Rethinking the Classroom Library: 5 Steps for Teachers

    It’s been 45 minutes since I tucked my boys, ages six and three, into bed for the night.  The monitor is silent and all of a sudden, I hear a lot of conversation coming from the speaker.  I can clearly hear the boys chattering excitedly about…wait for it…BOOKS!

Curious, I have to check this out.  As I open the door to see what all the commotion is about, I approach Asher’s bed.  He has all of his chapter books stacked high on top of his pillow.  Next to those is a sprawl of picture books.  I asked him what was going on?

He proudly declared, “This is my library!  Isaac wanted to check out a chapter book, since it’s Friday, so I let him borrow one of my books.”

My heart melted.  These boys haven’t been to the public library for nearly five months.  This is a space that they so love and enjoy so much, that they’ve used their imaginations to recreate it here, in their bedroom.

Of course I let them stay up for thirty more minutes to play library before I told them that library hours were over 😉

The library.

Such a vital part of every school.  The heart and soul of the building.  Where students can wander…wonder…and truly be themselves.

With talks of school libraries remaining closed in the gradual reopening of school buildings in order to minimize the risk of spreading Covid 19, my heart and head go into problem solving mode.

How can I PIVOT the classroom library to mimic the space so many kids love and enjoy…the library.  Of course numerous safety and health protocols must be considered as students access books in the classroom, but I want my students to have ACCESS.  Access to wonderful, diverse, and heartfelt stories that can whisk them away, for just a moment, from the stressful realities of 2020.

Here are my initial ideas as I take on this quest:

  1. Interest inventories:  I need to know my readers, so that I can be their personal shopper.  Students won’t be able to peruse books, to gather around a shelf together and talk about their favorite titles.  I’ll need to collect titles for them, give them some choices, and allow them to pick a few that hit the heart mark.*These FREE digital reading surveys developed by Jennifer Findley are both informative and engaging.  Be sure to check them out!
  2. Rethinking the space:  The traditional classroom library is tucked into a corner of the classroom with the reading chair, comfy bean bags, and pillows.  This is a vision of the past, for now.  Instead, I plan on surrounding my students with books.  Everywhere they turn a friendly cover will great them so that they can see and consider great titles each and every day.
  3. Book Talks:  Of course, I don’t want the kids to just see those books, I want them to read those books.  Book talking all day, everyday is something I plan to schedule into our day so that kids are constantly asking for books to add to their book box.  I can constantly replenish the stories students are surrounded by and get the next great book into the hands of excited readers.
  4. Take them Home:  Long ago I let go of my sense of ownership of my books.  The class collection is OUR collection and if a kid is enjoying a book so much that they want to take it home, my answer is always YES!  Our community is based around trust, care, and sharing.  Students take the book home, bring it back, and book talk it to their friends so that the next heart can encounter that title.
  5. Classroom Book a Day Challenge:  I was watching Colby Sharp’s first ten picture books he read with his 5th graders this Fall and he shared how read aloud was the most normal part of his 2020 day.  I took on Donalyn Miller and Jillian Heisse’s classroom book a day challenge, on the very first day of remote learning.  Two weeks in and my class has read over ten picture books.  When I surveyed my students about their favorite part of our virtual Morning Meetings, by far it was the read aloud.  It doesn’t matter if you’re fully online, hybrid, or in person, reading one picture book a day can be the cornerstone of the classroom culture and that love of reading we all so desperately want to cultivate.

Share with us how have or plan to utilize your classroom library as we PIVOT the way our classrooms look, feel, and provide safety for our students.

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One thought on “Rethinking the Classroom Library: 5 Steps for Teachers

  1. This is my favorite post yet!! Connecting through stories is the best way to build a strong classroom community—even remotely!

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