Have you ever overheard students discussing a film or TV series only to immediately stop what you’re doing, dash around the shelves, and reappear minutes later with an armful of books and the eternal words: ‘If you like that, try this…’? If so, you’re almost definitely a school librarian.
As library staff, we are always looking for opportunities to start conversations about reading and books. You enjoyed the Chaos Walking film? Okay, here are five books that might have a similar mix of adventure and emotion. You like stories about dogs that don’t die in the end? You’re safe with I, Cosmo. These conversations are especially important to have with reluctant readers. If students feel like reading isn’t for them, like the books in the library are too long or boring or irrelevant, it’s our job to make the case for books that will be right for them. This is a tried and tested method, of course. We’ve all scoured the library for that one book on hockey – even though it’s from 1996 and has survived multiple rounds of weeding through what can only be supernatural means.
But with the influx of YA book adaptations on Netflix, and the popularity of the youth-led BookTok community on TikTok, there are fresher, more innovative ways to connect with readers. While Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse novels already had a thriving fandom, the Netflix adaptation Shadow and Bone raised its profile enormously, encouraging new fans to seek out the books. The same interest grew around Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series after the world fell for characters Lana Jean and slouchy dreamboat Peter Kavinsky (for those of us in our thirties, he’s basically Pacey Witter), and will likely rise again for R. L. Stine’s Fear Street books after Netflix’s recent trilogy. We can tap into the popularity of such adaptations, promoting both the original novels and any read-a-likes. For older series, such as Harry Potter, it is also an opportunity to recommend books that are more inclusive and representative.
Here are a few quick and cheap(ish) ways we can utilise trends. We’re library people, after all: give us an inch and we’ll take a mile.
Whether you want to create a simple poster and fill your display area with books, or you’re looking to create something more elaborate, ‘If you like that, try this…’ displays are an easy way to encourage reader development. If you’re a CILIP member, I would recommend joining the Youth Libraries Group and signing up to their monthly newsletter. As well as news on the latest releases, they also include details of publisher giveaways. That’s right: free stuff. BOOK SWAG. When I worked in a public library, I used publicity materials from the film adaptation of The Hate U Give to promote books that explored similar themes of social injustice and racism. I also made The Hate U Give novel our inaugural YA Book of the Month, printing out flyers for borrowers (usually parents) to pick up. By incorporating the film posters, and centring the display around one popular and high-profile book, it became more of an event. It also highlighted lesser-known novels, leading borrowers to try something new.
As well as contacting publishers and book suppliers, it is also worth asking local cinemas to save you film posters or standees. Going off my own experience of folding Cardboard Tom Cruise into a recycling bin at 11pm, cinema staff will usually be happy to offload old promotional materials.
If you’re short on physical space, social media can be a great place to promote ‘If you like that, try this…’ collections. While you may reach more parents than students, it can help showcase activities and initiatives taking place in the library, as well as your uncanny knowledge of Netflix (a little research goes a long way…). Where appropriate, tag authors into posts. Most are happy for their books to be promoted, especially if their work is being positively linked with a film or series that is currently trending. Over the past year, I’ve created a number of Netflix-inspired posters for Twitter, using #ELSreadalikes.
Book club activities
This one might involve a bit more work, but themed book club meetings can be a total blast. I once hosted a Sherlock-inspired murder mystery event, where the book club members had to solve a series of clues hidden around the library, chucking out the actual (paper) red herrings as they went. They also had to Pin the Moustache on the John Watson. Because why not? After a fittingly disastrous Brexit-themed meeting, I found it best to keep to pop culture. With a few tabletop games, an 80s playlist, and a pot of slime, you could plan a Stranger Things meeting. Or you could enlist the trusty photocopier, and have the students create their own Moxie-style zines. Such activities could give your students the chance to discuss specific genres and tropes, while still having the touchstone of something familiar.
For more low-key activities, students could dream cast their favourite book, or engage in a friendly book vs film debate. For a festive book club meeting, I once printed out pictures of Harry Potter characters, along with a series of ever more horrific Christmas jumpers. The students then got the characters to “try on” each jumper. And that’s how we found out that Snape looks good with a glittery reindeer on his chest.
Post by ELS librarian Samantha