Over the last three years, our Francis Gittens Memorial Lending Library has grown literally by thousands of books. And, it’s a beautiful sight. One in which provides comfort, challenge, and dialogue among students and educators. It propels interest in reading and provides options and choice; students sometimes pull up a chair and use the edge of any given shelf to rest their Writer’s Notebook while they write and find inspiration. It’s our staple here in room 382.
But, as more and more donations come through the door, I panic: Where will they all go?! We are currently wall-to-wall with bookshelves (many that tower over us) and the remaining space is either wall-to-wall windows or full of technology. So, I started to utilize every open surface: our computer cart, window sills, filing cabinets, my own desk. Now, literally everywhere you turn, your gaze lands upon books…stacks and stacks of books.
Initially I felt overwhelmed by having books everywhere; I thought it felt chaotic. But, the perceived chaos actually provides students even more choice and an innate awareness of their surroundings. Students have started to become even more in-tune with their reading journeys and have been feeling more compelled to explore. For more reluctant readers they have access to books without it feeling as though there is the need for any sort of grandiose gesture; trekking across the room to the wildly overwhelming library. It’s subtle yet powerful beyond measure. Everything is within their reach.
Everything. Even our mobile technology cart full of laptops. The books on top are stacked in four piles; they are our newest additions. Because the cart find its way across the room, near different seats, and at various different spots depending on the day; it’s equivalent to an ice cream truck making its rounds – no one is to be missed. These piles change as the new additions continue to stream through the door. Many students, as they are accessing the cart for a computer, find themselves pausing for a moment because a book title…or cover…or piece they realized was on their next-to-read list…has caught their attention. I love the irony that’s often captured here when a student is simply going to return their computer, hears the bell ring, and runs to their Writer’s Notebook to jot the title down; yet forgets to put the computer back!
Here is one of three window sills adorned with literature – and some added nature. During the winter months in room 382 the heat tends to be unbearable (hence the cactus) which is quite unfortunate. Yet fortunately, students like to get a breath of fresh air. So, while doing so they find themselves multi-tasking – breathing in the fresh city air while perusing through the new titles that greet them at the window. Many times, a lesson or writing workshop will be interrupted with, “Miss Bogdany, I found another book about XXX!”
Many students have just recently begun to proudly embrace their love for graphic novels. Typically,they believe that they’re for ‘young kids’ because of ‘all the pictures and stuff’. I whole-heartedly disagree. So, in the vein of supporting students’ interest in visual literacy, many are found atop an industrial filing cabinet adding color, texture, and accessibility. Because this surface is also used for additional supplies, students access it often. Every time they are wanting to find their zen (see butterfly book box on the top left) they happen upon literature that excites them. Many times, the zen garden and a new book escorts them back to their seat.
I know students will not produce work if they are not comfortable; both physically and in feeling safe within a community. I create a visually stimulating space at my desk because it’s what fuels my passion for all things literacy. I also know, when a student needs their own unique space, they tend to gravitate toward wherever it is that I’ve set up shop. It has been labeled ‘their corner office’ – and yes, they get right down to business!
There are other times when I conduct 1:1 conferences and ask a student to engage in dialogue in our bright back corner. I watch their eyes drift from their writing to the options resting atop my wooden workspace. Students will reach across the desk to pick up a piece they have never seen there before and while I try to get their attention refocused on our conference, sometimes the book they’ve chosen is much more convincing than whatever it is I’m trying to do. I also think some of the intrigue is that students know that what they find there are pieces I can really talk about because I’m passionate about them.
So, as the year starts coming to an end and we start thinking strategically about how we are going to start minimizing our inventory and organizing it for our summer packing; please don’t! Keep moving things around and keeping it fresh. Put books in places you haven’t before – students will find them trust me. Play around with what you have displayed in your area and invite students to engage in conversation wrapped around them. But, most importantly, enjoy these remaining few months with our inquisitive and dedicated readers as they continue to look around our learning environments and find exactly what they didn’t even know they were looking for.
Where do you keep literature aside from your library shelves? What successes have students found when they happen upon a book in the most unlikely of places?
Tagged: books, choice reading, high school, independent reading, learning community, Organization/Planning, Readers Writers Workshop, reading writing workshop, reluctant readers, student choice, student engagement
Erika, this so cool! I love that becomes have become natural decor as well. It looks so homey and comfy. I use plate stands from a craft shop to display a wide variety of books, particularly the newest additions to my collection. I swap around the books regularly, trying to pick ones from different sections to give students diverse choices. These books always tend to find their way into the hands of students, visitors, and even other teachers. Love your classroom Erika.
Plate stands…I love it! Using ‘home-like’ items always adds a unique spin and cozy feel to our learning environments. I love Monday mornings because, like you J, I play with what books will be ‘on display’ for the week. Invigorating!
I would love to visit! I only have a few students at a time in my reading classes…one loves to read, some don’t mind it, and 3 hate it. I leave articles to entice them.
Pat, wonderful to see you here! I too believe that enticing students with books and literature that sparks their interests…or fuels their fires…is a sure bet to creating life long inquirers and readers! Hope you’re well up in New England.
What a fantastic idea to have a shelf dedicated to students’ recommendations! You all have created a visual that represents what’s important, intriguing, and interesting to those engaged and invested in your shared learning community – so smart.
Erika, I cannot wait for the day I get to visit your special library. I love how you boast about your love for all things literature. With your descriptions here, I can imagine your students reaching for books, talking about books, showing excitement for the books that have helped them identify themselves as readers. Much like yours, the shelves in my room are stuffed and stacked with titles I know students will love. I try to shuffle the shelves around regularly. I also just created class period FAVORITES, e.e.g, 1st period recommends… Sometimes just for randomness I put a stack of colorful books on each of the table groupings. Students read the titles, the covers, and inevitably someone will leave with one of those books under her arm.
Thanks for this post!