Library Battles

I’m two weeks into the school year and so far, it’s pretty great. For the first time ever, it feels as if I have my sh*t together. This is likely because I began planning and working on my classroom in late July. People who think teachers spend their summers relaxing should know that a teacher’s idea of “relaxing” is organizing his/her library for the upcoming school year. And laminating. Definitely laminating.

One of my goals this year was to have a library that looked and felt inviting. To accomplish this, I did a few things:

1.) Labeled my books by genre/theme. Looking for books has never been easier when I have theme-coded bins. All of my Goosebumps books are in one place and if students want to read books about Middle School, there’s a bin for that. I recently added a LGBT book bin and plan to add a Scary Stories/Halloween in the coming week.

2.) Comfy Chairs. I acquired a gently used rug, a few bean-bags, a moon chair and a funky, multi-colored lamp. I have a rotation of students who read in the library daily so everyone gets a turn. Students are not only excited about the books they are reading, but they learn that reading is a pleasurable act.

While my Type-A library organizing has completely changed the vibe of silent reading time in my classes, I also attribute that to allowing students to read books regardless of book levels. In the past, my students were so focused on their book level and would be scared to stray from it. This meant they were possibly not reading the books they wanted to read, all because the book was not exactly a DRA 40, for instance.

When I told my students they could read books based on their interest, some of them actually cheered. I explained that sometimes they may be interested in a book that, once they begin reading, they find is too difficult. At that point, they can make a mature decision to choose another book. I highlighted the fact that I sometimes have to change my book after reading the first few chapters because it doesn’t hold my interest or it’s too difficult. Some real-life advice and the power of choice with middle schoolers is key.

Of course, I also step-in if I see a student who needs some guidance in this area, but for the most part, my students are really enjoying reading silently. In fact, many of them will ask me to get their books so they can read during times that are not SR times. If you’re a teacher, you know how HUGE this is (and when they ask, I of course, say “Yes,” while beaming a smile ear-to-ear!)

Speaking of books of interest, as stated above, I recently created a LGBT book bin. I read along with my students and was reading George. I gave a quick book talk about it (we also do this every day – more to come in a later post) and students were immediately calling “dibs” on the book when I finished. So I went home that night and ordered a good amount of LGBT books from Amazon. When they arrived a few days later, students were literally running to the LGBT book bin and proclaiming the book they wanted to read when they finished their current book. One student spied a book in the bin she desperately wanted to read, so she told me that she made a goal to finish her current book by Friday. Friday afternoon, she bounced up to me and proclaimed, “I’m finished!” Can I get a new book?”

So what are these books my students are fighting over? Here’s a list of few:

1.) George by: Alex Gino

A book about a fifth grade boy, George, who identifies as a girl.

george-book

2.) Being Jazz by: Jazz Jennings

My students saw this book and immediately knew who Jazz was. Little did I know, she has a television show! This is a great high-interest non-fiction read.

being-jazz-my-life-as-a-transgender-teen-hardcover-book_1000

 

3.) Totally Joe by: James Howe

Joe comes to grips with his sexuality and questions gender roles in this middle grades book about being gay.

 

joe

What books have your students fighting battles in the library? Share in the comments!

*Many of my library’s books and furniture were generously donated through DonorsChoose projects.

Up next on the blog: Pictures of my library and how I’m using bookmarks to help students track their reading.

  • Book talks and reading logs

 

 

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YA Sunday Book Review: I”ll give you the Sun

It’s been awhile since I’ve wanted to stay up all night just to finish a YA book (Eleanor and Park was the last YA book where I did just that). Although I did not spend all night reading I’ll give you the Sun, (this would make for some interesting teaching days…) it was the kind of book that I never wanted to put down.

sun

Jandy Nelson does a fantastic job of storytelling. The story flip-flops from twins, Noah and Jude’s, point of view throughout the entire story, eventually coming together at the end.

The story begins from the viewpoint of 13-year-old Noah. Readers gain insight to his struggle with his sexuality and the fact that he’s not very popular, but immensely talented at painting. His bond with sister Jude weakens when tragedy strikes and from there, betrayal and mystery unfold.

Jude is 16 when readers first hear from her. Thus, three years have passed since readers first heard Noah’s version of events. At first, readers will want to hate Jude just based on her brother’s description. However, after learning her side of the story, it becomes difficult to choose a twin to side with. Jude was the quintessential popular girl until tragedy struck, making her reflect on her decisions, present and past.

While the story is somewhat far-fetched, that’s precisely what makes it a superb YA book. Teens enjoy being over-dramatic, so to them, this book hits a home-run. I specifically like that I’ll give you the Sun, doesn’t shy away from the topic of homosexuality, as it’s portrayed in a very real light, which is relatable to experiences many teens are likely going through.

I would recommend this book for students 8th grade and up, as there are some descriptions of sex and mature language.