How Design Makes Kids Want to Read More
Monday, 14 May 2018
After a year-long study at six secondary schools, guest editor Loh Chin Ee shares how deliberate design can encourage reading in school libraries.
With a few clever design tweaks, you can transform your school’s reading room from an informal social hub into a smart space that encourages deep reading and learning.
In our study, Building a Reading Culture: A Nationwide Study on Reading and School Libraries (OER5/16), we sought to understand how the school library can be a more central place for promoting reading in our secondary schools.
We wanted to know what changes – some small, some radical – can be made to transform this particular school room into an exciting hub for reading.
After a survey of the reading habits of 6,005 secondary school students, we learnt that students prefer to read print in spite of the availability of technology.
In fact, across all six schools where we conducted the studies, students overwhelmingly suggested that a greater variety of books, as well as better display strategies to help them find titles to read, would be the top improvements they would want their libraries to make.
For five days each term in over a year, we observed students in their school libraries, capturing their behavior using time-lapse photography and personal observations.
We discovered that books displayed by genre were easier to find and that attractive books prominently displayed led to higher browsing rates. Both display strategy often led to sustained reading.
We also noted that browsing was a form of short reading that allowed students to engage with the text and perhaps, return to it later.
With these observations, we realized that the deliberate design of book categorization and display can increase reading interest, and even perhaps encourage the development of readers.
Space organization and furniture choices also encourage different kinds of student behaviors.
In libraries with “coffee table seating” – where sofa sets are placed around a coffee table – students were more likely to socialize than read.
In contrast, high-backed armchairs set apart from other furniture, away from other readers, made for the best choice for solitary reading.
In this instance, paying attention to furniture arrangement can make a difference in students’ perception as well as their use of the library.
Fully aware of how careful deliberation of book display and furniture design decisions can create a more conducive environment for actual reading in our school libraries, we can now create a stronger reading culture in our schools.
For more about the project, please refer to: https://www.readingculturesg.org.