Reading in our classroom is hugely important! There is so much research that supports the benefits of reading in all of its forms: independent reading, buddy reading, shared reading, listening to read alouds, etc. How do we prepare our classroom community for a year of reading together? It’s not just filling the room with books and children that ensures we will create passionate readers. A few other things need to happen . . . .
#1 Book Organization. Everywhere you look, there must be books! But, we need to be able to find what we are looking for. Accessible bins, clear labels and an organization that makes sense entice children to explore.
We have books labelled by genre (i.e. Adventure, Mystery, Rhyme and Repetition etc.), by favourite authors (Steve Jenkins, Mo Willems, Melanie Watt, etc.), by theme (Sea Creatures, Friendship, Folktales, etc.) and by popularity (i.e. Popular Graphics, Favourite Read Alouds, Recently Read). There are a lot of bins in our room! Books, books, books everywhere you look!
Important for me as the teacher – to have a system that helps get books out into bins and into the hands of students. So I have a bin for books that need to be labelled, bins of books to book talk, bins of read alouds for specific times of year/themes, etc.
I also like to be able to access mentor texts, books we use for Reading Power, specific non-fiction titles easily so my teacher area has books organized for easy access. Below are all of the Reading Power titles (Connect split into early/mid/late, Visualize, Question, Infer, Transform).
#2 Keeping Students Organized During independent reading, it is great to have “go to books” so that students can settle right into the reading rather than spend the whole time searching for books. Students stash titles they want to read/are currently reading in their book boxes. Next week we will begin a schedule of adding new books to our boxes so that there isn’t a mad rush to exchange books during independent reading time. This is also time for the adults in the room to assist students with book selection, to introduce new genres, to set reading goals, etc. As you can see from the boxes below, Mo Willems is trending right now in our class!
While most books have stickers on the back that correspond to specific bins or author bins that we are familiar with, I ask students to put books into “Book Return” bins if they are not sure where to return them. I have a “Book Return: Picture Book” and a “Book Return: Chapter Book” bin for students to use. This ensures that books get back to their proper “homes” when the next person is looking for them!
#3 Book Promotion Books are book talked daily in our room! Students are often unfamiliar with both the book organization sytems and the wide variety of titles and authors we have in our classroom when they arrive in September. I book talk books in our current collection, often highlighting specific book bins and we also book talk books new to our classroom, books from the library, books that have gone unnoticed, etc. There is a bin in the teacher area specifically for books that need to be book talked but I also spontaneously highlight specific titles when interest in an author is there or when connections are made in our learning to specific books.
#4 Time for reading is paramount. Readers need to read. Readers of every level grow their skills best when they have time to read self selected titles that they are interested in! In our classroom, there is daily time dedicated to independent reading. Soon we will also begin buddy reading with our kindergarten buddies!
At this age and stage of reading, independent reading often is interrupted by sharing of interesting parts, questions about what someone else is reading, or reading a part aloud to a neighbour. I encourage this as it helps build a “buzz” about different titles and encourages student recommendations. This is how we learn about new books and begin making talking about books an important conversation!
#5 Building stamina as readers: Currently, during part of every block of independent reading we are spending some time book talking, sharing titles, and exploring different book bins. It takes time to build up our ability to sit and read for an extended time period no matter how excited we are! Eventually, we will be able to read for longer sessions and for some of us, experience that lovely feeling of “falling into a book” and not even realizing that the bell has gone or that everyone has cleaned up to go for recess. A favourite activity to introduce new books at the beginning of a reading period is to do a book sharing circle. Every two minutes pass the two books you are looking at onto the next person and at the end of the sharing, read quietly on your own (maybe a new title you discovered or a book you had on the go). This activity is pictured below with my reading group from last year who are exploring some non-fiction titles.
#6 Exposure to great titles! Along with our reading stamina, we are building up our listening stamina. Reading aloud happens in our room every day. We read poetry, excerpts from non-fiction texts, picture books, chapter books, etc. For many students in the class this year, listening to a chapter book is a new experience. Sara Pennypacker to the rescue! We have started our first classroom read aloud: Clementine and the Family Meeting (written by Sara Pennypacker and illustrated by Marla Frazee). We have only read Chapter One but we are very intrigued. Students are already wondering about Clementine’s friend Margaret and her germ phobias. They are worried about where the rat Eighteen has gone. And of course we are very curious about why a family meeting has been called in Clementine’s family. Reading aloud gives me wonderful opportunities to model my thinking aloud.
Of course, many other things go on in our room as part of reading instruction: direct instruction with phonemic awareness for those who are building decoding skills, fluency practice, reading comprehension strategies, opportunities to respond to what we read, etc. This post highlights book interaction and independent reading. 🙂
It is going to be a wonderful year of celebrating reading!
How do you set up for reading success in your classroom?