We trust that students come to our classrooms already living their reading lives. At home, maybe they love to listen as family members tell stories. Maybe they have a bookshelf of their favorite books. Perhaps they go to the library every week, or perhaps they have not had access to books over the summer. Maybe they spent the summer writing their own graphic novels, or maybe they love to draw pictures of their favorite characters. Perhaps they do not yet see themselves as readers, or perhaps they spend hours lost in books. We have the pleasure of inviting all of those reading identities into the classroom.
An invitation is a situation or action that tempts someone to do something or makes a particular outcome likely. As we start the school year, we consider:
- How does our classroom environment tempt all students to read?
- How does the classroom environment make it likely that all students will grow as readers?
Although it might seem as if a well stocked classroom library, with multiple baskets and full bookshelves, is invitational, we recommend starting with just a few baskets and some empty shelves. This sends the message: we are partners in the work of setting up our classroom space.
When you do your very first read aloud, show the students that you have an empty basket just waiting for that book. When you read aloud another book later that day and ask the students where to put it, they will likely suggest that you put it in the same basket and think about different labels for the basket, such as “Books our teacher reads to us” or “First Week of School Read Alouds.” Starting with day one, you are inviting the students to take ownership of the classroom library.
As soon as you learn about the students, you can honor their interests by finding books for them. Imagine spending the first week of school giving each student a book and saying, “Yesterday, you told me you really liked Dogman. This series is similar, and I thought you might like it.” or “You wrote a story about your dog yesterday, so I found some books about dogs for you.” The students might decide to put these books in their personal collection of books to read, or they can figure out where that book goes in the library.
You can invite the students to build the classroom library with you. Put piles of books on the floor or the tables and ask the students to think about what books go together. With first graders, you might give them just a few books. With older students, you might give them more books. Eavesdrop on their conversations to learn about them as readers. The categories the students decide on are less important than the conversations they have.
How are you inviting your students into reading this year?