We knew that the COVID years were rough, but we’re now learning just how rough and realizing that there are significant long-term impacts. Depression and anxiety are on the rise, and people are stressed out in ways they never were before. Learning took a hit, and math and reading levels declined sharply to levels last seen 30 years ago. Disparities that already existed before have further widened.  

As the parent of two young adults, I’m truly worried. Will they be able to see a brighter future ahead? Will they be resilient enough to find creative, new solutions to the challenges we’re facing? It seems like we’re all going to need some help in finding our way forward. 

The noted decline in reading proficiency should be worrisome for all of us, but especially for those of us who work with readers. We know that reading is so much more than just the ability to understand words on a page. Reading is also about finding inspiration from new ideas and combatting disinformation. It’s a pathway to understanding others who are different from yourself. Reading has the potential to open both hearts and minds. 

Here’s just one example of what is being lost: “The declines in test scores mean that while many 9-year-olds can demonstrate partial understanding of what they are reading, fewer can infer a character’s feelings from what they have read.” We’re raising a generation who will potentially be less empathetic or compassionate because they were not able — through reading — to learn to interpret other people’s feelings. That’s scary. 

Thankfully there are many groups working to improve the current state. I recently attended the wonderful National Summer Learning Association conference, where attendees were challenged to find fresh, innovative ways to start reversing the declines. The conference was a call to action for libraries, schools, and many other organizations to partner together using “summer learning” as a theme. 

The organization I lead, NoveList, is committed to being part of the solution as well. At NoveList, we know that putting the right book in the right person’s hands at the right moment can be transformative in that person’s life. We know the act of reading can inspire, teach, grow, and so much more. It’s also a long game — it can take decades to see the result of a life changed by books. But that possibility is what keeps us committed to helping libraries connect readers and books.  

At NoveList, we understand the power of many hands together and are committed to working with all of our partners and library advocates to make progress. We have a bunch of new initiatives that we’re excited about, but I’ll call out a few here that I think speak to our intentions: 

  • We’re reimagining our approach to describing books to be more inclusive and precise so that readers have more pathways for learning about others. We’ll be expanding our efforts even further in 2023. 
  • We introduced a new chat service for readers to help them find that just-right book in the moment. We’ve already seen amazing feedback from readers who’ve benefitted from this highly personalized service. 
  • We released several new professional development opportunities to learn the secrets of helping readers effectively and being inclusive while doing it. Stay tuned for even more courses in 2023 as we build our course catalog. 
  • We’re providing libraries with outstanding communication tools and best practices for promoting the library — because it’s essential to remind readers that their library is the ideal place to jump-start their reading life. 
  • We’re planning a special focus in 2023 on “Summer at the Library” to help make summertime a catalyst for learning and growth through reading. Stay tuned for more info. 
  • To support the growing number of Spanish-speaking patrons, we introduced a new tool for building a Spanish-language collection at your library.  

There is so much more to do, and we’re ready to work at it. Want to join in? Stay in the know via one of our newsletters so that you don’t miss a single announcement or invitation.  

Danielle Borasky is the Vice President of NoveList. She is currently reading The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu by Tom Lin.