Where did the summer go?
Seriously, it seems like only yesterday that everyone was getting ready for the summer months. Like many educators, I was caught up in planning vacations (or at least, what vacations could be had under COVID) and considering what PD to explore. Now, a new school year has begun, and we’ve all been swept up in the rush of activity. There’s so much to do, so much to prepare for, and suddenly all that free time has disappeared!
I know that teachers have a hundred-and-one things to accomplish in the next few weeks, but I’d like to take a moment and draw attention to one specific area of learning: the classroom library. With everything going on, it’s easy to overlook the different literature sitting on your bookshelves. However, the books you choose for your classroom will have a profound effect in the year ahead. It’s worthwhile to do a thorough inventory and make sure our students have literature that makes them feel seen, encouraged, and inspired. So, what should our classroom libraries look like?
Books to Include
- Books with Diverse Characters: Every child deserves to see themselves as the protagonist of their own story. A good way to ensure this is by including books whose characters come from a variety of backgrounds. This can include lead POC characters like in Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis and Front Desk by Kelly Yang, or even neurodivergent heroes such as Max from Rodman Philbrick’s Freak the Mighty.
- Books with Diverse Authors: While diverse characters are good, so are diverse authors. Having books with a wide collection of authors shows students that you’re willing to listen. It tells them that you’re interested in their thoughts and feelings, and that your classroom is a safe place to share. Diverse authors also ensure that young readers can find voices who empathize with their experiences.
- Real-Life Heroes: Typically, non-fiction books get overlooked when it comes to young readers. That’s a shame because there are plenty of extraordinary people who your students should know! Whether it’s Ada Lovelace, the Queen of Computing, or Junius G. Groves, the Potato King of the World, these real-life heroes can encourage your students to work hard and chase their dreams.
- Graphic Novels: I’ve written about the importance of keeping comics in the classroom more than once. Comics and graphic novels have been shown to increase interest in reading, improve student vocabulary, and provide positive representation for readers. They can also lead students through difficult issues by helping them understand social-emotional themes. Best of all, they’re really fun to read!
- The Unexpected: There’s a reason we include the classics in our bookshelves, their classic! Still, sometimes it pays to wander off the beaten path and find a lesser-known book to share with your students. This is particularly true when you’re trying to cultivate a diverse bookshelf, since we risk pigeonholing students with well-known novels or common themes. Consider reading Choose Your Own Adventure books as a class, or include instructional manuals like cookbooks for students to ponder. As a bonus, hunting for undiscovered gems is a great way to teach your class the value of curiosity!
Let’s Get Reading
A good book can mean the world to students. When our libraries are stocked with great stories that encourage and inspire, our students have the resources they need to thrive. So, take a moment to browse the shelves within your classroom. Consider what books would best support the readers in your class. After all, to open a book is to open your mind!