How to Make a Virtual Library

Nov 03, 2023
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Childhood is a period of rapid brain development unlike any other time in life, and early literacy is an important part of this growth. We want our students to be fluent readers who develop a lifelong love of reading and learning. As we envision their futures, we see them equipped with skills to access texts of any depth or rigor to fulfill their education and career goals, and we see them reading across genres for enjoyment and entertainment. An in-person virtual library can play an important role in this skill acquisition as a definitive source for reading and research material.

For our young learners, the virtual library experience of the 2020s can look very different than previous decades. The pandemic has changed the way we interact with the physical school or neighborhood library building, and technology and e-books are becoming more prevalent. 

Because access to books and choice in reading material are two huge drivers of attaining, maintaining, and increasing literacy levels, many educators are turning to the power of the virtual library.

Benefits of a Virtual Library

E-books and other digital resources from libraries increase access so that students can explore and discover new reading materials, and teachers can individualize recommendations based on student level and interest.

A 2021 review of 14 studies on the impact of e-books on children’s reading found that:

  • When e-books are properly selected and used, children develop literacy skills equally well and sometimes better than with print books
  • E-book interventions outperformed the regular school program in the development of literacy skills
  • When compared to listening to print books, regular school programs, and reading non-enhanced and non-interactive e-books, a significant additional beneficial effect is evident with e-book interventions for phonological awareness and vocabulary learning

Now that we understand some of the impacts a virtual library can have, let’s look at how to make it a learning space where students feel comfortable and excited to read. 

Begin with a Tour of the Virtual Library

We want students to understand how to find the topics that interest them and then know how to read the book within the virtual library platform. Each digital library may work a bit differently, with distinct content, rules, and procedures.

Once students understand the how, they will feel more empowered in their own ability to choose what they want to read and to take ownership of their own learning.

Create Collections of High-Interest Books

With your expert guidance at the helm, this gives students the ability to choose what they want to read within the parameters of your particular focus. 

Curate a book collection and assign it to students to enhance your weekly or monthly classroom theme or topic for a book club or for guided reading. You can share out the whole collection with all students or customize the selections students receive based on their ability and interest. You can also share collections with other teachers to make literacy planning easier!

Define Expectations for the Virtual Library and Reading Activities

Take the time to establish routines and procedures so that students understand how to interact within the space.

This means that if the class is listening to a read-aloud, students know that expectations will be different from independent reading time; they can be intentional in their choice of location and seating.

The structure you create with virtual library time, whether teaching online or in person, will ensure that students know what is expected of them, allowing them to feel safe and ready for the experience.

Provide Opportunities for Independent Reading

Guide students to level-appropriate, high-interest books, and allow for daily chunks of time for them to read independently. Opportunities for independent reading will build fluency and allow children to increase their level of confidence and motivation. 

Also model independent reading with your students during this daily time also. As students see you engage with and enjoy books, they benefit.

Start a Virtual Book Club

At some point, most of us have probably been part of a book club. The monthly reading selection came from a bestseller list. You met at a neighbor’s house and spent an evening sharing ideas. No matter your experience, it’s a great way to promote reading, socialize, and hear others’ perspectives—all activities that are critical in education as well.

Today, there is no need to have a hard copy book for each student. Look to a digital solution to extend your supply of books! For instance, Project Gutenberg is a volunteer-driven digital library that offers a collection of eBooks that users can download, read, and distribute without any cost. The library includes a vast collection of literary works, including novels, poems, plays, non-fiction, and more.

Proficient reading comprehension is essential for success in every academic domain, and a virtual library is an excellent and easily accessible option for students to grow their skills in reading and learning to experience this success.

Looking for more ways to expand your virtual library? Here are the 10 best places for kids to find free ebooks.

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