I was working with a group of readers when I turned to my right and saw something that just brought a smile to my face. A room full of readers. I went quietly to get my camera. They were so engrossed they didn't even notice.
When I returned to school in January I did it with a new mindset. I wanted children to spend less time doing "centers" and more time reading. In the past I had trouble with independent and partner reading in my classroom. I struggled to keep children actively engaged. This year I have made some changes that have made a huge difference. First, I got rid of almost 200 books from my classroom library, and donated them to other teachers and a local charity. (Don't gasp.) I weeded according to the following criteria: 1. If it looked old, I got rid of it. 2. If I hadn't seen a child read the book in the last year, I got rid of it. 3. If I had never been inclined to use the book as a read aloud, I got rid of it. I purchased new numbered tubs and labeled classroom books so that children could place them in the correct bin when they were finished reading. Second, I stocked my classroom with first grade friendly books. (Not leveled readers, but with books by authors such as Mo Willems and Jan Thomas.) Like all teachers, I do have a budget so I have used my local library as a huge resource. Right now books that kids love like Punk Farm, Punk Farm on Tour and many others are on loan from the library. I have almost 90 books checked out from 4 different libraries. Finally, I do four read alouds a day. I make sure that at least two of those are new books that I will be adding to the classroom library. Kids are always more inclined to go for books I have read to them.
It was such a simple fix that has had such a huge impact. I'm so proud of how far many of these children have come as readers. Instead of a worksheet or game at the word study center, children are looking for a particular word chunk while they are reading so that they can add it to our class chart. Now the only talking going on in the classroom library is being done by a few children negotiating over who gets a certain book for their reading tub. It's an amazing thing to see and be a part of.