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Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The Birth of the Classroom Library

I have over 1500 books for my classroom library.  It is one of my most prized possessions!  I've been spending the last few weeks on Pinterest looking at pictures of so many beautifully organized classroom libraries, I am just itching to put all of my books into their baskets and onto their shelves.  But I am not going to.

A few years ago, I read Frank Serafini's Lessons in Comprehension, and he suggests "birthing" the classroom library with the students.  So during the first week of school, I will gradually introduce the students to the collection of books that I have as I "invite" them into the "World of Reading and Literature".  Each day, I will place a collection of about 30 books onto each group of desks.  Students will have five minutes to peruse the book collection at their group.  Then I will ring a bell, and they will rotate to the next collection of books.  That way, the children will see about 150 books a day.  Together as a class, we will then determine labels for the various genres that they noticed, and we will begin to sort the books into those categories.

Meanwhile, we will also create anchor charts for Reading by exploring why we read, how we take care of books, strategies for choosing an appropriate book, when to abandon a book, and what good readers do.  I like to read a page from my husband's electrical engineering textbook.  I read it fluently and expressively, demonstrating how well I can decode all of the words.  Afterwards, I explicitly state that I can decode all of the words, and that for the most part, I even know what each of the individual words mean, but as a whole, while I can read it beautifully, I have no understanding of what I just read.  I explain that in order to understand a text, I have to have some background knowledge on the subject matter.  If not, I have to read a much simpler text on the topic.  We talk about the fact that reading is about making meaning, it is about understanding, and that the goal for this year, is to understand deeply what we read.

For the first week of school, we continue to view the books in the library, but the library is not yet "open".  Once we've viewed most of the books, and we've categorized the books, the children are responsible for organizing the library.  I then announce that the library is "open"- by now they are usually thrilled because they've been salivating over the books all week and not allowed to read them (a little reverse psychology).  They each select a book, and then I tell them that they have a seven page book report due the next day.  (I love to see their chin drops!)  I then explain that they have to read the first seven pages of the book they have chosen, and write me a paragraph explaining why they chose the book and if they think they will like it. 

You might wonder where all of my books came from.  Many are free picks from Scholastic, many are books my own three children have outgrown, many are from garage sales, but most are from donations.  Parents are more than willing to donate books that their children are finished with, you just have to let them know that you welcome their donations.

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