Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Finding Joy and Building Competence in Browsing for Books

I recently read a blog post entitled Serendipity  by Donalyn Miller. In the process of unpacking books from her move and deciding on how to sort and shelve them, she ran across several titles that reminded her of that serendipitous feeling of discovering and rediscovering a book-- running across a book you read long ago, but still remembered clearly-- one that left you with fond memories of the characters and the feelings you had while reading it. Haven't we all felt the pull toward a book that mysteriously calls to us??

This feeling prompted Donna to pose a few questions-- Do these random meetings between readers and books still occur? How much time are children actually given to freely browse  bookshelves? and How often do children truly have choice in selecting the book they want to read from an open collection?

These questions got me thinking about a training I am working on with a few of my coaches. In one of our meetings, we discussed limiting students' book selection choices to books "on their level" and teaching them how to choose "good fit" books. While many might agree with this way of thinking, I had to argue against it to my coaches.

A few years ago I read The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Reader in Every Child and was delighted by Donalyn's unconventional approach to getting her students to read more--  simply put... she gave them time to read the books they picked themselves.

The first lesson in Burkins and Yaris' book Reading Wellness talks about teaching children to read as Jane Goodall read... to read not because someone picks the books for you or because others set goals for you, but because you are driven by your interests and passions. The Heart, Head, Hands, and Feet lesson focuses on the teacher bringing in collections of books so that students can gather information about their areas of interest and the things they love. 

Can we really get all kids excited about the pleasure of reading if we limit their choices of books and dictate the ones they must spend their time reading? 

Another important point that Donalyn brings up is students' reliance on these types of support systems for choosing books. She suggests that some students may struggle with finding books of interest as well as how to use these systems causing them to lose excitement in and become frustrated with reading. I worked at a school once where the librarian tried to limit my kindergartners to two shelves of books with "green dots" because she said those were the ones on their reading level. If you know me, then you can imagine how that conversation ended... with my students checking out books ALL over the library :) 

"If children never learn how to pick a book without a reading level or color-code on the spine, it's unlikely they will read much outside of school." (Donalyn Miller)

Browsing books with freedom... 
- brings joy and pleasure to our reading lives
- builds competence in us as readers
- gives us confidence in our own reading decision-making skills
- grows children into the readers they will become

I love this point- Even when we choose books we don't like we learn about ourselves as readers. 

"Empowered readers remain readers." (Donalyn Miller) 

With that said... How do you organize your classroom library? How do your students browse for books? and Are you empowering the readers in your classroom? 

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