Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Books to Build a Reading Community

At the beginning of every school year, I always use picture books to kick off our year together.  These are not your traditional beginning of the year read alouds.  These are the books I use in the first few days of school to introduce our classroom reading community.   I teach two classes of ELA/SS and there are very few rules I have when it comes to my classroom library, but the few that I do have are VERY important!  Each book below demonstrates a specific rule or purpose for our classroom library and can be used in any order and with any grade.  Some of these rules might not apply to your classroom (or might even apply in a different way), but are all excellent reads none-the-less.
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by Williams Joyce
PURPOSE:  Books can change your life!
The is the very first book I read with my students EVERY. YEAR.  It sets the tone of my expectations for our year together - that being that I fully believe that books can change your life and I EXPECT them to this year!  If kids see how much passion you have for books, they will become interested.  I have had many students walk through my classroom doors hating reading and when they tell me that I just light up.  It's like the best gift I could ever be given as a teacher: a challenge!  Don't get me wrong, I love my kiddos who come to me already bookworms, but I especially love watching these "nonbelievers" grow into voracious readers.  All it takes is one book and to change their life and together we will find it!  That's essentially my whole lesson while reading this aloud to them.  They love the illustrations and ask to read it more than once.  It's a book that when you read it a second and third time, you always find something you missed.  There is also a short animated film (15 minutes) based on the book that I HIGHLY recommend showing after reading as well.  It is silent, so you could even show it before hand as a discussion and comparison piece.
Bears Don't Read! by Emma Chichester Clark
PURPOSE: Reading is for EVERYONE!
This is a very sweet and slightly exaggerated, yet humorous, book about a bear who wants to try something different: reading.  It has good messages about perseverance and kindness, but I also like to point out to my students about the stereotypes found in this story.  
Before we read this story I always ask the students to draw or write on a note card "what a reader looks like."  It is usually the same response: a little white boy (or girl) with glasses with a book in their hand, occasionally I'll even get more of a nerd look to the drawing.  Then we discuss this as a class and talk about why other people can't be readers... and then we debunk ALL OF IT!!!
In the book a lot of people in town think the bear is up to no good because he's a bear, when really he just wants to read.  These people don't see him as a reader though, they have stereotyped him.  After discussing the book and how every person in that room can be a reader, no matter their interests, we watch this clip.
This video is EVERYTHING! This video is about Malcolm Mitchell who joined a book club in college, goes on to win the Super Bowl, and then writes a children's book. At around minute 1:50 he says that football will never be his biggest accomplishment because "it came natural - that's a gift. I had to work to read."  I also love that he admits that he entered into college only being able to read at a junior high level.  He IS our students!  So many of our students need to see that everyone CAN be a reader but that it might take more work than others.  Just because you don't look a certain way or like specific things, doesn't mean you can't be a reader!
Here is his book (because you know your kids will immediately want to read it after you watch this, LOL).  Click on the image to read more about it!
Alfred Zector, Book Collector by Kelly DiPucchio
PURPOSE: Always share your stories.
Alfred Zector LOVES books.  He loves them so much that he wants to read ever single one and collect them!  Eventually, he has collected all the stories from the town but realizes he is lonely when he doesn't have any one to share the stories and talk about them with...  You also get to see what a town without books looks like (it's a scary place!).  Eventually, Alfred realizes that he enjoys sharing his stories with others and talking about them.
As a class we discuss why it is important to share our favorite stories and the different ways we can share our stories with our friends!  Here is a general list of what we usually come up with:
Book Talks at Morning Meeting
Write something for the Book Recommendation board
General discussion at any time, any place
Class/School Newsletter
Book Ambassador (keep reading for more info)
How to Read a Story by Kate Messner
PURPOSE: Getting started reading a book.
This is a very cute and simple book that would be fabulous to launch a Reader's Workshop (especially in the younger grades)!  I still use it with my 4th graders as a reminder of what to do when reading but some of it doesn't necessarily apply to us all the time (like the buddy reading).  It begins with Step 1: Find a Story - which is where I insert our choosing "Just Right Books" mini-lesson.  Step 3: Find a Good Spot - which is where we talk about our "Reading Spots" around the room and how we like to read in different places than we like to work.  Some of the lessons go over reading strategies (prediction, questioning, context clues, emotion, etc.) as well as practicing fluency.  A very cute and quick read to remind your students about how to read a book.
Schomburg by Carol Boston Weatherford
PURPOSE: Reading Ambassadors
Schomburg is a very moving true tale about a boy who never saw himself, or any one like him, in the history books.  When he asked his 5thg rade teacher why not, he was told, "because Africa's sons and daughters had no history, no heroes worth noting."  He did not accept that answer and made it his life's mission to amass as much history about his people and their contribution to world history as he could.  And boy did he!
After reading this we talk about what Arturo Schomubrg really was.  He was an ambassador, a representative, for his people and their history!  We discuss how we can always find information and other things in books and how if we want to know something, or need advice, we go to an expert, like Schomburg.
In our class we have Reading Ambassadors, or experts, based on genres.  If you read over 5 books in one particular genre you are considered an expert at that point and your name goes up on the board underneath that specific genre title.  This way, when another students wants ideas on what to read in the Fantasy category, they don't always have to come to me for advice, they can look at the board and see who is an ambassador for fantasy and ask them for the opinion on a selection.
Let Me Finish! by Minh Le
PURPOSE: No spoilers!!!
This is probably my BIGGEST pet peeve in the classroom and the kids know this from day one.  I hate it when students spoil the end of a story for another student... they take away their OMG moment that the other student got to experience!  Now, I know accidents happen and I am okay with that.  What I am NOT okay with, and if you're a teacher you know what I'm talking about, is when kids want to show you, or other kids, that they know something that you don't and prove it by telling the ending.  They want to show off their knowledge in a sense.  They don't always do it to be mean or cruel, most don't even set out to ruin the book per se, they just want to prove to people that they knew what was going to happen and in doing so, spoil the book.  Drives. Me. Nuts.  Okay, soap box over. LOL!
This is a really cute book about a boy who is just trying to read a book but all the animals he happens upon keep asking him if he has gotten to specific parts in the book, which could possibly spoil it for him!  It is humorous and has beautiful illustrations!  This is always a class favorite every year I read it!
That Book Woman by Heather Henson
PURPOSE: There is a book for everyone/Even reluctant readers can enjoy reading.
This is one of my favorite books!  It is about a boy named Cal who lives up in the Appalachian Mountains where there are no libraries to be seen for miles.  A Book Woman keeps showing up to his house delivering books for his sister but he would rather do anything else than sit and read a book.  The fact that this woman delivers these books through all kinds of weather (especially the dangerous kind) starts to intrigue Cal as to what is so special about these books that she would be willing to risk her life to deliver them.
It is a fabulous read that shows your readers how special, and valuable, books and reading can be and how there really is a book for every reader, even the most reluctant of readers.  I always like to tell the kids that I am their own personal Book Woman!  I would happily go through the rain and fog and cold to get them a book!
I use this book as an introduction to our #truestorytuesday for #classroombookaday.  If you have never done #classroombookaday, I cannot recommend it enough!!!  As a class we read a picture book every day - for fun and community building experiences.  I don't always have a plan when it comes to the books, just whatever our class needs at that moment.  But I always do a true story on Tuesdays and I will say this is by far their most favorite day!  This is the book I use to introduce different types of non-fiction picture books as well as #truestorytuesday and talk to kids about the real Pack Horse Librarians from American history!
{This is also a fantastic book to use when teaching context clues and dissecting unknown words and phrases.}
Hooray for Books! by Brian Won
PURPOSE: Try new genres, formats, and titles.
This is a very cute and simple story about having a favorite book and wanting to read it but also how it is okay to try new things.  After Turtle has searched and searched for his favorite book and declined everyone else's suggestions on what he should try, he finally realizes that maybe there are other good stories out there that he should read.
This is a perfect story to share  for reader's who have an absolute favorite (which I totally get!) and to show them that it is okay to branch out and read what other people suggest.
I hope you have found some new titles that will help you set up your own classroom reading community!  What books do you read to help your students begin their reading journey?

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