I have way too many books. Really. My classroom library has lots of shelves and all of the cute colorful baskets that you can imagine. Many of the baskets even have adorable genre labels on them. Some have labels like “Class Favorites” and “Mature Readers Only” (books at higher reading levels with more mature themes like Tuck Everlasting and When You Reach Me)
My books even have cute little color coded dots with the level letter carefully printed on.
But actually, how we use our classroom library has nothing to do with labels or dots. My brain remains blissfully free of the Dewey Decimal System. Here’s how it works in Rainbow City: My kids have book baskets from the Dollar Store: bright, colorful plastic with handles. They use them like the “pile of books” that lots of us have waiting to be read, whether on our iBook shelves, Kindle, Nook, or bedside table. When they need a new book for their basket, they ask me during a conference (or whenever they feel like it, if you want to know the truth), or they simply browse. They don’t always (actually ever) put the books back in the correct basket. Who cares, as long as they are reading!
Not to brag, but every one of my little book browsers is at grade level or way above right now, and they sure did not all start the year that way. Good readers are simply people who read a lot. You grow when you read, like riding a bicycle, playing the piano, or swimming. Practice makes you stronger. Organized classroom libraries don’t make you a stronger reader. Practice does. I value and respect those who are able to keep their classroom libraries in perfect order, and in fact have saved many pictures of these amazing classroom spots on my Pinterest boards. The fact is, though, super-cute organization is just not my style.
Why am I telling you this? Two reasons: It’s snowing like crazy here again, and sifting through the books to find the perfect next book basket choice with my little browsers often unearths a treasure. Hope you’ll stay with me here and follow the breadcrumbs.
I have a writing prompt that I’ve been using for years that I call the “Ice Castle” prompt. Kids love it and they are so willing to write, rewrite, conference, revise (you know the whole journey) when there is a super fun art project waiting at the end. This project is followed up with an amazing craftivity that involves the use of glitter! (Hope I haven’t lost you yet - it IS a little messy!) I guess you could leave the glitter out, but that is part of the selling point for the writing piece!
Last week, we had just finished our Ice Castle writing pieces in between snow days somehow, and the glittery folders (some weighing ten pounds, it seemed, from all the glitter!) were drying on our desks. Everyone was busy with their reading and writing activities that they do while the teacher is conferencing, and one of my sweet avid readers asked me to help him choose a new book. He was interested in fantasy on that day.
We began to sift through some of the baskets that might be associated with fantasy when I spied a book on the shelf. It wasn’t in a basket, just standing with several others on the shelf where the baskets go. I remembered then that a former favorite student (They’re all my favorite!) had stopped by and given me a gift of several books from our school’s book fair in November. I had hugged and thanked her and set them on the shelf.
The book that caught my eye was Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu, and as we read the back cover together, we realized at the same exciting time that the story was much like the ones we had all just written! (Also very reminiscent of the classic fairy tale “The Snow Queen”!) My lucky reader got to take my fresh new book while I quickly downloaded it to my iPad, and his classmates were clamoring to read it. The library, iBooks, Amazon, Kindle, and even the local Barnes & Noble were very busy that night as at least half my class went out in search of Breadcrumbs with their parents.
What does it take to ignite that fire in a kid that turns him or her into a voracious reader? Sometimes just following the breadcrumbs…
If you’d like to try the writing and craftivity with your own sweet readers and writers, it’s free! Click on the link below! I’d love to hear how you enjoyed it! And, really, the room looks great with a sprinkle of glitter here and there for days afterward. We’re still finding some…like breadcrumbs…