By: Sydney Kalnay, Training Manager

“It’s only September,” you say. “How can my kids be burned out already?”

The fact is, kids are burned out all the time. They stress about everything: school and friends and cliques and bullying and the world at large, not to mention the minutiae of life: dances and sports and homework and pimples and, yes, reading. How much, how often, how fast, at what level.

Reading can be an escape, to which many who’ve embraced careers in education and library science can attest. It may be difficult, therefore, to identify something we love as a cause of burnout for many of our students. Add to that, it’s harder to reduce or eliminate burnout once it’s begun, so we need to be proactive about recognizing and then banishing that stress before it begins.

How do we get started?

Let Them Choose

Choice is a huge motivator for readers of all skill and interest levels. Offering your students more choice around genre, level, format and more can reduce their concern about not finding a book to match their mood, need or skill level.

Curating your digital collection can visually encourage students to discover what fits them best – a low-stress way for students to use reading as a stress reducer, not a stress elevator. Try curating based on format, like comics and graphic novels, audiobooks or Read-Alongs to let students know it’s that they read, not how or what they read, that matters.

Encourage students to try a new genre by putting together hand-picked lists of subject combinations they may not have considered – you can even use those obscure categories you come across while Netflix and chilling. Add an eye-catching name to turn, say, YA Dystopian Romance into “Friends ‘Til the End…of the World” or Juvenile Historical Nonfiction into “If I Ruled the World” or “The Time Traveling [School Mascot Name].”

The important task, here, is to listen to what your students want and trust that reading improvement will follow because they’re reading more, more often or differently than before. Stop into a club meeting and find out what their members are into. Play the clueless card and ask your teens what the hottest trends are (#yolo). Rack up some coolness points by following popular kids and teen authors on Twitter and then stocking your digital library with a collection based on their favorite recs. The possibilities are endless!

And the Award Goes to…

One of our favorite features of the Sora student reading app is the gamification of reading-related activities. Just logging into the app or the browser experience for the first time introduces your students to badges and can ignite the spark to do more in order to earn more.

Many individual tasks in Sora lead to earning badges – trying a new genre, returning a book before the due date leaving a highlight – and combinations of tasks can unlock new achievements, such as finishing three books or getting up early to read. If you have students who like to compete – either with each other or with their own, past goals – encouraging them to earn badges can be a great burnout buster!

And you know your students best so you will know when to try this out with the whole class and when to encourage a student privately and individually to set goals and check in as needed.

Remember: Badges are individual to a student account so they can earn (or ignore) badges in private.

Assign a Local Content Project

One of the coolest ways to encourage student reading is to offer reading choices created by students!

Local Content* is a way educators can create digital materials from student or staff publications for checkout in Sora. Documents that can be converted to EPUB or MP3 – the industry standard formats for publishing – can be uploaded to Marketplace and added to your school digital collection. Think lesson plans, syllabi, articles you’ve written – but also literary magazines, essays, poetry, podcasts and other student-created works. Essentially, anything you have the digital rights to own and distribute can be converted uploaded, and then checked out through Sora.

Consider the student who sees their work published on the school digital library website for the first time or the impact of students seeing the work of their peers displayed alongside traditionally published titles. These are great opportunities to make personal connections through the written word. And, remember, an all-class, constructive critique of student work can be a powerful way to link students and reading (or listening).

If you’d like more information on how to create Local Content, we have a short, educational how-to module on the OverDrive Resource Center, or you can reach out to your Account Manager for more information.

How will you use your digital library to banish burnout while encouraging students to read more and read often?

(*requires OverDrive Marketplace administrator access – ask your Account Manager today!)