What is the best way to get better at reading? READ MORE! It’s not enough to read smarter. Reading has to be enjoyable. Which brings me to what is going to be my favorite part of the day: Independent Reading. This is a 45 minute chunk of time where students can read whatever they want. Comic books? Those have words. Anything is fair game as long as students are engrossed in a series of words on a page (or a Kindle screen) and my job during that time is to help students find a book that will inspire them to read. Towards the end of my time in India I decided my dream job would be to be a personal librarian for kids. I would get to know each and every child at a particular school and pick books specifically for them – sparking love affairs left and right and sending kids off into worlds of wonder and excitement.
Well, this year my dream came true. In the spring my boss and I had a vision to turn Independent Reading into something more than kids sitting at their desks reading on Kindles. We wanted more options for kids and a more systematized way to get them reading books at their level. So we needed to take our small collection of physical books and make it grow. We called public libraries around Boston to see if they would donate any books, and the response was amazing. What started out as a few shelves of books quickly turned into almost 2,000 titles. And then there we were in June, sitting in the middle of a room surrounded by thousands of uncategorized books. Daunting, but exciting. It took three weeks of coffee, Beyonce, circular stickers, and amazing friends who were willing to perform repetitive tasks, but we categorized every book by genre and reading level. And this is what the kids saw on the first day of school.
Fiction, nonfiction, humor, fantasy, adventure, mystery…..I haven’t memorized all of the books that we have, but after pawing through these buckets so many times, I feel pretty darn close. Each student is building a wishlist of their favorite books, and we have been previewing titles with them when they come to the library every day to read Wonder, a book we read last year about a little boy with a facial deformity who starts 5th grade at a new school. There are so many books I know they will love, and I hope they find comfort in this soft, colorful space to grow as readers. And, of course, while digging through the boxes of donated books, we found several hidden gems. Including the book that inspired the title. It’s going to be a fun year.