Celebration: There Are Books for All of Us

I could say all kinds of things about the US election results. I feel all kinds of things. Fear. Shock. Worry. Pressure. Responsibility. While Trump truly is #notmypresident, a border does not separate us from humanity. I am devastated and afraid about what is happening in America for all of us. For those experiencing all of the horrible discrimination, hatred and fear in the U.S. right now and for the influence America has on the world. I worry for the American children who are worried. For the children and their families who have experienced discrimination and see it getting worse. I worry for our Canadian children who feel their own fear. What about here? Can that hate come here? Is it here already? How safe are we?

Safety feels turned on its head. Hatred feels like it got a green light. It’s early days. He’s not even the President. People are talking about feeling afraid to walk outside.

To quote Aaron Sorkin:  “Hate was given hope.”

Everything is wrong with that.

I am a mother. I am a teacher. I am a person who has spent her life advocating for children.

I am horrified.

Fear can freeze us. We need to release ourselves. Begin doing something to make a change.

Sometimes, this means something completely new. Yes, do those things. Speak up when before you didn’t. Don’t ignore what you might have in the past. Engage in the hard conversations. Be uncomfortable.

Sometimes, it is to repeat what we know. Don’t stop what you already do to make a difference. Continue. It is now even more important.

This is what I celebrate today. That despite my fear, I am not turning in circles helplessly. I know where to start.

It is in my classroom full of books.

I can walk back into my classroom Monday morning and talk about books. I can book talk. Read aloud. Provide hours every week for independent reading time.

Words reassure. They challenge our thinking. They shake things up. They soothe us and make us question the world that we know.

I celebrate that I am a reader. I know my books. I think in lists. I can reach out literally and find that book for that child. “Here is a book for you,” “There are books here for all of us.” “Read this. It’s a story you should know.”

I can offer this gift endlessly.

Stories do their magic thing. They touch us where we are most human. They remind us to think deeply. To feel in mighty ways.

Our children need this. Time and space to grapple with their questions and their worries. Stories to let them see the most in themselves and in others.

Our guidance.

A room full of books.

This I can do.

Thank you to Ruth Ayres and the #celebratelu community!

Being part of a community that regularly shares gratitude and celebrations truly transforms my weeks.

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So often I focus on picture books as the place to begin. My students are always immersed in picture books. Please immerse yours!

Today my recommendations focus on chapter books for our intermediate students. Middle Grade novels. These are the titles I want to see in the hands of my Grade 4 and 5 readers and are actually on my shelves (or soon will be). I have read every one and recommend each of them. All of these books remind us, we have no time for judgement. We must make room for kind. We are all so very different and that’s what makes our world.

Read. Share. Talk. Over and over and over again.

Listed in no organized order. I just started typing.

George by Alex Gino

George

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

ghost

As Brave as You by Jason Reynolds

As Brave as You

Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks  and Gita Varadarajan

save-me-a-seat

Making Friends with Billy Wong by Augusta Scattergood

making-friends-with-billy-wong

The Land of Forgotten Girls by Erin Entrada Kelly

the-land-of-forgotten-girls-erin-entrada-kelly

Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly

Blackbird Fly

Nine, Ten: A September 11th Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Nine, Ten- A September 11th Story

Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart

Lily and Dunkin

Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton

Full Cicada Moon

The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy

The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher

Listen, Slowly by Thanhhà Lai

Listen, Slowly

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhhà Lai

inside-out

 Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Fish In A Tree

 Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

crenshaw-katherine-applegate

 Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper

Stella by Starlight

 Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky

Gracefully Grayson

 The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

The War That Saved my Life 2

Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle

Better Nate than Ever

Revolution by Deborah Wiles

Revolution

El Deafo by CeCe Bell

El Deafo

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

brown girl dreaming

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

Rain Reign

The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney

the red pencil

Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood

Glory Be

Crow by Barbara Wright

Crow

Anything but Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin

anything-but-typical

Beholding Bee by Kimberly Newton Fusco 

Beholding Bee

The Misfits by James Howe

The Misfits

The Thing about Luck by Cynthia Kadohata 

luck

Wonder by R.J.Palacio

wonder 12 for 2012

Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine

lions-of-little-rock 12 for 2012

Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

echo

The Real Boy written by Anne Ursu

cover.The Real Boy - Front Jacket - 2-13

Shooting Kabul written by N.H. Senzai

Shooting-Kabul-Senzai-N-H-9781442401952

For many more titles, visit the We Need Diverse Books site. They are many resources and book lists featured there.

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Top Ten Books that Celebrate Diversity There's a Book for That We Need Diverse Books logo

The definition of diverse books on the We Need Diverse Books site is one that I always refer to:

We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities*, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities.

From the Mission Statement on the We Need Diverse Books site.

Issue yourself or your students The Reading Without Walls Challenge from Gene Luen Yang who is America’s National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature

Number 1 seems particularly meaningful now: Read about a character who doesn’t look like you or live like you.

rww-challenge-1

Sunday Reflections: Wolves and Wild Wishes

I just read The Wolf Wilder, the latest middle grade novel written by author Katherine Rundell. There was much I loved in this title: the adventure, the drama, the suspense. Most of all I loved the courage. This book was full of brave children. Heroism in small but mighty packages. I don’t want to give away plot points as this is a must read title, but I will say that children in this book amazed and impressed me. They embraced their fear. They rallied. They acted. They certainly weren’t perfect. There was lots of vulnerability. But the bravery reigned true.

Sunday Reflections: Wolves and Wild Wishes There's a Book for That

I loved the community of children here. The following of dreams. The simplicity of lessons from wolves. Be true. Protect the pack. Honour loyalty. Run fast. Sleep deep. Be resourceful.

This book made me think about how children often astound me. I witness daily moments of bravery. Moments that surprise me. Actions and wisdom I respect in the daily interactions I have with the students I teach.

Yes, I often worry. Sometimes a lot. I watch a lot of mistakes. I see habits and attitudes that are troubling and unhealthy. I witness trauma and all that is upsetting in its impact.

Feo, the main character in The Wolf Wilder worked to bring the wild back to domesticated wolves captured at birth and forced to lead ridiculous lives -in the homes of wealthy Russians. Wilding is really re-wilding. Bringing back what should not have been lost.

Sometimes, I feel that way about the children that I teach. Some of them need re-childing. I want to – in a sense – return childhood to children who have not had enough of it, who keep losing it to the impacts of poverty and related stress.

But everyday, I celebrate possibility. Brave children. Opportunities for everything that can be good. The joy and happiness of childhood.

It is the eve of return to school after a long winter break. I know many of our students eagerly anticipate the return to their school community. Some have mixed feelings – upset and anxiety related to a break that might not have been so pleasant. For some, the routine of bed times and early starts is challenging. But school means breakfast, lunch and important connections. I have loved my break but I am excited about a term full of rich learning and relationship building.

Sunday Reflections: Wolves and Wild Wishes There's a Book for That

And I have some wishes. Some wild ones. Wild because they won’t all happen. The big wish of course, is that these would all be in the realm of realistic. Easily possible. Our world is built for that. Yet, here I am. Wishing.

For each of my students, I wish for security.  I hope that they will each find numerous adults at school ready, willing and able to meet them where they are at. I hope that they feel loved, wanted and precious. I want them to experience 24 hours of care and nurturing. 24 hours of every day. I hope that they won’t experience some things we should be able to protect them from. Hunger, for instance. The longing for a warm bed. I wish them freedom from adult worries.

I also wish for some amazing learning. That they will learn something they never believed to be true. That they will learn something they never thought they could learn. That they will learn something not yet imagined. I hope that all of this learning will be inspirational and give them new faith in their own possibilities. And belief in the possibilities the world has for them.

I wish that each child will become more comfortable taking risks. That each child will become better at speaking up and listening closely. I hope that each child will learn something significant from a peer. I wish that each child will deliver a sincere apology and accept one. More than once. These children have much to teach each other.

I wish that each child I teach will feel brave. Know trust. Experience huge joy.

These are my 2016 wishes. Inspired by wildish wolves and brave children.

Here is to the possibility of 2016.

A year of thinking (2015)

Yesterday, I published a list of favourite book lists I have posted on this blog in 2015. I said it in the post and I will say it again here: I make a lot of lists.

But here and there, I do some thinking.

Sometimes it is reflective. Some of it is not quite clear. Writing it down means I figure some of it out. Some of it has “rantish” leanings. But all of it captures my journey as a teacher, a reader, a human.

Today, I honour the posts that best capture my year . . . in thoughts. Putting this together was an interesting process. A healthy, emotional process.

In January, I gave voice to the not so wonderful Monday: Monday leads to Friday Sometimes it is all about hanging in!

From this post:

On some Mondays, I question whether I have it together at all. A lot seems to not be yet “in synch” and the previous week feels very long ago. Monday often feels like a warm up, remind ourselves, get it together day. I don’t often say TGIF. But I often think TGMIO. TGMIO = Thank Goodness Monday is Over. Monday is the day when we don’t have the cushion of success immediately behind us. Anxiety is higher. Stamina is lower. Energy is inconsistent. When Monday is under our belt, it’s like the clouds part. The sun creeps in or sometimes it lights up the week bright and strong on Tuesday and holds fast.

A year of thinking (2015)

In March I fully celebrated all things book nerdy: Nerding Out I attended not one, but two literacy conferences and the first EVER nErDCamp Bellingham. 

From this post:

And yes, I love all of this – the authors, the illustrators and the literacy love. But why do I love it so much? Because I can share it with my students.

Their book love is my book love.

Our passion for literacy is always, I hope, transformative.

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In April, there were some rocky weeks. But I fuelled up on what was always around me: Fuel

From this post:

Every so often though, I need to gather fuel. Fuel to recharge when there are lots of hard moments. This week, I celebrate that thanks to some sunshine, some impressive and supportive colleagues and the laughter and smiles of the children I work with, I found the energy to go looking for that fuel. And of course, I found it. Right there. Where it always is. All around me. Waiting to be noticed. Ready to shine the light.

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In April, I also began the process of letting go: Three Years Only a few months left of sharing a classroom everyday with a group of children (many for a full 3 years).

From this post:

It has been a very special gift to teach so many children for so long. I may never have this opportunity again and I know it. All children teach me so much. These children have been particularly influential. This is my 20th year at this school and I don’t think I have ever been so full of change and possibility. Wanting the room to be full of learning and security for these children has pushed me to risk take and shift and reassess constantly. My learning has been perhaps the most rich.

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When school was really over in June, we were all ready: Goodbyes

From this post:

Yes, we had some tears. Yes, there were lots of hugs. But most of all there was security. When you build something great together, it still stands when you step away. Somehow, quietly, we all knew this.

And so . . . our goodbyes were full of gratitude, of smiles, of honouring what we have built. And of knowing that it is in each of us.

I am so lucky to be a teacher. So lucky to work with such wonderful children. Today, I celebrate that.

Big breath.

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In July, I shared Sunday Morning Perspective all about knowing what is really important in the classroom: community.

From this post:

Our classroom is its own community. What we build is ours. The learning environment is a safe haven and that is powerful and necessary for many children.

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In August, I was thinking full steam ahead – all about my new to me readers and reminding myself to go slow: Literacy Nest Building 101

From this post:

I need to dust off my patient self and approach this new group with more experience, deeper commitment and careful and best intentions. I want to do it right. Wrap them in book love and let them settle. Not squeeze too tight. Let the books do their thing. Build a literary nest in which to nurture these new readers. When we fly, we will soar. But first there is going to be a little bit of bumbling about. Some falls. Some reading journeys that need more lift off. The right wind. Smoother landings. We will get there. One book at a time. Shared together. Shared between us.

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I was also getting all bothered by the prospect of evaluation overkill and wrote this in my head and in scratchy scrawls (stopping at bus stop benches as I shopped for vegetables, to write down my thoughts in a notebook): The Power of Observation My “rant” about all that we can know by watching.

From this post:

The wonderful thing about observation? I can gather information all day, every day as we continue to engage in our daily learning. The power of observation. Over time. In many different activities. With children we know and have relationships with. It gives us so much more than any paper and pencil task will ever do.

We don’t need to fill our first weeks with students with assessments. We need to let the learning begin. Everything we need to know is happening right in front of us if we just pay attention.

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September brought a new class. New needs. Some of them surprising. Deeper literacy needs than I was initially prepared for . . . But I found a way to celebrate the challenge: Celebration: From Here

From this post:

I feel worried. I feel little moments of desperate. This isn’t grade 1 where my task is to grow readers from non readers. This is grade 2 and 3 where I must now grow readers and play all kinds of catch up. I feel responsible. But most importantly, I feel urgent. And this is what I celebrate – the urgency of my task. The advocacy that needs to happen. My determination. It is fierce. My fear. It is motivating. My breath. It keeps me grounded. Somehow, someway, we are going to change things for these children.

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A Sunday Reflection in November: Honest Truths, Metaphorical Whales and the “in between” place Meeting Marla Frazee “steadied my boat” on a rainy November morning and helped me back to a steady shore.

From this post:

I am a teacher. A teacher who believes firmly in the gift of literacy.  I am a conduit between authors and illustrators who have magic to give and the children who need to receive it. And when I can, I reflect it back. I love nothing more than to share how very beloved stories are in a community of little readers. I am blessed to sit “in between“- in the middle of the book makers and the readers and listeners who they make these books for.

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In December, after one sleep into the holiday break I wrote (Brief) Ramblings and the Happiness Train. Sometimes, we need to embrace our inner silly and capture the energy of childhood.

From this post:

There is something freeing about leaping about and laughing with a bunch of five to eight year olds along for the ride. Freeing and needed.

Finally, one of my little guys leaped in front of us. “This is the terminus! Last stop!” he shouted. And, we all agreed. The children ran off, lighter, ready for the last ten minutes of playtime. I walked inside, lighter, but loaded down with connection, calm and the feeling of “just right.”

 A year of Thinking (2015)

A year of thoughts. What a year.  So happy to be a teacher, a learner and a thinker who still has much to figure out.

Best to everyone who reads this blog – I also learn so much from each of you!

Literary Nest Building 101

When I said the final goodbyes to my students in June, it was goodbye to a group of children I have shared a classroom with for two or three years. A reading community with a culture of reading that was well established. At 2:30 p.m. on our last day of school, what were we doing? Reading! Books connected us and enriched our lives.

We had the reading groove going on. There was back and forth trust with our recommendations. We breathed in deep as we settled into read alouds. We communicated with wide eyes, arched eyebrows and raised shoulders as we listened. We craved daily independent reading time.  We were readers.

Literary Nest Building 101 How to build a culture of reading There's a Book for That

These children were discerning when it came to new books. They were as apt to gush ” I LOVE that book,” as to comment “Well, it was mostly good but . . ” We knew certain books would be loved by some and other books would be treasured by all. I chose what I shared carefully. Generally, I delivered amazing choices because what I shared was based on the recommendations of a wise, appreciated group of book lovers (yes, I am talking to you Nerdy Book Club members) who want to deliver the best on the page to the children in their charge. Best for the best.

But this fall, I will have a brand new group of students. A younger group with fresh interests and experiences. My challenge? To win them over to the land of reading.

The impatient part of me wants to do this instantaneously. Let’s fall in love at first sight and embark on our journey together as book lovers. But I have learned. The 9 and 10 year olds I sent off surrounded in words, images and book love were 7 and 8 year olds two years ago. I began then at the beginning. I remember when they first arrived, things felt slightly off kilter. I bemoaned that I couldn’t dive deep into heavy, heady picture books and richly written novels. I had to begin differently. Start where they were. I learned that when you find the right match – the right books for the readers in front of you, the reading experience becomes instantly rich. Thankfully, I learned this quickly and we began to discover new books to love together.

Now, a few years later, I need to dust off my patient self and approach this new group with more experience, deeper commitment and careful and best intentions. I want to do it right. Wrap them in book love and let them settle. Not squeeze too tight. Let the books do their thing. Build a literary nest in which to nurture these new readers. When we fly, we will soar. But first there is going to be a little bit of bumbling about. Some falls. Some reading journeys that need more lift off. The right wind. Smoother landings. We will get there. One book at a time. Shared together. Shared between us. The love of reading doesn’t need to be found. It just sometimes needs to be switched on. The stories, the connection, the communication, the sharing; reading brings all of these things to a community.

Literary Nest Building 101 How to build a culture of reading There's a Book for That

What is my plan? To keep certain things in mind. Patience. Humour. Celebration. I will read daily and often. I will reveal the huge part of me that is a book lover. A brazen book lover who shares books in big, booming, leap about ways but who is also a sharer of stories and lets there be silence, pauses and time to absorb.

I will be deliberate.

We will be book explorers. We will learn how to navigate each and every part of a book. The end pages, the pattern on the spine and the under the jacket surprises. We will read every name: the author, the illustrator and the dedications. Books have little secrets. There are mysteries tucked away in all kinds of places if you look carefully.

We will laugh and giggle. Through humorous books we will begin associating reading with fun and joy. We will become quickly addicted. The power of a funny story with little readers can never be underestimated.

We will honour visual literacy. Through wordless titles we will participate in “tell alouds.” We will learn that experiencing a story doesn’t have to involve reading a single word. For beginning readers, this is all powerful.

We will create shared experiences and chances to share. Guest readers will be invited in. We will write and post book reviews. We will connect with authors and illustrators. We will give the gift of reading to our kindergarten buddies.

Literary Nest Building 101 How to build a culture of reading There's a Book for That

We will let nonfiction books tease out questions, awe and first ever discoveries. We will put down the books and talk and wonder together. In various ways, we will try to catch all of the new knowledge that happens in the room

I will read books that will make them mad. Books that make them sad. Joyous. Safe. Confused. I will honour the feelings. We will sit with these emotions together quietly. Or we will rage and shout. All of our reactions will be accepted and allow us to make our worlds bigger.

We will find books where they can find themselves. Other books will introduce them to lives and people they have never imagined.

We will develop listening stamina through reading chapter books. We will get lost in the characters. We will feel stories deeply and fully. We will let our thinking be transformed.

In our classroom, we will have time to read, time to talk and time to read aloud.

I will watch the impact of certain titles on certain readers. When I pay attention, I will be better equipped to find the right books for the right readers and make sure that every reader has many books to love.

All of this won’t happen week one.

Maybe not even month one.

But I will know the moment it does.

My tightly woven nest won’t be empty. But it will no longer be the place where I gather children and ready them for reading journeys. It will, instead, start to expand and grow, becoming the place where readers land and take flight.

 

Sunday Reflections: The power of observation

Certain things about common teacher practices upset me. I hear particular statements and shake my head. Braver me should say something on the spot. That isn’t always easy. I’m not always brave. I should be because those statements don’t leave me. They stick in my head and I fret. I worry. I wonder. Couldn’t we, shouldn’t we be doing better for the students we teach?

What am I currently concerned about? Teachers talking about “assessment” and gathering “data” in the first week of school. Sometimes on the first day. Writing samples collected in quiet rooms with the timer on. Spelling tests. Pages of math “testing” to see what students know or remember. Again, administered quietly. No talking. Reading and answering questions to determine “a level” or placement in a group. I could begin ranting. What about building relationships and community? Is this a good use of time when students are still readjusting to “back to the classroom.”  What truly useful information is gathered from these activities given at this time? What, really, is this going to help you do that will benefit students?

But ranting does not move us forward.

Instead, I would like to suggest something simple. Watching. Noticing. Interacting. Paying attention. Yes, we need information about who are students are and what they need in order to best meet their needs, but how we find that information matters.

In my primary classroom, by just observing students during five different activities, I can learn so much. In the first few weeks, I observe.

When I read aloud, I pay attention to:

 Sunday Reflections: The power of observation There's a Book for That

  • Who sits where and why?
  • How much physical space and how much opportunity to move does each child need?
  • Who likes the interactive read aloud experience?
  • Who dislikes interruptions and needs “flow”?
  • Who has listening stamina? How much?
  • Who respects the listening space of others?
  • Who is an active participant in discussions related to what we are reading? Who needs some encouragement? Who needs additional processing time?
  • What kind of story sense does each child have?
  • What kind of comprehension strategies are utilized (predicting, making connections, asking questions, inferring, etc.)
  • What background knowledge on certain topics do students seem to have?

When it is independent reading time, I pay attention to:

 Sunday Reflections: The power of observation There's a Book for That

  • How much reading stamina does each child have?
  • Who is a confident reader?
  • Who finds reading challenging?
  • Who needs a lot of support on their journey to becoming a reader?
  • Who has knowledge of a variety of authors/illustrators/series?
  • Do students have knowledge about different genres?
  • Who has well developed personal preferences with reading material?
  • Who reads widely?
  • Who can self select “good fit” reading material?
  • How does each child respond to recommendations?
  • Who takes suggestions of what to read from peers? Who offers suggestions?
  • Who is influenced by what his/her peers are reading?
  • Who wanders and needs redirection?
  • Who can read quietly? Who mumbles? Who needs to read aloud?
  • Who seeks buddy reading opportunities/
  • Who seeks out an adult to read to?
  • How actively does each child engage in reading conversations with peers? with adults? during conferences?

When I ask students to talk with each other, I pay attention to:

 Sunday Reflections: The power of observation There's a Book for That

  • Who follows directions about “turn and talk” expectations?
  • Who can talk with anyone? Who wants to talk with an adult beside them? Who only wants to talk with friends or classmates he/she knows?
  • Who can listen carefully?
  • Who can share easily and with confidence?
  • Who can offer a different opinion/perspective?
  • Who can add to what a peer has said?
  • Who can ask questions of a peer? Answer questions from a peer?
  • Who needs adult prompts and frequent feedback?
  • Who grows when feedback is given either individually or to the group?
  • Who listens when peers are sharing out to the group?
  • Who can say something different or add to what a peer has said during sharing out?
  • Who tends to only repeat what someone else has said?
  • Who is comfortable sharing a different opinion in front of the whole group?
  • Who wants to share out (is an eager participant)?
  • Who will share out when called on?
  • Who is reluctant to talk in front of a whole group?

When a math problem is proposed, I pay attention to:

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  • Who likes to work independently?
  • Who prefers to work with a partner? Or a small group?
  • Who is a self starter?
  • Who takes risks?
  • How persistent is each learner?
  • Can each child refer to a class demonstration or chart for support?
  • What kind of materials does a child like to use?
  • Who is willing to try a variety of strategies?
  • What does “frustration” look like for each child? How quickly do students get to the frustration point? What happens when they do?
  • Who seeks peer feedback?
  • Who can take redirection from a peer?
  • Who seeks adult affirmation? feedback? support?
  • Who wants to share?
  • Who likes to peer teach? Who is really good at it? Who is developing skills to take a leadership role?
  • What kind of number sense does each child have?
  • What number concepts does a child need to have more success?

When it is free choice/play time, I pay attention to:

 Sunday Reflections: The power of observation There's a Book for That

  • Who likes to do things independently? With one other child? In a small group?
  • Who is a starter? Who is a joiner?
  • What kind of creative ideas emerge during play?
  • How long can each child sustain attention with one activity?
  • Who solves social problems independently? Who immediately seeks adult help?
  • Do children tend to “tell on” or ask for help when having problems with a peer?
  • Who is willing to accept criticism?
  • Who is trusted to play fairly? When cheating happens in a game, what does that look like?
  • Who is a floater? Who tends to stay connected to particular peers?
  • When a child leaves a situation where there has been conflict, what does that look like?
  • Who can problem solve in the moment? Who needs cool off time?
  • How do we manage and give apologies? How do we handle forgiveness?
  • What kind of safe or calm places do we need in the room to support upset?
  • What kind of questions and wonders come out of play that we should pursue?

While my students have been engaging in everyday learning experiences and while they are learning and building skills, I also am learning and thinking about what’s next. I don’t need to write every single thing I see down. I don’t need something on paper as proof. I need time to watch and interact and notice. I need to trust that I know what I am looking for and that I can make decisions to best guide the learning based on what I see. This will be with individual students and whole class trends. Sometimes I am surprised. Even confused or worried. But this will lead me to more watching, to asking questions, to seeking support.

The wonderful thing about observation? I can gather information all day, every day as we continue to engage in our daily learning. The power of observation. Over time. In many different activities. With children we know and have relationships with. It gives us so much more than any paper and pencil task will ever do.

We don’t need to fill our first weeks with students with assessments. We need to let the learning begin. Everything we need to know is happening right in front of us if we just pay attention.

What do you learn when you take the time to notice?

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features

Summer in my world means bright early mornings, family vacations to the ocean, long afternoons of reading and classroom library tinkering! Sometimes the tinkering is a full out overhaul like this reorganization two years ago that involved moving shelves, switching bins and massive weeding.

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

Other years, it is a lot of adding to the collection and rethinking organization. This year, I am about to embark on some more big changes. I will likely have a Grade 2/3 class this year after teaching Grade 3/4 last year. Some series will go into storage and displays will change. I have more weeding to do and many books to label and add to the collection. I also have some donated books to sort through – some will become part of my classroom library, some I will share with other teachers and some will make their way home with readers.

I LOVE this work. Interacting with the books reminds me of titles I need to promote and stories that must be read. I also love the time to think about how Reading Workshop will roll out this year with a new group of students. Always, I want our library to be well used, well loved and working for all of the children in the room.

As I work this summer, I plan to share some of my thinking. Maybe it will be helpful to someone out there and it is always a useful process for me. Sharing, after all, promotes the best kind of learning there is.

I believe in a room full of books and time to read them. I also celebrate lots of book displays, incredible illustrations, an organization system that makes sense and a place for student voice.

Today’s post? Ten important features in my classroom library, beyond the books.

What are they and why are they important?

Book Jacket Wallpaper 

In my teacher resource area live lots of books and a wall of book jackets. This photo shows three layers of jackets. The “wallpaper” actually goes up another four rows. The message? That books are important: they are treasured, they are beautiful and they impact everything we do.

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

Behind the Scenes Organization

Every book that makes it into the collection is labelled with my name and “stickered” with the bin code. The trick to keeping the sticker on? Scotch tape. Labelled books mean that they can all find their homes when not being read.

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

Reader Statements

In January of 2014 I had the opportunity to hear Pat Johnson and Katie Keier authors of Catching Readers Before They Fall here in Vancouver. One of my take away pieces of learning was about using Reader’s Statements to communicate what readers do. For example: Readers think about what they read or listen to or Readers make sure what they read makes sense. I now record Reader’s Statements that come out of student conferences and post these up with the name of the child that talked about the idea. We refer to these often!

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

Book Return Bins

Some students put books away really well after learning the system. Other students find this more difficult. These big bins allow students to “return” books to a central area and a student volunteer of one of us working in the room will return the books at a later time.

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

Book Boxes

Each of my readers has his or her own book box. It is supposed to be for the books we are currently reading. But often our book joy overflows and many many books end up in these boxes. We work on prioritizing, keeping lists and letting books back out to be read by others. As one brilliant student always reminds us, “The books aren’t going anywhere. They are here all year for you to read.”

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

20 Beautiful Books Shelf

I have many special books in my collection. Some might be a signed copy. Others might be saved for specific read alouds. Some were important gifts. But, it doesn’t feel right keeping them all away from the readers in the room. So, this year I started using this shelf and we call it the 20 Beautiful Books Shelf because it always has 20 books on it and well, they are beautiful! Each of these books has a green sticker on the back and must be returned to the shelf after reading. I switch the titles here every few weeks.

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

Recently Read/Book talked Fiction Shelf

If I read a book or book talk it, it goes onto this shelf. These titles sometimes go back into my “resource” collection and get circulated when they take a turn on the “20 beautiful books shelf.” Other titles are library books and get returned to the library. Some books end up in our class collection. But after we have all enjoyed them together, they hang out here for a while so that they can be located easily when a reader wants to read one of them again. This shelf gets a lot of love!

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

Recently Read/Book talked Nonfiction Shelf

And if fiction books are loved? So are nonfiction! And equally so! So I have a shelf for our nonfiction titles too. See the explanation above for fiction.

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

Favourite Read Aloud Bin

Sometimes, our recently read shelf gets full and I need to move some books out. When I try, there is often loud protesting! “No, we are still reading that one a lot!” (Rereading is celebrated in our room!) Sometimes, a book needs to go here so it can be found easily and that it gets a special place of honour. The bin is empty in September and slowly fills up throughout the year.

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

These titles came out of the Favourite Read Aloud bin at the end of the 2013/2014 year.

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

Book Jacket Vocabulary

I love to highlight the nonfiction titles we have read and all of the learning that happened through our reading, writing and discussions. I post book jackets with key vocabulary and leave them up all year. Students often refer to the word lists and I use the words as prompts for review.

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

The most important part of all of this?

That my students feel that they learn in a “wonderland of books.”

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for thatAll of these books and all of the organizing means that it often looks like this in my room. This is buddy reading with the Ks – lots of reading, lots of engagement, lots of literacy.

Exactly how it should be.

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

In this recent post, I talk about questions to think about when setting up a classroom library.

What features in your classroom library make it work for your readers?

Sunday Morning Perspective

It’s a Sunday in the middle of summer. I have hung out laundry on the line. Stood with my coffee on the back deck and watched hawks swoop and swerve into our huge pine tree. Thought about when to wake my children who stayed up to the wee hours reading many chaptered novels. The day promises to be easy. Relaxed. Low stress.

I think of school days ahead this fall. The mornings are not so slow and calm. There is rushing. Wake up time is not negotiable. And while the birds may be out there doing their thing, it is the people in the house swooping and swerving as we get ready for the day. No matter how much we try, we can never replicate summer ease and insert it into the hectic pace of everyday school schedules.

But we can carry forward perspective. We can look back on what we know we know on these calm mornings, take a breath in the middle of the busy and know it then. When we need it most.

So while I know that I will be worried about curriculum and schedules and conflicts not even imagined come fall, I also know that I need to remember what I know to be most true.

Our classroom is its own community. What we build is ours. The learning environment is a safe haven and that is powerful and necessary for many children.

 Sunday Morning Perspective There's a Book for That

What we learn is absolutely important. The skills we will build are vital. The learning how to be learners is key. But the biggest thing that is all pervasive and impacts us most of all? That we are learning together. We are community.

When I think back over my year last year, what stands out? What were the moments when I felt the room quietly vibrate with power.

It was the silent sound of waiting for a child to share during gratitude circle. Twenty two children being present and quiet and ready to listen to a classmate.

It was the conversations that happened without any words. When a child would look up and I could see in their eyes that something someone else said resonated. That wonderful “learning between” children that can happen when community exists.

It was when I would be reading a story after lunch at the carpet. One child would be quietly crying shedding the upset of social dramas gone wrong during play time. Nobody was tattling or complaining or staring. But little hands were patting backs. Everybody was breathing deep.

It was when one child would gush with pride over what somebody else achieved.

It was coming across my most quiet child teaching a group of friends how to play a new board game. All eyes on her and a confident voice speaking out.

It was the moments of forgiveness.

It was the admitting of mistakes.

It was the apology whispers.

It was the fall right over contagious giggles.

I will plan and rethink and organize this summer. But I know that the most important thing I will do come September will be to welcome a new group of children and work, with them, to build our community.