It’s Monday morning of the last full week of school. I walk into a fifth grade classroom to find students sitting around a “campfire” reflecting on their year. I take a seat on the floor in between two students. The teacher, named Denise, asks her students, “What were your favorite books you read this year?”
“Fish in a Tree”
“The One and Only Ivan”
Denise and I smile at one another as she shares, “You know, most of those books are ones that your teachers read together over the summer.” She goes on to explain, “We don’t just tell you to read over the summer. We read too.”
Denise was referring to our teacher book club which is going into its 5th year. Maria, our school Library Media Specialist, came up with the idea and together we created a virtual professional opportunity where teachers read books, discuss them online and receive professional development hours for it. Participants have included elementary and middle school teachers, reading teachers, speech teachers, educational aides, and of course, the school librarian and literacy coach. Not only do we read books we many not have otherwise read, we get to experience diverse ways of “seeing” them and brainstorm ways to share them with our students.
As talk went to other texts, I shared, “You know, you are giving us critical information about which books we should purchase for the school.” Denise went on to explain that following this share, the students would be creating a collage of book covers of their favorites which she will share with her next year’s class. “What a brilliant way to jump-start reading next year!” I beamed. After all, book recommendations mean so much more when they come from grade level peers.
Book Tastings in Library Class
A week before, the Library Media Specialist, Maria Weeks hosted book tastings with every class of students, K-5 in which they previewed books that they might be interested in reading this summer. With the library transformed into a cafe complete with table clothes, place settings and soft music playing in the background, students took time to peruse books and take pictures of the front covers of those that appealed to them. Following the tasting, students took their images and created a collage. Maria printed each collage in color to be sent home along with students’ report cards. Making plans for summer reading in this way will surely help keep students reading all summer long!
Maria and Denise’s creativity made me think of ways to expand their ideas. Perhaps we could come up with a sort of scavenger hunt where students are tasked with taking pictures of a book that:
- Is a favorite storybook
- taught you something new
- made you look at a situation in a new way
- provided a window into another way of life.
While creating a collage may be challenging for younger students, why not have them take pictures of favorite titles and record their thoughts about them using an app with which they are familiar (in our case, Seesaw).
Sharing our ideas
With these teachers’ permission, I created a newsletter entitled “Ideas for the final stretch” detailing these thoughtful ways of promoting a culture of reading and shared it out with our school staff. I mentioned that I have been going into classrooms, book talking books students might enjoy this summer and sharing a few titles that are in my summer reading stack. Tomorrow afternoon, I will join 2 classes of 4th graders for a book tasting at the public library. Their teacher came up with the idea of hosting the book tasting there so that students can check out the books and also learn more about the library’s summer reading programs.
Teaching can be a lonely profession. I view my role as a coach as a rich opportunity to share the brilliance of one teacher with another. Because let’s face it, too often we hesitate to share what we are doing for fear of seeming boastful or because we simply lack the time or opportunity. In reality we owe it to our students to share for when we do, new ideas emerge and all students benefit. When a Library Media Specialist, a Literacy Coach, and teachers come together, we can build a culture of reading that sustains students into the summer months and beyond.