The school year is winding down (or actually, it feels like it is busier than ever…so really we are winding up, but that’s school life for you) and I’ve started thinking a lot about next school year. Thinking about next school year means learning more about a reading “program” my teachers will be using and thinking about how to implement a Reading Plan that our state has mandated all schools develop. All of this learning and thinking has me feeling some anxiety and I feel like I need to get a few things off my chest! So, here we go!
Part 1 – Leveling the Library…my teachers are going to start using Lucy Calkins Reading in their classroom for their ELA instruction. I am going to a professional development session about this over the summer and will be the first to say that I currently don’t know a whole lot about it. From what I hear and know, it sounds like an excellent method of teaching reading and writing in the classroom. It encourages teachers to have a large classroom library, which I love (the more print material that surrounds a child, the better!) and it encourages teachers to use guided reading and leveled texts in their reading instruction. That sounds good too. To teach a child to read, they must have text that they CAN read and comprehend. Got it. Awesome. BUT, here is where I feel nervous or have little flutters of anxiety in my stomach…I have heard whispers of “if my classroom library is leveled, then the school library should be too” (and I should say these whispers could totally be coming from my head. I tend to over think and get worked up when I am passionate about something). I get that line of thinking. I do. If we are going to make things “easier” by having a leveled classroom library where students will know exactly where they can go to pick out books that they should be able to read on their own independently, then why not have that “easier” method everywhere in the school? Well, the reason is, in my opinion, because a school library is not a place where the mechanics of reading are taught. The school library/public library/any library is a place where a baby, a child, an adult, an elderly person goes to pursue a love reading. To start enjoying books for pleasure. To find favorite authors. To read books they loved as a kid. To share books and stories with others. When a student comes to my library, they should be able to check out whatever they want (within reason. Some books, because of content, just aren’t appropriate for right now). Maybe the book is too hard for them, but if they take that book home, chances are a parent or a grandparent or a big brother or sister will sit down and read it with them. Or, maybe they will just sit down with that book by themselves and flip through the pages. Or maybe that book will just sit in their bookbag until the next school day when they ask to go back to the library for a new book. So what?! At least they’ve had a positive experience in the library and want to return! I don’t feel like you can create a life long reader by forcing them to sit down and read what YOU want them to read just based on a level ALL THE TIME. There is a time and a place for that. Never mind the fact that if the school library and any other books they come in contact with are leveled and that’s how they learn to choose what to read, what the heck are they going to do when they get to go to a book store or the public library and want to find a book? Those places aren’t leveled, nor will they ever be leveled. That’s just going to lead to lots of frustration and create someone who doesn’t want to read because it’s too stressful.
I feel that the purpose of the school library is to be a place where students learn how to make good choices based on what they WANT to read. Maybe they get a book that is too easy for them. Maybe they get a book that is too hard for them. No matter what, they have a book they are interested in and they will go home and share that book. Think about this – how many times have you checked the level of a book you are reading? I NEVER do! And, I read all sorts of things (not just because I am a librarian. I am a READER. If I were a mailman, I’d still be a reader of all the things I read now, including audio books, graphic novels, picture books, etc.)…many of them would not be deemed to be within my reading level. I choose books based on what my friends are reading, book reviews, THE COVER, etc. I learned how to choose books by trail and error. I don’t remember what my classroom teachers and school librarians told me about choosing books or about reading levels or anything like that, but I do know that my dad took me to the public library and did not care at all what I checked out. Just as long as I had a stack of books with me when we left and that I spent time reading them when we got home. OH, and here’s something important to think about too – my dad read books in front of me all the time. My mom loved magazines. There was always plenty of print material around my house. That’s how you become a reader…you are allowed to explore books and libraries and talk with folks about good books. You are given choice. I probably didn’t read one novel during my middle school years, but I read TONS of Archie comic books and magazines…reading is reading, guys. Have an area in your classroom where students can find good examples of “just right” books, but then take them to the library and help them find those “just right” books that THEY choose on the shelves so that they can LOVE reading and know how to find good books when they aren’t at school! That’s the point. Students have to have free choice on what they read somewhere in school and the school library is just the place for that.
And, you don’t have to take my word for it 😉 Here are a couple of other places to go to find more information on why choice is so important for growing readers:
Scholastic Parents “Give Kids Their Reading Choice” (geared towards parents) – http://www.scholastic.com/parents/resources/article/book-selection-tips/give-kids-their-reading-choice
Donalyn Miller “I’ve Got Research. Yes, I do. I’ve Got Research. How About You?” (this post has links to so much reading research…read up!) – https://bookwhisperer.com/2015/02/08/ive-got-research-yes-i-do-ive-got-research-how-about-you/
Part 2 – The point of the games and Makerspace in the library – coming soon!
Happy Saturday, friends!