Starting a new job as a school librarian has been a learning experience for me. There is so much to love from being around books and kids all day, sharing the best books with every child in a school, and having kids stop you in the hall to tell you about the book they are reading or the one that they want to check out next. But, I am also out of my comfort zone. After spending 21 years in the classroom, the library is a new challenge and I am definitely on a steep learning curve.
Reading Workshop is at the heart of any child’s reading life, and I have always believed strongly in student choice and a workshop setting. In my new role, I have had to think about how to enact that belief in the school library.
I know that finding great books to take home is important, but I also want the library to be a place that is about more than just check-out. As I’ve explored brochures and calendars from some public libraries I know, there are lots of fun events going on. People come to the library for so many different reasons. I want kids to see the library as an anchor for great experiences around books and talk. I want them to have memories of a library where they were happy.
Establishing New Routines: Minilessons in the Library
I see students from each classroom in our K-5 school every 4th day (we are on a four-day rotation for related arts). Each class has a 45 minute library class, and that 45 minutes includes check out time. Getting used to such short periods of time has been a challenge. When I think about traditional library classes, kids often end their time in the library checking out books. It didn’t make sense to me to end the time we have without coming back together, so I decided to put my check out time in the middle of the block. I want to make sure that we end every library with some type of closure – and with a shared book. The 45 minutes has become a kind of workshop. We begin with a minilesson, spend time in the middle choosing our own work in the library (including book check-out), and we come together at the end for share and a book.
My minilessons have focused on lots of things that relate to reader identity and knowing the resources in the library. They have included these topics:
- How do you choose books?
- Reading new versions of familiar tales
- Having a “Book Pass” in which students browse several books that are housed in one are of the library
- Book Previewing – modeling the ways I preview books
- Reading Aloud books to introduce new characters or series
- Book talks to introduce new books
- How is nonfiction different from fiction?
If I want the students to see the library as a place for lots of growing as a reader and lots of choice, there needs to be many options for them to browse different books in ways that stretch them as learners, beyond just the goal of finding a book to leave with. The middle check-out segment seemed to be the best place to build that in. Often there are students who cannot check out new books because they forgot their books at home. Others have many books that they are reading from their classroom library. And still others find a book that they want in just a few minutes. Many students are thrilled to have time to spend with their newly chosen books. I created tubs to organize choices for my primary students during the middle segment in the library.
This tub houses several versions of the Goldilocks story as well as some play items that go along with the story. I found a Goldilocks fold-up house with magnetic characters and props that kids can use to set up and dramatize the story. I also found a large felt toy with felt characters and props that kids can use for the same purpose.
I wanted some books in this basket that students could read on their own and others that they might picture read. This tub includes Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Carolyn Buehner, Goldilocks Returns by Lisa Campbell Ernst, Goldilocks and the Three Bears by James Marshall, The Three Bears by Byron Barton and Leola and the Honeybears by Melody Rosales. I hope to add more great versions to this tub as I find them.
Three Little Pigs
In this tub, there are several versions of The Three Little Pigs story as well as finger puppets of the pigs and the wolf. I started this basket with just one book and the finger puppets, and will add new versions over the coming weeks. I’ll included The Three Horrid Little Pigs by Liz Pichon, The Three Little Pigs by Steven Kellogg, The Three Little Javelinas by Susan Lowell, and The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig by Eugina Trivizas.
Doreen Cronin’s Farmer Brown and Duck Books
After reading Thump, Quack, Moo, the new book about Duck and Farmer Brown by Doreen Cronin, I put the other books about the farm in a basket together for enjoying in the library. Books in this tub include Giggle, Giggle, Quack, Dooby Dooby Moo, Duck for President, and Click, Clack, Quackity-Quack.
Mo Willems has put instructions on his website on how to draw the Pigeon from his books. This has been the highlight of the Mo Willems tub. This tub houses laminated directions as well as paper, crayons, and most of Mo Willems’ books. In recent weeks, kids have started to create their own Pigeon books, so I’ll add some blank books (paper stapled together) to this tub. For now, I’ve focused this book on the Pigeon and the Elephant and Piggie books by Willems. I’ve included Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late, The Pigeon Wants a Puppy, I Love My New Toy, I Will Surprise My Friend, Today I Will Fly, and I Am Invited to a Party.
I have a collection of pop-up and lift the flap books that wouldn’t last very long if kids checked them out. The favorite in this basket right now is the pop-up version of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen. I am also noticing that after playing with the books for a while, kids are spending more time reading books like Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell. I’ve also added Where’s Spot? By Eric Hill, Giant Pop Out Vehicles, Giant Pop Out Bugs, and Giant Pop Out Pets (all from the Giant Pop Out Series). And I just purchased I’m Looking for a Monster by Timothy Young.
Wordless Picture Books
We did some reading of wordless picture books early in the school year, and we will continue to talk about picture reading. This tub houses some favorite wordless picture books. Some of the books have a few words, but the reader has to rely on the pictures for most of the story. Wave by Suzy Lee was the book that we read together, and it has become a favorite for kids who visit this tub. Other books in the tub include The Zoo by Suzy Lee, A Circle of Friends by Giora Carmi, South by Patrick McDonnell, and Hurry! Hurry! by Eve Bunting.
So many fun things are being sold right now that go along with the Fancy Nancy books. I haven’t put this tub out yet but there are colorforms as well as a card game to go along with the books. I also purchased a game for four people featuring this character. The book in this basket are the three main books in the series Fancy Nancy: Bonjour Butterfly, and Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy.
I have collected word books — books with labels and photos or illustrations. I’ve included a few that are Spanish-English word books. I’ve also included several containers of magnetic letters for kids who want to try to make some of the words. I don’t really have any favorite word books. I picked up some cheap ones on the bargain tables of a bookstore and pulled some from the shelves in the library. Any books seem to work for this tub.
Books We’ve Made
I am still working on this tub as we build a collection of books we’ve made ourselves. We have worked on illustrating a simple version of Where is the Green Sheep by Mem Fox and a book that includes ideas from The Deep Blue Sea by Audrey Wood. As soon as we have 5-6 books, that will become a tub for students to read during library time.
Having choices during this time has served several purposes:
- Kids can revisit books they love, including those popular books like Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus that are always checked out.
- Choice is important – not just choosing books but in how students spend their time. This browse time allows that freedom.
- This library structure gives kids a variety of ways to enjoy books. Playing around books is critical, and this gives them a chance to do this.
- These tubs allow kids to revisit books and make connections between library visits. Because the time is so short, I want students to be able to revisit and expand their thinking in new areas.
I used to have more of these things in my classroom when I started teaching 20 years ago, but with the focus on indicators and standards, we’ve had to put a lot of the “play” around books away. I believe that the library can be a place where that can still happen on a regular basis.