each section with practical, real-world solutions. I LOVE THIS! The ideas are inspiring as well as doable.
For example, when talking about barriers to library use, the authors share an example of a library who lets kids work off their fines. Also, Miller and Sharp also ask school libraries to find a way to open during the summer. Or since we know the impact of summer learning loss, Miller implores teachers to lend books to kids for the entire summer –even though some of those books might get lost. She argues that it’s more important to lose a book than to lose a child.
As I mentioned, each chapter includes educators, authors, caregivers, and scholars sharing their practical tips — things that have worked for them and that they recommend. Of course, Sharp and Miller always share their own own classroom (and other) experiences, too. I appreciate how reflective both authors are. It’s clear these two professionals are always growing and learning, tweaking their practices, and working at a high level of dedication to the ultimate goal of literacy for ALL students.
I won’t summarize the whole book here but simply conclude with this… If kids in this country don’t have access to books, don’t own a book, don’t see themselves in books, we are failing them. And we must do better. This book, Game Changer!, will be a game changer IF we let it. Reading the book is a good start. Then, we must implement its ideas. Look for other passionate teachers and librarians to buoy you up with whom you can share ideas. Do you have those? If you don’t, Facebook and Instagram can be helpful places to find like-minded people and groups.
I wonder what will you do differently after reading Game Changer!?
P.S. Denver-area friends: I can hook you up with books!
Speaking of books, I give away all my review books to anyone who needs them. So if you’re in the Denver area and need books for your school, library, or nonprofit group, email me at [email protected]
Download my "Can't Put 'Em Down" book lists for your kids ages 3 - 13.
Also, I'll send you a bonus "23 Reasons to Read" printable poster!