How to Create Successful Reading Spaces
By Sarah Svarda, librarian, Discovery School, Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Want to maximize your reading resources in your classroom, library, and Book Fair to inspire your kids to read? Try some of these simple strategies to get your kids excited about their reading spaces.
Make It Comfy.
Creating an environment that nurtures reading is important in your classroom and library. Students need comfortable areas where they can read alone as well as spaces to share their reading with friends. When I taught third grade, I had an old clawfooted bathtub in my reading area. I filled it with tons of pillows, and students loved taking turns getting in the tub to read.
These days our library has what we call the comic corner. This is one of our most popular sections of the library. The corner features stools where the students can sit and read alone, an area rug, and various comic book displays. Our students enjoy feeling as if they are in their own small space when they are selecting and reading books in the comic corner.
Think about creating a reading space at your Book Fair as well. One year we decided we would create reading nooks at our Book Fair similar to the one in our library. We divided our Scholastic book displays into nooks filled with age-appropriate materials. We also borrowed as many rugs, lamps, end tables, and bean bags as we could from teachers’ classrooms. We set up small areas where shoppers could take a break and read the books they had selected. Many parents commented that they enjoyed the warm atmosphere. This strategy was so successful that we are going to set up our Book Fair in the same way again this year using hammocks this time around. After all, don’t a great book and an afternoon siesta go hand in hand?
Include a variety of resources – biographies, record books, reference books, comics, fiction, and nonfiction – in your reading spaces. For younger students, check out listening books from your librarian and have a special listening center. You can also have big books available for students to read with a partner using big finger pointers. Buy magazines for your classroom and library, and make them available for your students to read alone or with a partner. Even consider offering a listening area where students can read lyrics as they listen to popular music.
Organize your classroom library by author and genre so books are easy to find. You can even assign class librarians each week to be responsible for making sure that each of the book bins in your classroom library is sorted correctly. I used to teach with an amazing teacher friend who would unwrap her classroom library with her children, one genre at a time, and teach the students about each as they unwrapped. Talk about building excitement about reading!
Get Students Involved.
Enlist students in encouraging reading. Our sixth-graders created shelf-talkers for our Book Fair advertising their favorite books and book series. Our younger students then read the shelf-talkers and were drawn to the books chosen by their peers. When we were working on our mystery unit, our sixth-graders also made mystery bags. The front of each brown bag had a short summary of the book inside as well as the the suggested grade level. The bags flew off the shelves, and students couldn’t wait to share the excitement of opening the bag with their parents. We asked students to read the first chapters of the books inside their bags, knowing some students would inadvertently walk away with books they normally would not have chosen for themselves. You could also let students be the first to take home new books that you’ve bought with Scholastic Dollars™ as a reward for writing reviews you can display in your classroom library alongside the books.
Let Your Space Evolve.
This year I hope to redesign our library reading spaces. I am going to create a redesign action team that will include one of our administrators, teachers, parents, and a representative group of students from various grades. We’ll put our students’ needs at the forefront of our redesign. What do the students want to see in their reading spaces? How do we make it a place where they will want to hang out with a favorite book? One idea I would like to try is painting our library tabletops with dry erase paint so students can share their ideas and brainstorm on the tabletops. I’ll keep you posted on how final plans and funding come together for our new reading space. For now, check out some of my favorite library spaces on my Library Spaces Pinterest board
Sarah Svarda works as the head librarian at Discovery School in Murfreesboro, Tenn., a winner in 2012 of the National Blue Ribbon Award. She has five years of classroom experience as a third-grade teacher and served nine years as a media specialist. She earned her undergraduate degree in multidisciplinary studies (grades 1 to 8) and master’s degree in instructional leadership, both from Tennessee Technological University. An accomplished Book Fair chairperson, Sarah was named the Scholastic Book Fairs® National Elementary School Contest first-place winner in 2006 (Read, White and Blue), 2007 (Reading Rain Forest) and 2010 (Book Fair Diner). She also was a second-place winner in 2008 (Book Fair Safari). Sarah shares her professional insight about reading, writing, and her favorite children’s books on her blog, libraryeverything.blogspot.com.