The Lydon Library



The Purpose

Students in my classroom will be fortunate to participate in a course that treasures reading for its value as a means of academic, social, and cultural development, and recognizes fully that a joy of reading comes from personal investment. For this reason, my class includes a significant independent reading component.

This inclusion is a decision made easily with consideration of the vast body of research that supports the benefits of independent reading, with correlations to the acquisition of academic skills, an improvement in writing ability, overall student achievement, and greater cultural awareness. With these benefits in mind, students are expected to read regularly outside of class, with an ultimate goal of completing a novel every 3-4 weeks. To ensure students meet this goal, class time will be provided weekly, but the majority of student reading will need to occur outside the classroom, ideally daily.

It is important to note that the "independence" of this activity applies not just to reading outside of class, but also to the book choices made by students. They will be encouraged to choose books of interest and to abandon books that bore them. Certainly I will encourage students to read more challenging material, especially when they meet and exceed the pace I've outlined above, but I will not dictate the reading choices of my students for this portion of the class. Only by empowering students to choose books for themselves and to discover their preferences of author, topic, and genre will they develop a love of reading on their own.

The Books

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The Lydon Library is maintained by me with significant support from my teacher’s aides, available to all of my students, and it currently includes over one thousand five hundred titles! The source of the library is a mix of donations, books discarded (often due to an excess of copies or repeated use) from other local libraries, and a significant contribution from me; my additions have been taken from my home library or purchased specifically for the class, often at Grassroots Books in Reno, arguably the best local bookstore. 

I have tried, over the years, to create a library that includes a spectrum of genres, textual complexities, and maturity levels. This wide variety is intended to support student choice. Contemporary authors like Nicholas Sparks, Stephanie Meyer, Darren Shan, and Neil Gaiman are included, as are masters of literary canon, such as James Joyce, William Shakespeare,  Rudyard Kipling, and Mark Twain. The many authors in my library cover a variety of subjects, and students are sure to find something to enjoy. This variety has led to students borrowing more than three hundred from my library per year.

There is, of course, some risk in such a diverse offer of texts. The diversity is there to provide students with options, but I am unable to fully account for the preferences of students and their families. It is with a great degree of trust that students are encouraged to find books that are appropriate to their level of maturity, and I similarly encourage parents to be involved in the reading choice of students. If they make selections that in any way challenge the cultural or religious values practiced at home, it is important that the parent or guardian is available to have a conversation with them. I will gladly encourage students to find material that is more suitable to parent preference, or suggest that they use Coral, public, or home libraries, but I cannot moderate or censor student reading, or the fruits of independent reading will never flourish.

Because the Lydon Library is always expanding, donations and contributions are always welcome. I began this library during the 2014-15 school year year, and I have added hundreds of books each year; I continue to expand the library to meet the reading interests of my students, but help from students and families is the most effective means of ensuring the best possible selections are included to borrow. Supporting the library also helps to offset the inevitable losses from misplaced or damaged books. Located below are two options for supporting the library from home: if you do your regular shopping using the first link, the Library will receive a small percentage from your purchases, or you may use the link on the right if you would prefer to purchase for the class one of the many novels or series I am currently looking for. If you have a suggestion for a book, I encourage you to use the form provided.

Library Stats

The Research

What follows are a few choice quotes and links from research that supports a focus on independent reading by students. I always encourage others to conduct and trust their own research beyond my own, but this provides a jumping off point for those interested.

we have demonstrated that [...] there was a detectable and significant common alteration of [readers’] RSN (resting state networks, or connections of a resting mind) associated with reading sections of a novel the previous evening. Moreover, these changes could be segregated into networks associated with short-term changes originating near the left angular gyrus (part of brain involved in complex language functions, spatial awareness, number functions, and more) and long-term changes dispersed bilaterally in somatosensory cortex (receptive area for sense of touch). [...] our results suggest a potential mechanism by which reading stories not only strengthen language processing regions but also affect the individual through embodied semantics in sensorimotor regions.
Short- and Long-Term Effects of a Novel on Connectivity in the Brain
...frequency of reading for pleasure correlates strongly with better test scores in reading and writing. Frequent readers are thus more likely than infrequent or non-readers to demonstrate academic achievement in those subjects.
National Endowment for the Arts
The amount of free reading done outside of school has consistently been found to relate to achievement in vocabulary, reading comprehension, verbal fluency, and general information.
American Association of School Librarians
Reading enjoyment has been reported as more important for children’s educational success than their family’s socio-economic status.

There is a positive link between positive attitudes towards reading and scoring well on reading assessments

Other benefits to reading for pleasure include: text comprehension and
grammar, positive reading attitudes, pleasure in reading in later life,
increased general knowledge
UK Department of Education
...reading widely supports students’ overall growth and progress in academic learning and world knowledge. And this benefit holds for all learners. By simply making high-interest materials available, struggling readers, economically disadvantaged students, and second-language learners can boost their reading ability and narrow the achievement and economic gap...
Educational Paperback Association