Books My Students Are Reading | August 2019

In this video I share all the current read of each one of my fifth graders. They are reading some pretty awesome books! I’ll try to record one of these each month for the duration of the school year.

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When They Discover Something New

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We just finished our fourth day of school, and things are starting to settle in a bit. Their reading stamina is growing, and our classroom community is starting to take shape. I have an amazing group of kids.

Yesterday in class, during independent reading, I could feel a buzz of excitement in the back of the classroom. The energy pulled me towards the group. When I got there I noticed that they all were reading books in the Abandoned Places series. They were so excited to learn about the placed documented in the books. They were each reading a different book, but it was like they were all reading all the books at the same time. They kept interrupting each other to share something cool they learned, a picture they found captivating, and to ask a question the book sparked.

It. Was. Magical.

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The buzz quickly spread to other corners of the room, and within 15 minutes, a series of books that hadn’t be read by any of my students, was now rivaling Dog Man as the most popular set of books in our room.

I spent some time talking to the group of kids that first discovered the series. I just had to figure out how these books became so popular so fast. One of the kids mentioned that his mom watches Abandoned Places videos on YouTube, so when he saw the tub of books, he just had to check it out.

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How about that? I sort of love that a mother’s interest in a YouTube channel led to a classroom obsessed with a book series.

You just never know what is going to happen when you surround kids with books, you let them read what they want, and you give them time to read and talk about those books.

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Keep Track of the Books We Need

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The second day of school was so much fun. It was our first full day, and time moved at warp speed. During independent reading I had the opportunity to chat with a handful of my readers. It was fun to talk to one of my readers about his passion for manga. His cousin introduced him to it a few months ago, and he is all in. He’s hoping to create manga for a living when he grows up. How cool is that? Had another great conversation with a kid reading Janet and Jake Tashijan’s My Life as a Ninja. He informed me that I was missing some of the books in the series. He was right!

In my lesson plan notebook, I keep a list of all the books I need to buy for my classroom library. It seemed like each kid I talked to today, gave me ideas for books I needed to purchase for our library. Our district gives us $250 a year for our classroom library. Most of that money will go towards purchasing books on this list. If I was just starting out with my classroom library, I would probably use the money before the kids came, but with all the books we have, I am lucky enough to be able to wait to see what the kids want before purchasing books. The list also comes in handy during our book fair, when I am ordering books through Scholastic Reading Club, and when I find myself in an independent bookstore.

Kids are much more likely to read when they are surrounded by the books they want to read. The best way to get these books into their hands is to talk to them, get to know them, notice what they are reading, notice what they aren’t reading, and just flat out ask them what books they need in their classroom library.

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One thing that I just realized is that I haven’t been writing down which kid helped me decide that we needed each book. I’ll add that when I get to school. It will be weeks or even months until I get some of these books. I want to make sure that I get it into the hands of the reader that encouraged me to buy the book.

I hope this post is helpful. If you have any classroom library questions, please shoot them my way. I may not have the answer, but working through classroom library problems is so much fun!

The First Day of School

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The first day of school was magical. It brings me tremendous joy to see how excited our kids are to be at school, and how comfortable they were from the moment they walked into our classroom.

Tons of kids got to school super early, so our principal decided to let them come down to their classrooms a few minutes before they normally do. It was fun seeing them bring all their school supplies into the classroom, reconnect with friends, and select their seats. A couple of kids, who appeared to be great friends, moseyed over to the classroom library. The flipped through some baskets, and they both left with a copy of Roller Girl. I asked them if they had read it before they nodded. In my lesson plan book, I wrote: don’t forget to book talk Victoria’s Alls Faire in Middle School.

We did a couple of team building activities to start the day which the kids seemed to like. Trying to learn their names stressed me out. I’m so bad at it!

Usually, on the first day of school I walk the students through the library. I talk about our labeling system, organization, and different ways to find the books they want to read. I thought it might be fun to just turn them loose today, so that is what I did. They just needed to do two things:

1. find a book to read

2. pay attention to what they noticed about the library

It took 3 minutes and 23 seconds for each reader to find a book. Two kids even asked to get the book they brought from home out of their locker (HOORAY!!!!!).

I quickly walked around to see what everyone had selected. This is what I found.

13 kids were reading graphic novels

5 fantasy

6 realistic fiction

3 nonfiction

2 historical fiction

No surprises there!

One reader asked me if we had any copies of Hilo. I walked her over to the graphic novel section of the library, and this happened (see below).

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We sort of just rolled with it. I quickly picked up the books, and placed them in a new spot. It was much easier to find a copy of Hilo with all the graphic novels laying around on the floor. One thing that I did realize was that we are missing a couple of books in the series. I’ll add them to our first order. What I will most likely do is just order a new set of them. You can never have enough copies of Hilo.

Once everyone was settled with their book, I let them know that we were going to try and read for seven minutes. They did great! Not much moving around, not a lot of kids going back to the library. The room was filled with kids reading. Hopefully, it will be like this every day. We’ll gradually increase the time as we go.

I was able to talk to 5 or 6 readers as I walked around the room. The biggest thing that I took away from those conversations is that the kids are excited to be in a room filled with books. Most of their book choices were based on authors/series that they had read in the past. It was exciting to see that they are coming to me with a lot of great reading habits already.

After their eight minutes of reading, I called them to the carpet. We were suppose to stop at 7, but I got distracted talking to a kid about Dav Pilkey. With the class gathered together at the carpet, I asked them to share what they noticed about the classroom library. Their responses blew me away. Pretty much everything I usually talk about when introducing the classroom library was brought up, but instead of me having to tell them about those things, they discovered them on their own. Below you will find the list of things that came up during our conversation. As they said these things, I wrote them down on our easel. Each thing they noticed led to a conversation that deepened their understand of our classroom library, and the beliefs about reading that we hold in our classroom.

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The first day was great. A lot to build on, and a handful of things to work on. I have some books I need to buy, a book shelf I need to fix, and a bunch of kids names that I need to learn. Looking forward to getting back to work!

Meet The Teacher Night

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Last night, I met many of my students for the first time. Each year we host a “Meet The Teacher” event the night before school starts. Getting a chance to talk with my new kids and their families is so much fun, and a little overwhelming. I had seen many of these kids in the hallway the last few years, but I had no idea who they were. Most of them came up to me during our meet the teacher night and introduced themselves (with the help of their parents). Some were nervous, some were excited, some seemed terrified.

I paid close attention to our classroom library during the evening. The first interaction in the space came when one of my students, from last year, stopped by to drop off all the books she borrowed and read over the summer. She wanted to put the books back in the library for me. I asked her if I could snap a picture first (below).

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As the room began to fill with families, I noticed that so many of my kids’ parents were drawn to the library. They looked the library up and down as they walked around the room. I think the amount of space dedicated to books helped them realize just how much we value reading in my classroom.

One of my students from last year walked in with her sister. I have her sister this year. Instead of coming up to me to say hi, they headed to the library. My former student was showing her sister (my current student) our large selection of graphic novels. I walked over and introduced myself. They were polite, but they quickly turned their attention back to the books.

I made my way around the room, trying to set some of the kids that looked nervous at ease. As I headed for the front of the room, I noticed a boy reading at one of my tables. I had never seen this kid before. Wondering if he was new, I introduced myself to his mother and father. The boy never looked up. His mom called his name. He put one finger in the air, signaling that he just needed to finish the page. He looked up and said hi. I introduced myself, and I asked him about the book he had taken from our classroom library. “I don’t know this series. It’s called Timmy Failure. Have you read it?”

I smiled. “I have read it. It is really good. My son read the whole series when he was in fifth grade. Would you like to take Book 1 home with you? You can bring it back tomorrow or just keep it at home until you finish it.” He nodded.

“Does he need to check it out?” his father asked.

“Nope. I know that he’ll bring it back. He’ll probably want to borrow the next one when he finishes this one.” The boy smiled, tucked the book under his arm, and shook my hand. I like that his first interaction with anyone at his new school resulted in him being able to borrow a book.

After meet the teacher night, I noticed my fourth grade daughter cuddled up on one of my classroom couches, reading Bird & Squirrel On The Edge. “Ready, Love?” I asked.

“Yup.” she said not looking up from her book. “I’ll bring this book back when I’m done. Let’s go home dad. School starts tomorrow.”

I smiled, grabbed my bag, shut the lights off, and left my room excited to see what awaits us in the morning.

Classroom Library Today: Our School Library Influences My Classroom Library

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One of my students came back from the library recently excited to try out a new series. This reader often struggles to find books that he wants to read that are not too challenging for him. He wants to read the books that some of his classmates are reading, but he quickly gets frustrated when he realized he cannot read them independently.

Seeing him come back from the library, excited about a series that I knew he could read make my heart happy. The book that he checked out was Five Fouls and You’re Out, a book in the Sports Illustrated Kids Victory School Superstars series.

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Watching him get lost in his library book made me so happy. As soon as he finished the book, he rushed up to me to tell me all about it. The joy in this reader’s voice is what we hope all of our readers experience. After he got done telling me all about the book, he showed me a two page spread at the end showing other books in the series (below).

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He looked up at me hoping I would find a way to get these books into our school. I asked him if he wanted to make a list a few books in the series that we should add to our classroom library. He smiled and nodded. I’m working on getting them ordered for our classroom library.

I know that my classroom library can never replace our school library, but it sure can help me figure out what books I need to add to it. Adding a few books from this series to our classroom library will help others find the series. Once they get hooked, I can send them to the library to check out other books in the series. When classroom and school libraries compliment each other readers win.

I think that we all want our readers to win.

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Thank you for reading this post. I send out a weekly newsletter every Sunday morning. If you’d like to subscribe, please visit my website. At the top of the site is a place to sign up for the newsletter. Be sure to check out my YouTube channel for my latest book recommendations. 

Classroom Library Today: One Topic Leads to Another

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One of my students asked me if I had any books about the Boston Tea Party. We have been studying the events that lead to the Declaration of Independence, and he wanted to learn more. I handed him Jonathon W. Stokes The Thrifty Guide to the American Revolution. He loved it. I think he finished it in a day and a half.

After he finished the book he came up to me looking for another recommendation. I thought he might want some more books about the Boston Tea Party, but instead he asked if I had any more Thrifty Guide books. Thankfully, I did! He was excited to see that we had The Thrifty Guide to Ancient Rome (and Ancient Greece).

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Watching this reader move from one topic to another within a series has me thinking about how I can help other readers find nonfiction series that they will love. So often, when giving nonfiction book recommendations to my students, I focus on topic instead of series. I’m thankful that this reader reminded me that their are lots of ways to help kids find great nonfiction books to read.

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Thank you for reading this post. I send out a weekly newsletter every Sunday morning. If you’d like to subscribe, please visit my website. At the top of the site is a place to sign up for the newsletter. Be sure to check out my YouTube channel for my latest book recommendations. 

Classroom Library Today: A Tub on the Floor

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One of my readers is obsessed with ocean creators. She dreams of going to Oregon State University to compete as a gymnast and study marine biology. Early this week, she grabbed Tub 96 (Freshwater/Ocean) and placed it next to her by one of our couches.

During independent reading she worked her way through books about surprising swimmers, stingrays, and dolphins. I wasn’t surprised to see her doing this. What was surprising was the handful of other students in our class reading books out of Tub 96. It was crazy to see her passion for a topic rub off on her classmates. She didn’t even have to say anything. All she did was bring these books to the attention of other readers. Before this happened, I’m not sure that more than 2 kids read a book out of that tub all year, and this week it has been our most popular nonfiction tub.

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What I learned from this spike in the popularity of Tub 96 is that sometimes kids just need to have some of the less read books in our libraries brought to their attention. If those books are blessed by one of their peers, chances are they are going to find a whole bunch of new readers.

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Thank you for reading this post. I send out a weekly newsletter every Sunday morning. If you’d like to subscribe, please visit my website. At the top of the site is a place to sign up for the newsletter. 

Classroom Library Today: We Don’t Have Any Turtle Books?!

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We have a lot of books in our classroom library, but I know that no matter how many books we have we will always have holes. Earlier this week, we discovered a whole that really surprised me.

I was talking to one of my students about what she wanted to learn more about. She told me about a few things that she was sort of interested in. Her eyes lit up when she started talking about turtles. I asked her why she hadn’t read any of our classroom library books about turtles. When she told me that we didn’t have any I was shocked. Part of me didn’t believe her. She took me over to the reptiles/amphibians tub, and flipped through the books. Sure enough, she was right! A bunch of books on frogs and snakes, but not one book on turtles.

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I’ll spend the next week or so creating a list of books on turtles for us to add to the classroom library. In the meantime, we’ll head down to the school library to see what we can find.

Classroom libraries are never complete. Each year our readers are different, and during the course of the year their interests and preferences evolve. The best way to make sure that we meet the needs of the readers in our classrooms is to get to know them, book talk a ton of books, and find ways to add the books to your library that they want to read.

If you have any “turtle book” recommendations, drop them in the comments. Thank you! 

Thank you for reading this post. It means the world to me. I send out a weekly newsletter every Sunday morning. If you’d like to subscribe, please visit my website. At the top of the site is a place to sign up for the newsletter. To check out the other post in my Classroom Library Today series click here. I go into more depth about classroom libraries in the book I wrote with Donalyn Miller: Game Changer! Book Access For All Kids