Thursday, July 31, 2014

Love Your Library - Part 1

Well here we go. Getting something that's been rolling around in  my head this week out and into the blogosphere.
Question: Do you love your classroom library? Is your library a living, breathing part of  your instruction? Do your students beg to visit it? Do they fight over being the 'class librarian'? These are all things that I can say (without being a Bragging Betty) are true about my classroom and my library. Because I love my library. This bloggy series is here to tell you why. And how you can too. Hopefully.

Ignore the excuses...
I'm too tired. My kids don't even like reading. They only care about video games and texting. I don't have any money. I don't have enough room for a library. I have some shelves with books- what's the big deal?

"Libraries store the energy that fuels the imagination. They open up windows to the world and inspire us to explore and achieve, and contribute to improving our quality of life. Libraries change lives for the better." -Sidney Sheldon

This is something I truly believe (tell me if you agree)- that I can walk into any classroom and immediately tell you what reading is like there. If the kids love to read, if the teacher loves to read, if reading is valued and encouraged- I can tell you that just by looking at your classroom. Really.

And no, the "presentation" isn't part of it. You don't have to have a deluxe camping tent, an adorable chevron teepee, or an elaborate tissue paper tree adorning  your reading corner.

Here's what you need to have: Books. Lots of them.
And you have to present them right. Sure, that cutesy decor may get them there, but what keeps them there? A treasured, cultivated, expressed, constant love for reading communicated by you. The teacher.

As one of my favorite fellow reading-lovers and fabulous author Donalyn Miller states, "A classroom atmosphere that promotes reading does not come from the furniture and its placement as much as it comes from the teacher's expectation that students will read.” Miller's books, The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild are both fabulous. Seriously. If you're having trouble getting inspired for a new year of teaching reading- read this. Or if you just love reading like me- still read it. But I digress.

Is reading important to you? Yes I did just ask that. You teach it everyday. You have millions of workshops, trainings, books, and worksheets dedicated to it. But is reading, actual book-to-eyes-curled-up-in-the-corner-in-another-world reading, important to you?

I get it. Not everyone loves reading. My husband for example, would much rather watch TV. Or play a video game. So I get it. But I really believe that if you are a teacher dedicated to your students' success, you must value reading. You must understand that it is vital. That our students cannot go out into a world not knowing just how to read, but what reading can do for them. Where it can take them. What it can teach them. To have the kind of classroom that Donalyn Miller is talking about requires you to believe this. Not to agree with it. But believe. Let it pour out from you and into your students.

So much of this "success" is driven by presentation. How do you present reading to your students? Is "library time" just another part of your day? Another "have to" on your long list of lesson plans? What does your library look like? Is it a shelf in the corner? Some books and a rug? Or is it the heartbeat of your classroom? The core of your curriculum? Another favorite author of mine, Linda Dorn, says that "Your greatest classroom resource is a good book". 
Does your library express that? Is it functional? Worn-in and worn-out? Dirty and disorganized? Good. That means it's being used. Does your classroom library get used throughout the day? Or just during "library time"?

So this is my challenge to you: Think about your classroom library. I know it's Back to School time and your mind is a million different places. But I promise you. Your library is worth it. Your attitude towards reading and books in your classroom is worth it. What is your library saying about reading to your students? And what can you change (physically and mentally) to make reading truly treasured in your classroom?

And be sure to turn in to Part Two tomorrow: Getting Started With Your Classroom Library.

Thanks for sticking with me! Here's some freebie love :)

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