I love to hang out with the books, too. Turn me loose in a bookstore and I’m a goner. But the precious independent reading minutes we’ve worked so hard to find must be safeguarded from all other distractions – including just hanging out with the books.
Ultimately, we want our students to arrive at independent reading time every day with an ample supply of books that they can and want to read. We want to develop in them a sense of urgency about not wasting a single minute of their precious independent reading time.
So, although independent reading may seem a logical opportunity to let students browse in the library, it really isn’t. When book shopping is an option during independent reading, some kids may choose shopping instead of reading:
- A few of them are I’ll-do-anything-to-avoid-reading kids. Especially if reading feels hard or uncomfortable, hanging out in the library and flipping through books is a clever escape. It makes you look like a reader without ever having to read a word.
- A few of them are I-love-books-so-much-I-can’t-settle-on-just-one kids. These kids could hang out in the library happily contemplating books all day long. (A bit like me trying to decide what to order from an extensive menu illustrated with mouth-watering pictures. I need the people I’m dining with to tell the waitress we’re ready or I might never decide!)
- A few of them are social kids. When they see a few of their friends gathered in the library, all they can think about is how much they want to be there, too. Socialization is good for kids, and talking about books is good for kids—but not when they’re happening instead of reading.
- A few of them are I-have-trouble-planning-ahead kids. Whether it’s because they’ve just finished one text and have nothing more selected or have forgotten their books at home, these students seem to always have a reason to make a quick pitstop at the book shelf.
Don’t get me wrong. I deeply value giving kids regular and quality time to find great books. They can’t stay engaged if they don’t have regular access to lots of fresh titles. But if shopping during reading time is always an option, some students may never get down to reading. These readers will be much better off if we clearly define and explicitly teach when the library is open for business and when it is not.
When designing book shopping schedules, you may decide that sometimes the library is open to everyone and at other times it is open to only specific students during the designated once-a-week schedule.
If you decide to have kids use independent reading time as a time to shop because your schedule requires it, be sure to create a visual schedule, making it easy for them to keep track of who will shop on which days.
Determining shopping schedules that work for you and your students will likely take some experimentation. So, just dig and and make a start. You can adjust as you go.
Purposeful planning for use of the classroom library will insure that book shopping is chance to prepare for independent reading – without taking the place of it!
Simple Starts: Making the Move to a Reader Centered Classroom is packed with supports and suggestions to to help you design and teach shopping routines, book selection skills, and engaged readers routines, insuring each and every reader gets the most out of independent reading time.