My corner classroom library was the lifeblood of my remedial reading classroom. Students earned their way into the Cozy Corner with a free time ticket. 15 punches on the ticket and you were in! You could read all kinds of interesting and enjoyable books while the other students worked. WOW!
You can read about Reading Spotlight’s success in using a classroom library here:
I cut an ordinary sheet of construction paper evenly into 6 tickets. Color-coded by month, the tickets showed clearly who was not earning punches. I used an ordinary paper puncher at first. Later I bought punchers in designs of a star, heart, leaf, snowflake, butterfly, clover, flower, sun, teddy bear, and pine tree. I saved the punched papers in a large jar on my desk because it brought me pleasure to look at the collection as it grew higher and higher. See the photos below.
Students earned a punch when they read their weekly sight words without errors, when they turned in rare homework or school-required papers, when they provided a unique or thoughtful answer, or when they finished an independently read book, and an extra punch for sharing what they liked about it with the class. This last part is very motivating for the other students, BTW.
Two extra punches were awarded if I met their parents at Open House. You should have seen the line out my classroom door! The other teachers told me how jealous they were because, often, this would be the only time we met parents, especially fathers.
I also used the ticket punches to reward individual children for goals adapted to their particular needs, such as kindness, finishing on time, not talking out, etc. I usually kept that punch for the end of class so that other students who already followed rules did not notice or feel unequally treated. If called on it, I told them in no uncertain terms that I was the boss of this room, and I decided that this student deserved the extra punch. Sometimes, school is simply not democratic, and my students learned to accept that.
I spent many Friday nights in the children’s department of my local bookstore. I wanted really enticing books in my classroom library. I also wanted books that my struggling readers could actually read and enjoy.
Do you know that many children’s picture books are written at a much higher readability level than the age for which it is intended? That’s one of many reasons I believe in teacher read-alouds, every day, if possible. Great literature is important for the growing child’s psyche, but struggling readers cannot actually read most picture books by themselves. Many parents do not know this.
For my classroom library I chose interesting, easy-to-read books that the kids could actually read. They were often about animals, family, nature, sports, and love. I also acquired pop-up books, audiobooks, and holiday books. I added the picture books I read aloud only after having done so. The books in the Cozy Corner were changed monthly. My daughter’s old bean bag chair faced the library shelves, with a 4- foot cardboard divider around it, sometimes decorated with student art. An added pillow was soon removed, due to a lice scare. I wish I had a photo of the Cozy Corner to share, but, unfortunately, I don’t have one.
Another important aspect of my classroom library was the designated shelving with no markings. When children chose books independently to actually read and share with other classmates, I took them over to the classroom library and pointed to the location from which they could choose. I had no grade designation on any shelf, although I knew the reading level of every book in my classroom library, and I knew the reading level of every one of my students. I considered this my job as a reading specialist. I wanted my students to read independently with success and enjoyment, and I understand the fragile spirit of struggling readers. You can read about their fragility in two previous posts:
Now I come to the sad part of my post. It brings tears to my eyes to read recently that some teachers in this country, the USA, have to cover their classroom libraries and/or have to obtain permission from a poorly funded bureaucracy that may take months to approve classroom books, under the threat of commission of a FELONY. Banned books? Ignorance wins.
If a parent complained about a book in my classroom library (no one ever did), I would think long and hard about the book. I would discuss it with the parent to try to understand the objection. Since there are thousands of children’s books today, I would give that particular child a different book. I would talk to other teachers about the book, but I would not remove it unless forced. For every person who wants a book removed, there is someone who does not want the book removed. As I said before, I spent much time and energy choosing the particular books for my classroom library. You cannot legislate book banning on a state or national level. Many of these “book banners” are not even parents of children in the school system. I find myself angry at politicians trying to incite a culture war to add points to their polls or money to their coffers by using educational issues to enflame voters.
I was very proud of applying for, and receiving, a $500 state grant to buy classroom paperbacks with black, Asian, and Hispanic characters, such as Roberto Clemente, Maya Lin, Garrett Morgan, Freida Kahlo, Wilma Rudolph, and more, plus many fictional characters. To see real pride, you need to watch a child who never saw a character in a book who was the same race or ethnicity. The eyes! The little smile! The awe! I cannot ever forget when those books were brought into my classroom library.
Time moves on, and struggling readers wait, and wait, and wait, until it’s quickly too late. These students need extra practice immediately in the skills they are learning, and a teacher with a classroom library can provide that more effectively and efficiently than anyone else.
For Reading Spotlight’s FREE guide to independent reading, click here:
For lists of books that celebrate diversity, for those of you who are not subject to authoritarian laws, check out these resource guides from the
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