When I read about Nancie Atwell winning the Global Teacher Prize, her story struck a chord with me. We knew we wanted a library and had ideas on how to build it, but after reading one of her books, The Reading Zone, the ideas that we’d been talking about crystallized into an action plan.
One of the main ideas behind her teaching philosophy is Choice. Her students have a choice in books to read. They have a choice to not finish a book. The goal is for students to experience “the zone” in reading. Children are seldom given the opportunity to choose and there is so much power in being given a choice of what to read that helps one develop a love for reading. The role of the teacher is to get to know the child and what that child likes in order to facilitate finding a book that the child will enjoy.
I love the categorization of Holidays, Just Rights and Challenges. Holidays are the easy-reads. They’re the comfortable blanket that you may go back to. Reading Holidays every once in a while is great as it develops confidence.. Just Rights are books that introduce some new vocabulary, but are Just Right for the child at his or her current development. These are the types of books that the child should be spending most of his or her time reading. Finally, the Challenges. These are the books that a child may want to read now, but it’s difficult to do so independently. It could be the vocabulary or the plot, or the sentence structure that makes it too difficult for the child to read alone, but it provides good exposure when read with help of an adult.
The concept of booktalking is phenomenal. How many times did you struggle as a child to write the 2-page, single-space book report on a book that you did not like? Book talks are language arts with a purpose! The purpose is to share and communicate about a book that the child feels strongly about.
Reading Workshop is part of the Humanities curriculum and reading is the only assigned daily homework students will have. In order to have books to read, students need a library. I’ve shared the philosophy, but I’d like to share the implementation plan and logistics that will allow us to make that a reality.
Building the Library
To build the library:
- We have asked our teachers what are some of their favorite books that we should have in our library;
- We have selected some Newbery Medal winners; and
- We will be asking our students to suggest three books that they have loved that they would recommend to their classmates.
Organizing and Using the Library
We’ll be organizing the library based on genre with a section reserved for recommended books by the students. We’re working on implementing a simple check-out process so that we’re able to track the books.
We’ve decided that non-fiction books will be housed with the subject teacher. For example, chemistry books will be in the Chem Lab, engineering books in the Engineering Lab and History books in the Humanities Classroom. Fiction books will be housed in the school library. And of course a few bean bags are in order.
We can’t wait to see the kids actually using the library!