Books Struggling Readers Can and Will Want to Read: Building the Classroom Library
Cleaning up the room after school, I noticed Sammy's reading bag under the table. I've been finding his reading intervention bag left on his hook lately, and have been wondering if it is intentional. Since I see it under the table, I'm pretty sure it is.
Because Sammy never forgets his classroom book choice and is rather responsible, I decide to chat with mom. She tells me that he loves the books he brings home from the classroom, but he doesn't like reading the leveled books from his intervention group. I'm glad to hear that she is reading to him often and his attitude about picture books is very positive. I check his bag and find the books from intervention are really a good match for him, and are some of the more interesting titles from our bookroom. How do I help Sammy find good books?
It's a delicate balance with readers like Sammy in the primary grades, first and second graders who are just learning to decode words and understand stories. Sammy has developed a good attitude about books. He loves authors like Mo Willems, Jan Thomas, and Bob Shea. Many of our "hot" classroom titles are popular because he falls in love with them, and Sammy is quite the book salesman. He's usually one of my first students to blog about the books he has read on our Kidblog. I feel his strengths in writing will begin to help him make reading progress. However, I know it is also important that Sammy is reading books independently if he is to make quick progress. How can we balance the necessity of good book matches with his love for real books?
For readers like Sammy, I know there are certain things I can do to balance his love for real reading with the need to be sure his books are a good match. It is important that Sammy remain a part of our classroom reading community while learning to read. There are ways I can use read aloud and shared reading to increase the number of books in the classroom he can pick up to read. Sammy needs time to read, conversations with peers about books, lessons that support his reading life, strategies for reading new books, and a classroom library that supports his reading development and honors his reading choice.
How do we choose books for our classroom libraries that will support readers like Sammy? There are certain characteristics I look for in choosing books for my classroom library. In the back of my mind, I always try to think of students like Sammy searching for books he can read over and over again.
Books to Develop Story Language: One of the easiest ways to get picture books into the hands of young readers is with wordless picture books. Developing story language is essential in learning to read. Wordless picture books provide opportunities to talk through a story. Wordless picture books require readers to pay attention to the meaning of the story told through illustrations. They are perfect for young readers who focus on words over meaning, second language learners, and readers who need to develop oral language.
Books with Repetition: Repetition supports young readers as it provides opportunities to see words again and again, it reduces the challenge of texts, and helps build fluency.
The OK Book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld
Format: The format of a book is important to consider when picking picture books for our classroom libraries specifically matched to the book handling knowledge of readers. I look for books that are easy to navigate with print appropriately sized for the reader. Layout is also important. Readers need to be able to understand how to move through the text.
When I Was Five by Arthur Howard
Books with Appropriate Picture Support: Pictures can often help young readers to read unfamiliar text. I look for books in which the text and pictures are a good match between the child's vocabulary and the events illustrated in the story.
Familiarity: Familiarity with a story or character can make it easier to read. Getting to know an author's style of writing makes reading new books by that author less challenging.
The Three Bears by Byron Barton
Story Structure: The way a story is structured can help make it easier to read. Young readers do well with stories that have a beginning, middle, and end, with events moving through time from what happened first to last. Books with repetitive story structures, list-like texts, see-saw patterns, and stories organized by days of the week can also be accessible to young readers.
Appeal to Students: Ultimately books have to appeal to young readers. These books are favorites on our classroom shelves.
Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld