Last week I got to spend time with three brilliant teachers: Clare, Tammy, and Carol. Back in March, Carol and I were fortunate enough to win the new slicer prize: a copy each of It’s All About the Books: How to Create Bookrooms and Classroom Libraries That Inspire Readers and an online video chat with Clare and Tammy.
Fast forward to June, Carol and I prepared ahead of time by devouring It’s All About the Books and sending our questions to Tammy and Clare–many more than could reasonably be addressed within an hour. During our video chat, Clare and Tammy provided us with dozens of thoughtful, individualized ideas for our next steps. And that was after they’d already facilitated PD all day. What a lovely gift!
They gave us so much to think about, about the uses and limits of levels, managing complex change, and organizing classroom libraries to inspire readers. The conversation left me itching to re-organize my classroom library and create new book tubs. But I need to wait to get back into my school for that, which is fortunate since waiting will make it easier for me to loop kids into the reorganization, giving them more ownership. Since working in the classroom library has to wait, I’m focusing on what Tammy shared during our video chat about using digital resources to enhance instruction and engagement.
True confessions: I don’t love to read online and I know for a fact that I don’t read as carefully when reading digital text as I do when reading physical books. At the same time, I don’t think anyone can deny the likelihood that our students will be reading online even more in the future than they do currently. Since I’m skeptical of reading online to begin with, even though I realize digital reading is a skill I need to teach, it’s intimidating to think about providing the skills students need to be successful online readers. Fortunately, It’s All About the Books, has an entire chapter dedicated to digital resources. It’s chock-full of timely suggestions for thoughtfully teaching the reading of digital text, resources for adding more digital text, and tips for organizing online resources into “digital bins.”
During our video chat, Tammy suggested that those of us who prefer paper books are perfectly situated to model our process of reading digital text, thinking aloud as we make our way through an article. Because we are novices, it’s easier for us to access beginner’s mind. How will we take notes? When do we realize we need to reread? When do we click on hyperlinks and how do we then find our way back into the text after clicking on the link? Tammy shared that research has shown that most of us tend to read in a capital “E’ pattern when online. We read the first lines, skim to the middle to read a few more lines, and then read the end. That sounds about right to me. My next step is to analyze my personal digital reading process with It’s All About the Books at my elbow, reflecting on strategies I can model for kids for to avoid E pattern reading and closely read digital text.
Another question I brought to our conversation was how to provide my students greater access to nonfiction, without sending home my beloved collection of hardback picture books. While I’m willing to send home novels because they fit inside a gallon-sized Ziploc, which provides a degree of protection from rain, rogue snacks, and sweaty water bottles, hardcover picture-book sized books typically don’t fit. Until Clare suggested it, I hadn’t thought of pointing my students toward Overdrive for at-home reading of those great, new nonfiction titles. While I’m all about the books, I too often forget completely about the digital resources we already have available to us.
After we disconnected our video chat, Carol and I talked books, the traumas of middle school, book club books, birds, The Book Love Foundation, middle-grade books, Carol’s upcoming trip to learn from Penny, Kelly, and Tom; and Tom’s books. I can’t imagine a better way to spend a summer afternoon!
Thanks again to Clare and Tammy for offering this wonderful prize and for helping us think more about classroom libraries, bookrooms, and how to inspire readers! Thanks also for donating all royalties generated by It’s All About the Books: How to Create Bookrooms and Classroom Libraries That Inspire Readers to The Book Love Foundation, a nonprofit organization that funds classroom libraries through an annual competitive grant. I’m both stunned and touched by your generosity.