Having a classroom library is vital to developing readers. The Scholastic Classroom & Community Group suggests that an effective classroom library consist of, at a minimum, 750 books at all levels. That is a lot of books and that is their minimum. Given the sheer number of books in a classroom library, no matter how many procedures you have in place, you will have some books that become damaged. It is going to happen.
My classroom has several different places where children can read. Books are in every corner of my room. I do have general classroom procedures in place that my students follow, but I do not have lots of procedures around books themselves. Reading is a joyful event. If I do my job correctly, my kids will have a respect for books because they will understand why books are so important. I am not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but my students interact, love, and respect my books. I know this because when a book gets torn up my students panic!
For a while, a damaged book was treated as an emergency in my classroom. Students were engaging in behaviors that I wanted to curtail:
Everything stops! Guided reading lessons, one-on-one conferences — everything stops because of the abused book.
Blame is placed! Often it is all too evident who the responsible party is. I do not get angry when a book gets destroyed because I know that it’s going to happen, but students can be unforgiving.
Drama ensues! Whichever book is the damaged one, it suddenly is catapulted to the status of the classroom’s favorite book! Quite coincidentally, it seems that everybody was just getting ready to read that particular title and they are devastated that they are being denied the best book EVER written.
After giving it some thought, I came across one simple strategy that has totally calmed my class down when a series of unfortunate events (and it always is!) leads to a book being damaged. I created a book hospital! It is super-easy and completely effective. If you want to install one in your classroom you can use a container of any sort, as long as it’s large enough to hold books. I used a basket and taped a piece of paper with a big red cross on it and the words, "Book Hospital." Then I placed the basket on one of bookshelves. You can make this as cute as you want and add borders or images of a sick person with a thermometer in his mouth, etc.
I then put one procedure into place regarding books, which I announced to my class. If a book gets torn up, do not interrupt my guided reading lessons, do not blame your friends (or they won’t be your friends much longer), and do not pitch a fit. Simply place the book in the book hospital. My promise to the class for following the new procedure is that I would check the book hospital frequently.
This system works perfectly for my students and me. I hope it will for you. Some books you will be able to repair and others you will not. Luckily, there are other ways to use books that can't be repaired in your classroom, so don't throw those books away!
1. Go through the ones that are unsalvageable and take out any great pictures or favorite texts to use for writing prompts. These passages and pictures allow me to have my students predict or anticipate what the story might be about. This is a great activity to counteract high-stakes school assessments that create a need for a "right" answer. In this activity, there is no right answer, just a student’s background knowledge and imagination. This is an "easy peasy lemon squeezy" morning activity where students just write about what they see in the picture. The black and white example to the right shows a boy with a knife in a tree as a black panther looks up at him. I found this amazing picture in I Survived the Sinking of Titanic, 1912 by Lauren Tarshis.
2. Tear the pages and use them for art projects throughout the year. Torn paper projects work on a lot of occupational therapy skills. In addition, using torn pieces from damaged books adds a great visual to those projects. This example is a name activity from one of the first months of kindergarten.
3. You may find some images that work perfectly for different themes you have throughout the year. I found a great quick poem about rainbows that I used in my spring unit from a book titled A Place Called Kindergarten by Jennifer Harper and illustrated by G. Brian Karas. I've had this book since it was released in 2006, so it has served a lot of different students through the years. It continues to enhance more students' educations as I have repurposed this great book.
What do you do with your damaged books? I'd love some different ideas!
I can’t wait to see you next week.