I’ve been in the teaching professional a relatively short period of time. A little over five years ago, I completed my Master’s of Teaching degree. The three year prior to that, I was completing my coursework and completing a series of long-term substitute positions in a number of different grade levels. Almost every classroom I was in had a classroom library.
I became enamored with the classroom library. How did these teachers get all these books? Who paid for them? How did they manage to keep them organized? The one thing I did know, I needed to have books for my classroom once that was a reality. It wasn’t too hard for me as I have two daughters who love to read. The true challenge came as I was moved from Middle School to Elementary and now back to Middle/High School. Can one teacher have that many books at that many levels? (You’d be surprised!)
While getting the books became a quest, the organization part of the library was difficult to deal with. How was I going to organize them? How was I going to keep track of them? As Sarah Andersen states in her blog post, “Creating and Managing a Classroom Library,” I try to “keep it simple.” I use a similar system to Ms. Andersen. I have a notepad by the books and have students sign out the books. When they bring them back, they cross off the book on the list. I work on the honor system mostly. I realize there will be books each year that I won’t get back. Amazingly enough, this year I was surprised with four books that apparently I had been missing since last year. (That was a pleasant surprise!) The most important part of my checkout system is similar to Ms. Andersen’s checkout system in that I make sure each book has my name on it. Most times I put the name on the inside front cover, but am tempted to put them along the outside of the book like Ms. Andersen because then people would know if they found a stray book around where it needed to be.
In the blog, “Is “Getting Along Fine” Good Enough,” I was incredibly concerned to see a teaching candidate saying “… I’m just not sure whether it’s worth the time it would take to keep and maintain.” Do you want your students reading more? Then you NEED to surround them with books. You need to let them know what you are reading. You need to encourage them to read more books and try different types of books. Reading is the key to success, in my “not-so-humble” opinion.
In Book Love by Penny Kittle, she talks about a letter she sends to parents about her independent reading program. In it she explains that she can’t read everything the students choose to read and asks them to let her know if there is content in the books their child has chosen that is of concern so they can work together on the choices. I love this approach as it creates a team to help students choose wisely. At the same time, she is bowing to potential censorship by saying she will remove books from her shelf. This is a great, proactive approach to potential issues with parents.
Ultimately, it’s essential to surround students with books if you want them to read. It’s important to have an open dialogue with students to get them reading and to help them develop their stamina was readers. In Book Love, I also really embraced the concept of establishing weekly reading goals (achievable goals) for each student. In addition, I agree we need to increase the complexity over time. I was concerned, however, with a statement by a high school teacher that said, “They can’t be reading those easy books as seniors!” Well, they weren’t reading ANY books as freshmen, sophomores, or juniors, so you know what??? Let them read easier books until they get comfortable enough that you can help push them out of their comfort zone! Any book read is better than no book read!