Before you start book shopping with your class, there are a few things you’ll need to do and set up in your classroom. If you haven’t set all of these up yet (not to worry), you can do them now. 🙂
Have you assessed your students’ reading levels using running records? Using the data you received from last year’s teacher? Or perhaps you are using some other reading assessment just to get a ballpark? That’s all you need for now…
Have you set up your classroom leveled library? Does it have a range of levels that reflect the independent reading levels of your students? You will only need those levels for now. Any books at levels below or above can be stored away or even on a shelf that is covered and says “Coming soon!” if you don’t have storage space.
An example of a leveled library- notice how there are several baskets at the same level. This is because many kids will be reading the same levels at the same time.
If your library doesn’t have enough books, work to get more by using Scholastic points, asking parents to help and talking to your administrator.
Some sections that will help:
*The “Book Hospital” is for any worn out books that need to be taped up.
*The “Help! I Don’t Know Where It Goes!?” basket is to make sure kids don’t just throw the book back in the wrong basket.
Have you used a reading interest inventory to get an idea of what your kids are interested in? What kinds of readers they are? What they
Want to read about and learn about? This could be something you send home to parents/guardians to fill out with their kids or it could be something you have kids answer and fill out in class. (Jen Serravallo has several of these in her books that you can copy and use. If you don’t have this, you could easily create your own!)
If you’ve done these three things, you are definitely ready to get started. Now here are some things you’ll want to think about and set up:
1. Have you decided what your system for book shopping will be? How often will kids shop for books?
We recommend once a week like the below picture shows.
You can either have one group per day to book shop OR you can have one day as a make up day. So for example- Friday could be “Did you miss your shopping day?” and anyone who was out could go on that day rather than waiting another week.
2. Have you decided WHEN will kids book shop? Will it be first thing in the morning, at the very end of the day, during snack time? We recommend that you DON’T do this during independent reading time as it is distracting to other kids. I once asked my colleague, Shanna Schwartz, who is still a lead staff developer at TCRWP why it is so important to tell teachers not to have kids shopping during reading workshop time. ( I knew it wasn’t a good idea but I just wasn’t sure why.) Here’s what she said to me…. Reading workshop is intended to mirror the reading life of an avid reader. So picture the MOST avid reader you know in your mind right now. I pictured my mom. She is constantly at the library getting a new book. She is always on the waiting list for whatever new cool book is out and she is always asking for recommendations. Then she said, “So now, if your mom had set aside 30-45 minutes at night to read, would that be the time she’d be running to the library or bookstore to get a book? Or would she already have a stack of books on her nightstand? “AHHHHHH… that makes so much sense to me!”, I replied. So now I share this little tidbit with you. Basically, we are trying to teach kids how to be avid readers and avid readers wouldn’t be shopping for books when they had set that time aside to read. Plus, it will be terribly distracting to others and some kids will waste that entire reading time just shopping for books rather than reading even for a minute.
3. Have you taught kids to shop for the right books? They should be reading books that are their independent reading level. They may have a few that are easier as warm ups or one level up (if you are transitioning them to the next level or you have introduced those books in guided reading). I would personally not recommend giving kids “dessert books” as I’ve heard them be called (which are books above their level that they want to read). My concern is two-fold. #1- I personally love dessert and would love to skip the protein and veggies and go straight to the chocolate chip cookie but that wouldn’t be healthy for me, right? And #2- If kids are trying to read these books during INDEPENDENT reading time, it seems to me that it is unlikely that they will be able to read these books independently. When they can’t read the books, I am truly concerned- especially for our most developing readers- who really need to move up levels and are just browsing the pictures instead of working on building their reading skills/habits. Perhaps you can find another time where kids can access these books that are too challenging. Some schools have a “Loving the Library Time” where you can love any darn book in the library you want. This could be for just 5 or 10 minutes after lunch. Also these kids can take the higher level books home and read them with a parent/guardian/friend.
Kids will have book baggies which can be as simple as a large plastic ziploc bag or they can be fancy like this one shown in the picture below.
This book baggie goes on the back of a child’s seat and is a great room saver. You can also use little bins from the 99 cent store or even magazine shelves and have kids personalize them with their names and favorite things.
4. Now you’ll want it to be crystal clear how many books kids should have in their baggies/bins/shelves. We want them to have enough books to sustain an entire week of reading independently so really think about the amount of time your kids are reading for and will those books be enough? In lower levels- A-G kids will reread a lot but you don’t want them to have to reread every book in the same day. This will create engagement issues all around. Posting a chart like this is SUPER helpful!
5. Now give each reader a little index card that says what level books they should be choosing and how many of them with the date. You can update this as you continue to assess their levels and they move up. This will help you keep track and will also help them make sure they get the right books in their bags.
You can see here that Aveline is transitioning to level D and is getting closer to reading that level independently.
For primary grades you might even want to try this reading mat. The purpose of this is to get kids reading through their ENTIRE book baggie rather than only reading certain books. This helps with volume AND stamina. Think of it like the writing folders in primary grades- green dot side means “still working on it”, red dot side means “I’m done!” only here you teach them to read all the books and then go back and flip the stack of books to reread them.
Here’s a final picture of a 3rd grade library that has both leveled and unleveled books. Look at how inviting and lovely it is for kids to visit. You can imagine kids would have an easy time shopping for books and keeping it organized.