Sunday, February 25, 2018

Our Classroom Libraries: Connecting, Stretching, Evolving

Yesterday I was able to chat classroom libraries at the Dublin Literacy Conference with Mandy Robek of Enjoy and Embrace Learning. Our session probably began to spin last year as she started to reflect on the students in her classroom and the books that would be best to support her community.  It was a delightful conversation that continued across time and soon we decided we would love to talk with other educators about classroom libraries.  

The Heart of Our Learning Community
The classroom library is the heart of the community.  It's the authors who mentor our students' writing.  It's the books that inspire thoughtful conversation.  It's the common texts that bring us together in shared understanding.  It's the stories that help us to find ourselves and to see out into the world.  Our classroom libraries shape our learning.  

While there are many joys to our classroom library, there are also many challenges.  My work allows me the privilege of being in and out of classrooms across fourteen elementary schools.  There are just some classrooms where the library pops as soon as I walk in the door.  There are classrooms where books surround the children every day.  In these classrooms, books spill out of the library and into spaces around the room.  A reader can hardly take three steps without running into a book.  Imagine the power in just that.  In these classrooms, I can feel the books as soon as I walk in the door and it always seems that in these communities I know when I talk with young learners they will be able to talk about books.  There are classrooms in which I can tell as soon as I walk in which authors the community has grown to love.  In others, it doesn't take long to tell what the focus of study is in the classroom by the way books are arranged around the room.  Our libraries say a lot about our learning community - and our beliefs about supporting literacy learning.  

Growing Readers with Strong Libraries
Knowing there isn't one right way to manage a classroom library, Mandy and I wrestled with what was most important in sharing our message.  For me, it was the library that supported the conversations in our community.  Across the year my library would change.  At times across the year,  I would notice readers were a bit restless in the workshop and would realize it was our library that needed a little freshening; after all, across a school year, learners grow in their ability to read and their interests shift across the year as a result of new conversations.  

Here are the three considerations Mandy and I discussed in thinking about our classroom libraries.  Our classroom libraries work to help our readers by:
  • Connecting:  Classroom libraries connect readers to their next book, to new authors, to one another.  As educators, we curate libraries that have books of appropriate challenge and make sure our collections are inclusive to all of our readers.  Books in our collections provide mirrors for seeing ourselves, windows for looking out, and sliding glass doors to step into new possibilities.  The books that surround our learning community help to grow common conversations that will shape and connect learners across the year.  In today's world, through the use of digital tools, our classroom libraries will also help us to connect to authors (websites, Twitter), other readers, and to outside experts.  
  • Stretching:  Classroom libraries can provide stepping stones into new texts.  Across the year our conversations help readers learn to balance their reading.  We find ways to help readers stretch to try new genres, authors, and types of reading.  As a community, we reach to discover more through multiple media that grow our understanding, help us to compare a variety of information, and ask us to consider other perspectives.  In our mini lessons we include a variety of texts and consider the balance between print and digital possibilities.  
  • Evolving:  Classroom libraries continue to grow during the year to meet the new needs of our readers.  Our libraries change as we study new authors, dig into a particular genre, or delve into a new topic of study.  They evolve as we move from a literal understanding of text to try to understand author's perspective and work to uncover the themes within a text.  Our libraries evolve as readers request new books, young writers need to learn about different crafting techniques, or our scientists seek more information.  Our libraries evolve as new books are published and new possibilities begin to find their way into our classroom.  Our libraries are no longer confined to the physical space in our classroom, we consider the digital possibilities for our readers.  Using Padlet (example of digital reading Padlet here), our classroom hubs, or other digital spaces we can curate digital spaces for our readers.  

More About Libraries
As Mandy and I were working on our session, I wondered what other educators would say about the classroom library.  I found myself wanting to go into classrooms to really take a look at their libraries so I created a hashtag and asked some educators to share their tips and pics.  As always, everyone was so gracious to share both.  You can learn more about the classroom library on Twitter at the hashtag #CRlibrarylove.  Please join the conversation by sharing pictures of your library, beliefs that shape your work with your classroom library, and resources.  Of course, we'd also love to see some library makeover pictures!!!  ;o)  

More Links for Libraries:
I'd love your links, resources, and thoughts in the comments below.  Please share!  

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