Holmes librarian offers top picks for winter reading

High school students and junior high students are reading less and less as technology progresses. In a study done by time.com in 1984, 9 percent of 17-year-olds said they “never” or “hardly ever” read books. In 2014 another study was done and 45 percent of 17-year-olds said they read by choice only once or twice a year.

The Cedar Falls school district realizes that some kids don’t find reading enjoyable and don’t read during their free time. To try and encourage students to read and at least once a week, every Friday teachers try to save 10 minutes in class for students to read.  Seventh and eighth grade English classes also require students to read a certain amount of pages in a week.

Once a week in English classes at Holmes, students go to the library to read and check out books. About once or twice a year, the school media specialists introduce popular books in seventh grade, as well as a quick lesson on how to find them.

Media specialist Stephanie Itzen said that students at Holmes still read and still check out books. “I see kids every single hour of the day coming in for books. Our collection numbers over 12,000. People always ask me if kids still read books, at least do they read them on paper? Yes, yes, they do,” she said.

One of the reasons the numbers are so high for Holmes is because the librarians know what books kids want and how to get them to read if they think they don’t like reading. “I always recommend the first book of a series. If a kid gets hooked, then they can read that series for an entire year. I also think any book by Gary Paulsen you just can’t go wrong with. Sometimes you can get people hooked on funny books. Paulsen’s “Winterdance,” a nonfiction book, is laugh out loud funny. “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian” is quality. It’s funny, heartbreaking, surreal and inspiring. It could even be called a sports book. It meets like every single genre out there. Not many books are like that,” Itzen said.

She said books that are flying off the shelf usually have something in common. “The main character is almost always a strong, brave person. This character is well drawn out, even their flaws. The reader really knows them, and that is the hallmark of a good author,” Itzen said.

Lots of books have these qualities. “This is true from the Hunger Games series to the Jack Reacher series. It even goes back to Little House on the Prairie or Nancy Drew,” she said.

If searching for a book, she said going for the classics is never a bad option, whether it’s for the first time or for a re-reading. Classics like the “Harry Potter” series, “Twilight” series and the “Hunger Games” are extremely important for later education.

“I tell students if you go to college without having read “Harry Potter,” you will not be able to contribute to some discussions in your English classes. Just my opinion. That may have switched to “Twilight” or the “Hunger Games” series by now,” Itzen said.

The high school is planning on making it simpler for kids to find books while in a hurry. “The high school is genrefying their library. This means that instead of the fiction books being arranged by author, they’re arranged by genre. There will be sections of the library that are science fiction or romance, making it easier to find books. I believe there will be 14 genres,” Itzen said.

Holmes will also probably be planning on doing this in the future, but for now they are sticking to the alphabetical system.

For those who love reading and are in need of a good book, Itzen recommends the “Selection” series by Kiera Cass. Four authors — James Dashner, Veronica Roth, Ransom Riggs and Andrew Smith — are really popular right now. And, of course, she said for those who ever need a book, just pick “Potter.”

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