We want our students to love reading books. We want them to go over to a book shelf, choose a book that interests them, and hurry to dive in. The ability to choose a book that interests them, as opposed to one that is assigned to them, is vital to growing that passion. Here are some ways you can foster that love through student CHOICE.
Do NOT level the classroom library
Choosing books by level is not an authentic way to choose books. It’s not how we, as adults, choose them, so why would they? The classroom library should include attractively displayed books in a variety of genres that reflect cultural sensitivity and relevance to the age group. They should be organized by topic, author, illustrator, genre, and award-winning books that are organized into baskets or bins with the titles facing out so that students can sort through them. Forcing students to choose books by their reading level puts limitations on them. If they want to choose a book that interests them, but may be a little too easy or too hard, let them. Never take a book out of child’s hands.
Help them choose
Initially, students may not know how to choose books well, so you will want to teach them how to think about selecting a book that works best for them. By listening to them during book talks and read-alouds, you will get to know what their interests are and be able to make recommendations. Let them examine the cover, back cover copy, and illustrations, or sample a bit of text and let them get a feel for the author’s style. Think about how a book matches to your students’ own reading backgrounds and experiences and whether they would need to listen to an audio version or another person read it to them.
Include personal space in your classroom design
Students are always searching for their own identity. In order to help them discover what they like or don’t like they need their own space. It can be an individual desk, a cubby, even just a personal box where they can store their personal documents, reader’s notebook, writer’s notebook, independent reading books, etc. Give them a warm, accepting environment to call their own where they can lose themselves in the book that they chose for themselves.
Fountas and Pinnell believe the choice is at the heart of what it means to become a confident reader. “If you have an opportunity to choose what you read, and then to talk about it with others, maybe to draw and write about it, it builds your sense of yourself as a reader and your self-efficacy as a reader. That’s where confidence really begins,” (Fountas and Pinnell).
~The Fountas & Pinnell Literacy™ Team