This post is dedicated to teachers who are working very hard this time of year to create beautiful reading spaces in their classrooms. The photos featured to the left are of the reading "corner" in Wendy Melzer's second grade classroom. I was so lucky to have Wendy in my children's literature course and then doubly lucky that she let me observe in her wonderful classroom. What a treat!
Wendy has created a classroom that from the moment you walk into the room, you know she is a book lover. It is part of who she is and how she teaches. Just look at the wonderful Caldecott bookcases! These books are prominently displayed to show their award winning illustrations and to entice kids to read them. Wendy's students learn all about the importance of illustrations to reading comprehension early in the year. By then end of the year, they are artistic connoisseurs! Last year, the students decided to have their own award, "The Melzercott" that they awarded to the books they thought should have won awards for outstanding illustrations. You've gotta love it!
These are additonal shelves and cases for the hundreds of other picturebooks of all genres from which children have the opportunity to read during independent reading time throughout the year. Wendy includes books she has read aloud, books that fit within a particular unit of study such as science and social studies, and books by a particiular author the students have studied. Of course, the area in the middle makes a nice little place for kids to read.
Some people believe that when children reach a certain age, they should no longer be allowed to read picturebooks. There are several reasons why this should never be the case. First, picturebooks are not written at any particular level. Their vocabulary and sophistication spans the ages. Second, many students (as well as adults) are visual learners. Picturebooks can convey very difficult content in a format that accommodates visual learners. Finally, picturebooks delight! When students are turned off or struggling readers, a picturebook can go a long way in engaging students with reading in an undaunting, fun way.
The second graders in Wendy's classroom love series books! Here you see that she has many sets of series books in a case all of their own. Students are given a divider with their name printed on it to slip into the spot from where they pulled their book so they can easily find the spot again when they are ready to return the book. Pretty slick, huh?
Though some series books are not quite the quality we would like to see our children read, they are just what students need who are starting to read chapter books. Subsequent books in a series provide familiar characters and settings so students feel like they are revisiting old friends. They also provide background information so that students can make predictions about what might happen based on the first book (i.e., based on the first book in the Judy Moody series, students can easily predict that the main character might be mischievous or inclined toward getting into trouble in the second book).
In this picture, you can see how Wendy has created ambiance with the pencil lamp and the little characters/books across the top of the book cases. You can't really see it, but the book cases come together to make another nice little reading area. The poster in the back has the "5 Finger Rule" displayed. The 5 finger rule is one way of helping students decide if they can read a book they have independently chosen. The child opens the book to any page and starts reading. While reading, the child holds up one finger for every word they don't know. When the child has finished the page, if all five fingers are up, the book is too hard. If two or three fingers are up, the book is probably just right, and if no fingers are up, the book might be too easy. Of course, Wendy had previously taught her students how to use the 5 finger rule during mini lessons before placing the chart in the reading center.
Creating warm, inviting, well stocked reading centers in the classroom doesn't have to be expensive. Wendy is a garage sale guru! Many of the books and other items in her room were "fabulous finds" at garage sales or other bargain stores. What made it all come together is the love she put into the design and the careful thought process she used to organize the space she had available.
I really enjoy seeing how teachers create, design, and organize their classroom libraries. You can see how Karen organizes her fifth grade classroom at Literate Lives and how Franki organizes her fourth grade classroom at A Year of Reading. Enjoy!