This is what our children see when they come to exchange their nightly reading books each morning. I like to call it an “offering” to readers. Books are displayed attractively and children circulate around the table to choose what book they’ll take home for the night. I put out a set of 30 books in September. I chose the books not based on reading levels, but based on what children needed. To reach the ones who had not held many books in their hands, I provided a couple of board books with rhymes and repetition. I provided some story books as well from a few popular series such as Curious George, Llama Llama, and Chester. I added some informational books about topics I knew certain children were interested in along with some books with songs and poetry that I knew some of the reluctant readers would enjoy. Last, I added a few funny stories that I knew even parents would chuckle at.
What happens around this table in the early morning is something that cannot be rushed. Children place their books on the table and often tell me about the book –if it was funny, if they want to take it home again. I may mention the author or series and then offer to retrieve another book from the shelf by the same author or from the same series. The next morning, they may ask for another book by Barbara Reid or another “I Spy” book. If they’ve read a book about spiders, they might ask if I have more books about spiders, and I can direct them to the collection of National Geographic Kids books and tell them that National Geographic Kids books have loads of awesome photos of REAL animals and REAL insects up close.
Sometimes, we rush to exchange the books because there’s gym or an assembly. And it was last week, during one of those rushed times, that a child looked at me and said,” But I want to get another one by the same author.” In that moment, I realized that I needed to protect this special time as much as I could.
I showed him where on the shelf that the author’s books could be found and told him he could go ahead and choose one on his own. Later that day, I noticed him in the reading cube with two more books by that same author, reading with a friend.
The children are using this early morning book exchange time to developing identities as readers, with preferences and interests in authors and content. It’s also an opportunity for me to listen thoughtfully and respond individually to each child; to connect with children as soon as they enter the classroom. The other great thing about it is that it isn’t taking time away from anything else because it’s happening during a transition time.
Children have also begun to share what they have read with others as they circulate around the table. One conversation I heard this week went like this:
“You’re keeping the same book? What book is it?”
“It’s a Robert Munsch book. It’s called Give me Back my Dad! It’s funny.”
“Can I take it when you bring it back tomorrow?”
“Sure. But here’s another Robert Munsch book. This one’s funny too.”
These conversations happen organically as children become familiar with the same set of 30 books. By mid-October, children had started to say they had read all of them, so I knew it was time to replace that set with another set. I left in a few favourites. The morning after they took books from the new set, new connections were being made.
” This one has a song in it and you can sing it as you read. And it shows you the actions you do. Do you have more books like this? Can I keep this out now to show my friends how to do the song?”
“This one is like the Chester book. But the cat is named Splat.”
Now, I’ll bet you’re thinking, “But what about if these books get lost or damaged?” If a book is never returned, I like to think of it as being added to that home’s collection of books. So far, this year, two books have required repair and two have been damaged beyond repair. I simply note the titles and sometimes, I search Scholastic online and see if the titles are available. In the grand scheme of things, a few books is a small sacrifice to make for the opportunity to provide each child with a new book to read each night.
Each week, children have opportunity to read 5 quality books at home with their families. I’ve bent the rules a few times and allowed a second or even (wink, wink) a third book to be placed inside the bag for some of the most voracious readers. I’ve emailed parents a few times to check in on how this nightly reading is going. I know that they may not do the reading every night, and I let them know that if it’s going to be a negative experience for them or their child, just leave it. I’d rather they read the books when they’re ready to read and enjoy them.
The goal is to read more, establish a habit of reading at home, and to help children develop their identities as readers. But like most things in UDL that are designed to the edges, wherever that edge may be, this early morning book exchange is going much better than I had hoped, and accomplishing more than I thought it would.
In closing, if you are a teacher, I ask that you consider this: each family is at a different point in their family’s reading journey. This “offering” is to every one of them, no matter where they are on that journey. Shame and accountability have no place in this. There are no reading logs to be signed, no boxes to be ticked, no number of books to be recorded.
Only an offering, every night, for 180 days of the year.
Dedicated teacher for the past 15 years. Lifelong learner. Newbie blogger. Follow me on Twitter @Baker1973Cathy