Amy Diaz, from left, and Tromon Price, Cooper Elementary kindergartners, talk with their teacher Roslyn George about the books they chose.
Julian Driskell, from left, and Tianna Thomas, Cooper Elementary kindergartners, share a book inside their classroom library tent.
HOUSTON – Oct. 31, 2017 – In Roslyn George’s kindergarten class at Cooper Elementary School, students “shop” for books twice a week in a corner of the room that includes not only book shelves, but a cozy tent where two or three can read together in partnership. There are also sunny-yellow, ball chairs surrounding a table where children sit, and sometimes bounce, while reading their books and talking about them with their teacher.
Reading is fun in Ms. George’s class, and that’s the goal of a districtwide initiative that included the delivery of thousands of new books this fall to establish classroom libraries.
“As a district, we want our kids to love books and experience the power of written words on a level that goes beyond class assignments, “said Dr. Lauren Topek, chief of curriculum, instruction and assessment. “Reading shouldn’t be work for our students, it should be pure pleasure. We hope having these brand new books, just steps away in their classroom, will help foster a love of reading that will last a lifetime.”
The classroom libraries are part of the district’s overall literacy plan, Literacy Applied, which relies on four major building blocks: supported reading, independent reading, word power and writing.
At elementary schools, the libraries are located in every grade-level classroom where English Language Arts and Spanish Language Arts are taught, while at the secondary level, they are located in English Language Arts classrooms. All of the books may be used for independent reading, while some also serve as read-aloud books for elementary and middle school levels.
“The students absolutely love them,” said Nancy Grinstead, Twin Creeks Middle School eighth-grade English teacher. “There are so many different books, and I constantly have kids ask if they can check out a book. They are done with their assignment, and they are excited to read.”
Grinstead often uses the books for a reading and writing activity that takes about 20 minutes. The students are allowed to spread out around the room and find a spot where they can focus on the book of their choice – for some this may be cross-legged under a table. Grinstead then asks the students to write a response in their writing notebook to a simple question, such as describing a character in the book or whether they would continue to read the book or not and why.
Jessie Nelson, a self-described book lover and avid reader, likes the challenge of experiencing new vocabulary and content that is different from what she is used to. For her, the classroom library, with its various topics and skill levels, offers something for everyone. “Every student can challenge himself even if they don’t like reading as a hobby,” Nelson said.