Classroom libraries are the focal point of the literacy classroom. Students need to be given choice, options and time. @KyleneBeers tweets often about the importance of reading. One tweet in particular is my favorite (okay…one of my many favorites).
She stated that struggling readers need 3 things:
books to read
time to read
more books to read
In the past twenty years of my career, I’ve met many elementary teachers and some middle school literacy teachers across the South from New Mexico to Texas to Georgia to South Carolina that wanted to build their classroom libraries to look like mine and my coworkers’ when I showed them pictures or they visited our classrooms. My classroom library had volume! There were choices for readers of varying levels. It took a while to build that library but it was definitely worth it!
Now, I saw those same teachers building their classroom libraries—some with their own money, some with district supplied classroom libraries—but, they were building volume in their classroom libraries. However, they had a large quantity of books but did not want to put it all out. They wanted to filter what students would read and when students would get a new selection of books, and then take the old selection away. I walked into classrooms where they had a classroom library—labeled, leveled and attractive! BUT…high above on the very top shelf out of student reach were more baskets of books just taunting the students or baskets of books behind cleverly designed curtains that students were not to go behind.
If we want students to develop and foster a love of reading,
we have to give them choices—all at the same time!
One teacher even frowned at me when I delivered her brand new, district purchased classroom library of 300 new titles because she said she didn’t have room to put that many books and asked “Should I only put half of it out?” I smiled and politely said, “I’m sure you will find plenty of room so that your children will have a variety of choices to choose from for reading.” Guess what? She did it!
Common questions teachers have about classroom libraries are:
How will I monitor all those books?
How will students “check out” books?
How will I manage the classroom library?
Okay…here it goes…LET YOUR STUDENTS HELP ORGANIZE IT!
Before the start of the year, I would organize my library into content topics, similar themes, authors, se