Kids Need Books

by Ariel Jankord

If you haven’t read Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer, move it to the top of your list right now! A conversation that I have been a part of over and over is kids don’t read enough. In all our reading instruction, whether it’s whole group, explicit teaching or guided reading groups, we often don’t allow time to just let kids read. For the past couple of years, I have made independent reading a priority. However, you can’t just say read independently and it happens instantly. Teaching kids to become independent readers takes time and practice.

The Daily 5 has some great lessons in teaching and practicing with kids. These lessons include:
*Finding a good spot
*Different ways to read
*Building Stamina
*Having a variety of books

I use these lessons at the beginning of the year without assuming “they should know this” because they are in 4th grade. In August, we can usually only make it 1 or 2 minutes without getting off task. By the end of the year, most of the class is groaning when I stop them at 30 minutes (there’s a few that are ready to be done ;).

For our daily 30 minutes of reading, no one goes to the bathroom or leaves the room for any reason. It’s strategically placed right after lunch and recess. Tummies are full, we’ve run off excess energy, and used the restroom. I would say only 5 times this year did we NOT do independent reading, we made it a priority. Some of you may be asking what does the teacher do for 30 minutes if you aren’t “teaching.” I used this time for individual conferring. It was a time where I got to sit and talk books with every student in the room. I took anecdotal notes on their accuracy, fluency, and recorded bits of our conversation. It also allowed me time to give a personal, on the spot mini lesson if needed. Most importantly, I used this time to build a relationship with my kiddos and create a safe place to be vulnerable. Every week, I was able to sit next to each student at least once.

My biggest take away from this year was the books kids were choosing to read. In August, 80% of my students were reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Now don’t get me wrong, thanks to Jeff Kinney kids are reading! However, there are so many great books that have a similar feel that can challenge kids to new characters and plot lines. I see it as my mission to expose kids to a variety of books, to find their niche, but also to explore different genres. I spend WAY too much money on books, but when I hear a kiddo excited to tell me or a peer about a book they are reading it makes my heart swell. Before a book goes on the shelf I either read the book in entirety or at least the 1st chapter to get a sense for the content and style of writing. This helps me recommend books to kiddos.

My classroom library has been an integral part of getting students to read. One of my students told me “I just check out books at the school library because I feel like I have to.” All the books she read this year were from my classroom library. I don’t share that to discredit school libraries (they have lots of needs to fill), but I tell you because I hear many teachers ask why do I need a library when we have a school library? Read, my other hero, Pernille Ripp’s thoughts on this topic here.

I could continue writing about this topic using another 2,000 characters but instead I want to get to the point of this post. Ann Braden started the movement #KidsNeedBooks by giving away a stack of books via Twitter. (You can find her @AnnBradenBoooks.) She was inspired by Donalyn’s post about kids needing books. Since then author’s have jumped on board and began donating books to teachers in order to get books into kids’ hands. I have even been a recipient of the many book giveaways, I received Louisiana’s Way Home from @CynthiaSchwind. The last 2 years I “visited” the intermediate grades and built a classroom library for my 4th graders, but I’m going back “home” to primary next year. I wanted to jump on the #KidsNeedBooks bandwagon and pass along some book sets. My books have been in my classroom library so they are not new and many have been loved dearly. I’m also passing these along on a much smaller scale as I’m not quite willing to foot the postage bill, so they will be available for Olathe teachers or other teachers in the area if they are willing to pick them up!