Thursday, October 18, 2012

Trying Something New

I am an elementary school librarian. I teach 17 classes a week to kindergarten through sixth graders. For my youngest students, I pull a selection of books for them to choose from each week. Kindergarten students choose one book from 3 tables full - fiction, non-fiction, picture books, early readers. First grade students choose from bins of fiction and non-fiction sorted by Accelerated Reader color. We do things this way to keep the library shelves in order until the students are in second grade where they are learning how to alphabetize and when I teach them to use shelf markers. I also thought the smaller number of books to choose from would help the students not be overwhelmed by shelf after shelf after shelf of books.

But week after week I would have students come up to me and say, "There's nothing on the tables I want to read." Or "I've already read all those."

This is especially painful to hear after spending a weekend getting a pile of new books ready for just this group of students.

So I've worked hard to change up the choices. When kids ask for a favorite character or topic, I have scoured the shelves for those so they were available the next week -- only to have that student decline the very book he wanted a week ago. As I would collect the books to put them away at the end of the day, I would marvel at the titles that were left behind. No one wanted to read these books?

Last week I was highlighting books that were going to be part of our upcoming book fair. Class after class of students would have to be batted away as they tried to run off with book fair titles that aren't part of our library collection yet. I wondered what would happen if I highlighted some of my kindergarten books before I sent the kids off to choose one.

It was a completely different experience. I told them what some of the books were about. I read the first page or two of some. I showed off some of the pictures. Most of my students checked out one of the books I had highlighted.

This week I tried it with my first graders, too. Again, more students chose the books I highlighted (many of which were new to the library, but had been ignored in previous weeks) than books I didn't talk about.

It made me wonder if even those smaller sets of books on tables are overwhelming for some kids. Maybe they are afraid they will pick a "dud" and be stuck with it for a week. Maybe the cover isn't enough to grab their interest.

Whatever the reason, my little book "chat" seemed to help kids connect with books more easily than leaving them on their own to discover what books are available and then to choose one for the coming week.

I will be highlighting books with these groups of students every week from now on!

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