The Friday before I left for vacation/EdTech, I had wanted to write a blog post about the wonderful day I had in our English III classes. I can’t believe that from the time it took me to drive home, I FORGOT TO WRITE THE POST. I remembered as I was talking to a parent volunteer about how much I enjoyed that day. I just can’t seem to hold a thought in my head unless I write it down. If you look, you’ll probably see remnants of ink messages written on my hands.
Why, you may ask (or not, but I’m going to tell you anyway) did I find that Friday so enjoyable? Mr. English Teacher and I decided to take a cart of books into the classroom and have an independent read-in. The teacher wanted the students to choose two books: one to take home for their independent novel assignment and one to leave in the classroom for their sustained silent reading on Fridays.
I chose the first round of books that each student would read. After five minutes of reading, they then had the option of keeping the book or trading it in for a new one. If they kept the book it became one of the two they would check out at the end of the period. If they didn’t like that book, I’d swap it for a new one. After each round I would let a small group (3-4 students) chose their next novel while I gave a new book to the rest of the students. I didn’t want a mass stampede to the cart after each round. We’d continue rounds until everyone had chosen two books (some chose three or four!) Once everyone had chosen their books, I used our portable circulation/inventory scanner to check out the books and they spent the rest of the class period reading one of their choices.
Now you may be saying this is pretty mundane – that a lot of schools are doing this kind of activity. The activity isn’t what made this an awesome event for me. What made it memorable for me was twofold. First, was how much the kids seemed to enjoy the activity. As soon as they saw the cart, they all wanted to pick out a book. The second reason and what truly made my day was how accurately I was able to match students with books they liked. I would say that 90% of the titles I brought up to the classroom were books that I had personally selected for the library. And even though we are a small school, many of these kids I never see and/or have anything other than cursory interactions so I don’t know their likes or dislikes as far as books/reading go. Despite this, after the first round in each class there were only two or three students who wanted a new book! How cool was that? This let me know that I’m finally learning my students’ taste in books (or just that I know how to pick good books!) It was a nice feeling to know that I’m doing a good job in at least one area – acquisitions!
I also made an on the spot decision to allow students to check out more than the maximum of two books at a time. For a while now I had been toying with the idea of removing the maximum or at least increasing the number of books students could check out. With this activity, some of the students were telling me that they already had books checked out, but that they really wanted the book(s) they had just previewed. How could I tell them no? The whole point is for them to WANT to read! So, as of now, I have some kids with three, four, five, and up to seven books checked out. Scary thoughts running through my head right now: Imagine what their late fees are going to be since teenagers (and adults, too!) can’t remember to return/renew books on time. What if they don’t bring them back? If I continue to let them check out that many books I won’t have any books on the shelves! I don’t know whether to be nervous or happy!
Flicker CC Photo Credit: Teen’s Top Ten Book Display by Franklin Park Library