I took this short video today of my class during some independent reading time. We hadn’t been to the library in the past two weeks (due to the book fair) and won’t go next week (due to teacher work days) so we went today. Normally my class goes when I’m in a meeting and I can’t be there with them. Today I could. I could help them find books, talk to them about books we’ve read together or they’ve read, and suggest new books for them. It was great fun.
It also highlighted for me how much this year’s class loves books and reading. One of my boys told me this week, “I really like reading this year. That wasn’t true in other years.” By coincidence, his second grade teacher told me today that he didn’t enjoy reading last year but told her he’s enjoying it this year.
It’s possible that I just got lucky this year and got a group of kids who love books. If so, bonus for me! Or maybe I did some things to make this happen. (Most likely it’s a combination. I can admit that.)
I got to reflecting on what I’ve done this year to play my part in their love of reading and books. (Because it’s important to reflect when things go well just as it is to reflect when things don’t. I need to know what to keep doing.) There’s no question in my mind that the time and energy we spent setting up the classroom library together made a difference.
I’ve also been very thoughtful about the books I’ve read aloud to my class. We began with Juana and Lucas by Juana Medina. Sixteen of my nineteen students speak Spanish and this book is about a girl in Columbia who learns English. It also includes some words in Spanish, giving it a comfort and a connection to my students. They loved it. Then I told them Juana Medina is on twitter (we tweet at the end of each day as a wrap up) and we sent her a couple of tweets. She responded that day and my kids were on cloud nine.
(For the record, the groaning when I stop reading a chapter book continues. It’s the best sound.) We’ve tweeted to other authors since then and it’s a common question when we read a new book. “Ms. Orr, is that author on twitter?” The ability to reach out to authors so easily, even if they don’t respond (and they can’t possibly always do so), is pretty amazing.
So, our classroom library, our read alouds, and tweeting to authors have been really great this year. I’ve also done a better job than I’ve ever done before of book talks. Two or three days every week I’ve talked up some books. So far I’ve focused on various series, both fiction and nonfiction.
At the end of each book talk I ask the kids who might want to read one of the books. Those names then go on a post it note and the book goes to the first kid on the list. When that child finishes the book, they pass it on to the next name on the list. Eventually the book ends up back in our classroom library for anyone else who might be interested. (This is an idea I got from some wonderful elementary school teacher whose blog I read or who talked about this on twitter but I have no idea who it was, sadly.)
There are plenty of things I’m not doing well this year, including things in reading like reading conferences and meeting with guided reading groups. Hopefully those will get better. And then there’s all the other content areas we study. But for the moment, I’m going to celebrate the sheer joy we are all sharing in books and reading. Because it’s joyous.