The calendar may be telling me that we “only” have 36 school days left, but this week we celebrated a new year — at least a new year as far as our classroom library is concerned. The book baskets have been labeled and, when needed there are level reminders on the baskets.
On Monday, we talked as a class about the labels and what that meant as far as replacing books or looking for new texts to enjoy. The students listened and asked questions and took their role as initiators of the new library very seriously. During each guided reading group this week, students have been returning all the books that had previously come from the library. Many of these books were either unlabeled — and therefore not in the database as of yet — or an inappropriate level for the student.
Another part of the process is to get kids picking books at their independent level. First, I created a large wall poster listing all of the levels (color coded). Then, using the last Fountas Pinnell benchmark as a guide, each child got a new book selection bookmark with a colored dot indicating the level of books that should be “just right”. Students were instructed to pick 3 books from the library using the colored dot as a guide. They can pick one level up or one level down from the dot. I dislike putting a number limit on the books being checked out of the library and some time I hope to remove this from the groundrules. However, for whatever reason, I have quite a few students who hoard books — 10 or more at a time — and I’d like the books to be in circulation for everyone.
Using the guidelines for selecting books from the library proved to be a challenge for the students and an eye-opener for me . I thought the obvious benefit was going to be in the newly organized library. Little did I realize how much my students needed structure in selecting just-right books! My students, many of whom are under confident about their reading, gravitated to books that were well below what they should be reading in order to grow as a reader. For example, students who should be reading N chapter books (Yellow 4), were begging to reading Yellow 1 or Yellow 2 picture books. Left to their own, they were selecting materials that would not challenge them to become better readers. The new guidelines definitely appears to be a benefit of the new leveled library — one that I hadn’t even anticipated. We are now having conversations about why reading at your level is a good goal and when reading a very easy book might be okay.
So as this project is winding down I can see there have been some real benefit from the work involved. In addition to organizing the materials, and knowing first-hand what is available in the library, knowing how many of each genre and level will help me to make sensible choices when I purchase new books for the classroom. The library has been consolidated so that the organization is more transparent and kid-friendly — holy cow, they even are putting the books away in the right bins! And it is becoming less easy to slide by picking books that are too far below the students’ reading levels to challenge them.
Happy new library, Room 207! Now let’s get reading.