How Can I Designate Books Appropriate for Older Readers in My K-8 Library?

Q: I’m responsible for a K-8 library. Some of the books are simply too mature for elementary school-age children. I’m labeling these books “Y.A.” I know “labeling” is wrong, but how else can I designate which books are really suited for older middle school readers and not appropriate for children who are still in elementary school?

The American Library Association has a number of documents that offer interpretations on the Library Bill of Rights, including one on Access to Resources in the School Library that promotes unrestricted access, and one on Labeling Systems that states labels in and of themselves are not wrong as long as they are used as directional aides and not to restrict access or discourage users.

So whatever you do should be designed with the idea of helping users of any age in your library find books they are most likely to enjoy.

If you don’t have separate shelving or shelving area for students in grades six to eight, then you’ll probably want some way to designate which books in the library may be of particular interest to them.

Maybe you can find a student who’ll create “Best for Middle School Readers” or “Especially for Teens” Lists for the library’s website. You’re the person who’ll suggest many books for those lists, but your teen helpers and readers can choose from your suggestions for the website.

Think about similar ways you can highlight some great books for middle grade readers, and for younger children, too.

Make sure you’re consistent, and that all of the books in your library are on open shelves. And remember that the children and young teens in your school not only have a wide range of ages, but also interests, abilities and experiences, and you are doing a terrific job when you strive to build a collection that reflects all of that diversity.

See a related question about talking to library aides and teachers for other ideas about how you can explain the value and role of the school library.

September, 2005