Books, books, books, everywhere you look: Celebration and Slice of Life #19

Books, books, books, everywhere you look

My classroom is a library. You can’t miss this from the moment you step in the door. There are books everywhere. One child observed the other day, “No matter where I am sitting, I can see books.” This is intentional. I want our classroom to be a place where students immerse themselves in stories, in information, in any text that is going to enrich their learning and their thinking.

If you are a student in our classroom, you are a part of our reading community and you really know what all of these books mean. These books are yours. You have complete access. Everywhere you look, you see possibilities, opportunities, stories you love and stories you want to love. “It’s pretty easy to be a reader in this room,” a student told me recently. Yes. The books are here. The time to read them is made. The excitement is consistent. But it doesn’t happen by pure osmosis. We work on being readers. And sometimes the work is hard. But we become readers, surrounded by books.

I read Pernille Ripp‘s recent post about classroom libraries this morning: On the Need for Classroom Libraries for All Ages. She makes excellent points about the difference a classroom library makes for her Grade 7 students. It made me want to celebrate my classroom library because I believe pretty passionately in its existence. But some of the comments also compelled me to want to address how vital classroom libraries are – not in place of a school library, but as a complement. I wish, really, that the conversation wasn’t necessary but I know from comments I have heard over the years that some people believe that classroom libraries aren’t overly important. Or that they actually interfere or compete with a school library. The arguments include statements like these: classroom libraries are not all that well stocked, the books aren’t selected by a qualified Teacher Librarian, teachers don’t know how to weed, there isn’t enough diversity. Or the big concern: classroom libraries will mean less interest in the school library making school libraries unnecessary.

Books, books, books, everywhere you look

I would argue that the very people who have extensive, well-loved classroom libraries, are the very people who know there are never enough books and never enough expertise. We are the champions of well-funded school libraries. We revere our Teacher Librarians and seek out their recommendations and knowledge often, We ensure that our students get frequent time in the school library. We take out bins and bins of books and bring them into our classroom collections. We can’t imagine a school without a library. Just like we can’t imagine a classroom without a library. Just like we can’t imagine a reader without a book.

Classroom libraries mean each child is steps away from a book at all times. These libraries mean that we can get up when our mood switches – put down our novel and pick up a book of poems. We can immerse ourselves in a nonfiction text and come up for air five minutes before the bell rings to read a picture book. We can pass the book to the child next to us without any signing in, signing out time spent.

Classroom libraries are like a living, breathing, ever-changing creature. They reflect the interests, the questions and the passions of the readers in the room. Highlighted books will include favourite authors or illustrators, themes of study, books to inspire writing on a particular theme. In my classroom, we have a recently read shelf for both fiction and nonfiction books. If we read it, they can find it and quick. Often children want to visit those stories we have shared together again and again. A classroom library is an extension of its readers. It is their mirror. The bright shiny button on their favourite jacket. The delicious cookie in the jar almost, but not quite, out of reach.

There is an intimacy to a classroom. As teachers, we know our students. If we also know our books and have plenty to choose from, we can make those essential matches happen. My daughter wisely pointed out: “The teacher who owns the books knows you and so they know which book to recommend to you.” Of course, librarians know students too. Often very well. But remember this is not an argument for one library over the other. We are celebrating readers and access to books here.

I also think that those not in full support of classroom libraries, may not understand how workshop classrooms work. They may assume that reading happens during a silent reading block and then again in a reading period where the teacher supplies the material – a novel, an article, a reader. During silent reading, it is assumed, that students can easily be reading a book that they have taken out from a school library. During the reading lesson, students will be provided with reading material. While yes, this might be the case in some classrooms, it is not the way a Reading Workshop classroom works. During reading conferences, we leap up and make book recommendations, we help students select titles, we provide time to “book shop” in the collection. Peers recommend books to each other. We book talk titles and students make lists of what to read in the future. There is time to buddy read. There is permission to get up and abandon a book. All of this means books need to be available and organized – accessible in the moment for readers on an important reading journey.

This is hardly the first time I have talked about classroom libraries and it is unlikely to be the last. My classroom library is always changing because it needs to meet the needs of the students who use it. I keep writing about it and reading avidly all the while, because I want to offer my students the very best literacy experiences I can provide.

Today, I celebrate classroom libraries. I celebrate teachers who invest time, money and love into creating reading environments for the readers in their rooms. I know these teachers know books, know kids and keep reading and learning so that they can always learn more.  I celebrate those that invest in classroom libraries because they know how important that one book might be for that one child and that means many books for the many children who will pass through a room. I also celebrate the children who have classrooms that honour them as readers. Classroom libraries mean something. Something big.

If you, like me, are in the mood to celebrate classroom libraries, I include links to some of these other posts here.

Talking Classroom Libraries

How to Organize a Classroom Library: 20 points to consider

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, ten important features

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: A room full of nonfiction

Literary Nest Building 101

 

Bad Irony: Slice of Life

I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.

This is also a celebration post.

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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If I lived in a house by the sea: Slice of Life #16

If I lived in a house by the sea #sol16

Every year my family comes to stay in a house on the ocean. Sometimes in the spring. Sometimes in the summer. When we are lucky, it is more than once. It’s strange that it feels like such an other place because I could easily visit the ocean every day – we live a 15 minute drive away from a beach. But in these ocean houses, it is different. It is as if everything is about the water. Like the rhythmic pull of the tide, I am slowly pulled from my other, every day life.

I watch the ocean all day. Wake up to it throughout the night. The stars are brighter. The skies are more dramatic. The world is lonelier.The constant movement is soothing and terrifying all at once. I watch the surface looking for sightings of all things I wish desperately to see: whales, dolphins, beautiful birds of the sea.

I walk along the shore and think about what life would be like if I lived here. If I knew this shore. Each rock, each possible sunrise, the patterns of the tides.

I think about small moments of a different life. A life that might be mine if I lived in a house by the sea.

I would have a large dog and every day we would walk away from the water and into the forest, breathing deep the moist, earthy air, noticing anything that broke through the quiet: bird song, footfalls, wind whistles.

Morning coffee would be sipped early in the morning on a rock overlooking the ocean. A warm jacket would wait on the same hook for me each day. I would step into boots in the winter, sandals in the summer, worn so often they could walk themselves down our path.

Storms would find me in my favourite chair by the window spellbound by the ferocity of the wind, the angry dark tones of the sky and the pounding of water from both clouds and sea.

I would add carefully to my collections. Jars and jars of sea glass.  Bowls of smooth stones. Shells, bones and wood that caught my eye.

Every whale I saw would delight and sadden me. Oh, that I was at the right spot and looked up just when. But what if it never happened again? My luck would feel so precious that my eyes would fill with tears each and every time.

I would think differently about blue and grey and white. Rocks would tell me stories. The sun’s rise and fall at the horizon would never fail to hold my attention.

If I lived in a house by the sea.

Bad Irony: Slice of Life

I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.

 

Picture Books to help us explore the complexity of bullying

Division 5 is currently exploring the theme of bully, bullied, bystander through picture books. We also share books on this topic during our weekly Social Responsibility gatherings. Here are some of the titles we have been reading.

Jungle Bullies written by Steven Kroll and illustrated by Vincent Nguyen

This book has a simple repetetive message important to help children understand that bossy, mean behaviour isn’t okay especially when someone is using their bigger size to be intimidating. As each jungle animal nudges another out of a napping spot, the trend seems like it will never stop until a little monkey decides with the help of his Mama that he wants to stand up to a bully. Children learn: Being a bully isn’t okay. I can stand up to it with some help from others. Let’s focus on sharing and maybe even being friends. Perfect for Pre-K-2. 

Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns about Bullies written by Howard Binkow and illustrated by Susan F. Cornelison.

This is one of my favourite Howard B. Wigglebottom books and one that never fails to engage listeners. This book teaches us about the importance of asking for help when bullying doesn’t stop. Howard has a little voice inside his head that tells him Be brave, Be bold, A teacher must be told. But it isn’t always easy to trust our intuition and Howard suffers many unpleasant interactions with the Snorton twins before he finally decides to report their behaviour. Finally, he can sleep easily, knowing that he was brave, he was bold when his teacher was finally told. “I am okay. I am safe.” he assures himself at the end.  Such an important book!

Great for K-3

You’re Mean, Lily Jean written by Frieda Wishinsky and illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton. 

 This is a “could be”, “might be”, “kinda is” a bully book but the social dynamics between the children allow it to be a book that is more about making firm expectations for play. Lily Jean is definitely some kind of bossy and quite quite mean. She shows off constantly, says “No!” when asked “Can I play too?” and bosses everyone around when she does allow them to be part of the game. (“You be the cow and I’ll be the cowgirl” kind of thing) But when sisters Sandy and Carly are assertive with Lily Jean and set some limits, Lily Jean is basicallly put in her place with the question, “Can you be nice?” When she agrees, playtime continues and is happy for all involved. A great book to illustrate that children can often solve their own social problems without involving an adult. It also shows us that the power of a bully dissolves quickly when nobody will go along with it.

Ideal for K-3

Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun written by Maria Dismondy and illustrated by Kimberly Shaw-Peterson.

The message of this book is all about courage – courage to stand up for yourself but also courage to forgive and reach out to others. Lucy has been bullied by Ralph in some truly nasty ways. When he gets stuck on the monkey bars, she has the opportunity to get back at him. Instead she realizes, looking at him so full of fear, that just like her Papa Gino told her, Ralph has a heart with feelings. Lucy offers her help, demonstrating courage to do the right thing – treat others the way she wants to be treated. Students learn that sometimes the hard shell of a bully can be softened with a little bit of kindness.

Suitable for Grades 2-4

Say Something written by Peggy Moss and illustrated by Lea Lyon.

What happens when you see bullying all around you? Pushing. Teasing. Name calling. But you don’t participate? You don’t say anything. What happens when one day the bullying happens to you? Those other kids sitting near, the ones saying nothing . . . suddenly the silence feels like something. It feels like it should be different. Saying nothing is the opposite of saying something. Of standing by instead of standing up. A very powerful book that shows us the importance of speaking up.

Suitable for Grades 2-5

When Randolph Turned Rotten

Today we started reading books that help us to address the bully/bullied/bystander dynamic. When Randolph Turned Rotten by Charise Mericle Harper was our first book.

Many would not categorize this as a book about bullying. It would more likely be labelled a book about feelings, friendship or forgiveness. While it does teach us about all of those things, I also think it is the ideal book to introduce the concept of how our feelings translate into our actions. Quite simply here: rotten feelings = nasty actions.  We are going to learn a lot in this unit. To start, why does someone act like bully/engage in bully behaviour? Next, what does being bullied feel like? What emotions does someone go through? Third, what about when there are bystanders? What are their roles? And finally, how does all of this work together? What happens when bullying begins and isn’t stopped?

In When Randolph Turned Rotten, we gain insight to what made Randolph go from being a good friend to a guy with “stinky rotten insides” that wishes ill on his best friend. In Randolph’s case, he is impacted by envy. His lovely best friend Ivy is invited to a birthday party. An all girl birthday party. A birthday party that Ivy is super duper excited about and that Randolph is NOT invited to attend. Randolph wishes he could go. He wishes Ivy would not go. He wishes he wasn’t going to be left alone. Then his wishes get mean. He hopes Ivy will have a horrible time and he devises a plan to ensure it. Randolph turns into nasty Randolph (Harper creates the perfect labelled diagram complete with mad hands – we all practiced trying to smile with clenched fists like that and it was close to impossible!) Mean thoughts invade his brain.

Randolph does a number of things to try and mess up Ivy’s trip – many of them focussed  on getting her to pack ridiculous items in her bag and scaring her about potential beach hazards like the awful beach bears that she will need a poiny stick to ward off! This book has  very interesting twist when Ivy arrives at the party. The geese (Ivy happens to be a goose!) get locked out of the house and must spend the night on the beach. All of the items Randolph inist Ivy pack turn out to be incredibly useful. Instead of ruining the party, Randolph is a hero! But, not to himself. Randolph, once alone with just time to contend with, feels guilty for what he has done. He apologizes. Ivy forgives him. They are best friends as always. But, we the readers, learned a lot. When we let our upset feelings take over and take us from thinking to acting in mean ways, we are engaging in bully behaviour. Wanting others to feel as bad as we do is a normal feeling but not one that we want to allow to cloud our judgement. It helped us understand why someone might do and say cruel things. It allowed us to start having those conversations about why someone might bully.

We are looking forward to reading more titles on this theme and the conversations that they might inspire.

Garden themed Books

Division 5 is participating in the Growing Chefs program and learning all about growing plants, urban agriculture and the wonder of vegetables! Our windowsills are full of seedlings and we are indulging in many garden themed read alouds to learn more about the magic of gardens, growing and green. The following is a list of books that will be part of our reading:

The Bumblebee Queen by April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Patricia J. Wynne

An informative information story book that details the lifecycle of the Queen bee. Touches on hive life, pollination and human behaviour towards bees.

Deborah Hodge‘s Watch me Grow and Up we Grow (photographs by Brian Harris)

These books have special meaning as Deborah Hodge gifted them to our class when she visited in the fall! These books immerse us in the world of gardening and growing! One focuses on life on a small farm and the other looks at growing food in the city.

The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone by Timothy Basil Ering

 In Cement Land, the promise of a packet of seeds is huge admist the gray drab world. Highlights the magic of watching seeds transform into plants!

The Gardener by Sarah Stewart and illustrated by David Small

Can a package of flower seeds bring happiness and beauty to a family during the Great Depression?

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown

Liam lives in the city and nurtures a struggling garden into a majestic green world. The power of a garden to invade (in the best of ways) stark city life.

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

We each need to do something to make the world a more beautiful place. Miss Rumphius spreads lupine seeds throughout the countryside and the resulting flowers have a transformative effect on everyone who stumbles upon them.

Westlandia written by Paul Fleischman and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

Wesley creates Weslandia, his own civilization using the plants he grows from some mysterious seeds and the products he makes from them.

A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Aston and Sylvia Long

Poetic text and beautifully detailed illustrations introduce us to the wonder of both familiar and unfamiliar seeds.

The Imaginary Garden by Andrew Larsen and illustrated by Irene Luxbacher

When Theodora’s Grandfather must leave his beloved garden when he moves to an apartment, granddaughter and grandfather create a beautiful garden from seed to flower through the power of art and love.

Book Magic

Often I have much to say on the magic of a book. Today I cheat and literally let a picture tell a thousand. And then I’ll just add a few . . .

Buddy Reading with the K/1 class happens every Wednesday afternoon. There is real joy in watching my Grade 2/3s bring the magic of books alive for their younger buddies. The boys above are sharing the story of Pigaroons by Arthur Geisert that I read to the class yesterday. Ice sculpting. Air ships. Popcorn balls. Pirate Pigs. Thwarting sabotage attempts. Adventure. Wit. It really couldn’t be much better.

Reading. Talking. Questions. Sharing. Engagement. Not much better at all!

Wonders of Wordless magic

I have a kind of love affair going on with wordless books. There is something magical about getting to the end of one feeling like you have read a very detailed story. Yet, not one word graced the page. Such potential for oral language and retelling . . . Some more of my favourite wordless books – both old and new. ( A recent post on wordless books: Few words on five wordless books can be found here)

Mirror by Suzy Lee

Fascination with our mirror image – from joy to despair.

Chalk by Bill Thomson

Does every piece of chalk hold amazing potential? What is really real?

Oops by Arthur Geisert

One disaster inevitably leads to another. Note to self: House built on a cliff? Maybe not the best idea!

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Shadow by Suzy Lee

A lightbulb, a child and a beautiful imagination create wonder.

Picturescape by Elisa Gutierrez

Let Canadian Art take you anywhere and everywhere!

The next two wordless picture books were sourced by my husband from used book stores and given to me over 15 years ago. They hold an important place on my book shelves! Unfortunately, it is as challenging to find images of these books as it is to find the books themselves!

The Yellow Umbrella by Henrik Drescher


Where in the world can a yellow umbrella take two monkeys?

Mighty Mizzling Mouse by Friso Henstra

The ultimate mouse chase. And the winner? Do you need to ask?

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