Friday, October 23, 2009

Simplifying Book Choice

At this time of the year, I am privy to a lot of conversations about book choice. Helping match readers to books is one four guiding principles of good reading instruction closely linked to two of the other tenets: read more often, read more pages. It seems so simple: The sooner we empower children to make good choices, the quicker we send them on their way to greater reading proficiency…

If only it were that easy.

In reality, book choice is layered with perplexing issues. From book shopping to abandoning books to figuring out what interests you as a reader, it is a topic that needs to be visited and revisited.

Recently a group of teachers presented me with a logistical problem centering on book choice: When is the best time for students to go book shopping? Do I send them all at once or should I send them in small groups?

In the third grade classroom that I visited today, the children normally shop for books on Monday (the day of my visit). Instead of worrying about managing a class full of students mulling around the library all at once, I brought two strips of poster board with me. One was labeled “still reading,” the other was titled “need new now.” As I entered the classroom, I invited the children to jot their name down on an index card and passed around my poster board strips and asked them to clip their name to whichever title best applied to their needs as a reader. In less than two minutes I knew that Evan and Kirana needed to shop for books and the rest of the class was comfortably settled with what they were reading. We got busy with our mini lesson and our workshop went off without a hitch.

In response to those teachers who ask, “When is the best time to go book shopping?” I respond, “whenever they need new books.” When it becomes an issue that children are without books or always in need of a new book, those are the layers I eluded to before—we address them as the need arises.

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