Children’s book author Wil Mara delivered the keynote speech, “The Myth of the Reluctant Reader,” at the 2019 Youth Services Forum on Monday, October 7 at the Monroe Township Public Library. Mara, who has studied the phenomenon of the “reluctant reader” for nearly 20 years, shared his research and experience with 150 of New Jersey’s public and school librarians. He explained that forcing children to read books they aren’t interested in, assigning unimaginative book reports, and fostering an environment where children believe reading is a chore creates reluctant readers. Mara believes that encouraging children to read for the sake of reading creates negative feelings about books, and “there is no excuse for starving potential readers.” Instead, Mara suggested, librarians and parents should identify children’s interest in a subject and encourage them to read more about that subject. “Try to make children forget they’re reading a book,” Mara said.
Mara, and the many talented presenters, proved that youth services are lit, the theme for this year’s forum. Leeza Hernandez shared her process of writing and illustrating picture books; Peggy Wong taught librarians how to incorporate yoga into story time; Hannah Lee explored folk lore and fairy tales with an interactive math role playing adventure; and Christine Whorton presented practical information about outdoor learning that libraries could easily implement.
The Children’s Services and Young Adult sections of the New Jersey Library Association, The New Jersey State Library, and the New Jersey Association of School Librarians sponsored the forum. To learn more about the programs, please visit NJLA’s website.