Beginning this school year, we have further enhanced our literacy instruction in grades K-5. Students are now immersed in the “Reading Workshop” (Units of Study for Teaching Reading), a research-based curriculum written by faculty of The Reading & Writing Project of the Teachers College at Columbia University. It is the companion curriculum to the “Writing Workshop,” which we successfully implemented two years ago. The goal of the workshop model is consistent reading growth achieved via a combination of strategies and tools. Teachers determine the appropriate instructional reading level for each student and teach them at that level. In order to better align with the new Reading Workshop curriculum, we no longer use the STAR/AR program to level students. Instead, students now progress on the Fountas & Pinnell Text Level Gradient.
How does this translate to best practices in the school library? While student reading levels are still assessed, students are not restricted by level for checking out books. When selecting books, student choice incentivizes (or “encourages”) reading. According to Donalyn Miller, teacher and author of Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer’s Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits (2013), “When students select their own books to read and enjoy, they develop confidence in their abilities to make reading choices and build their capacity for choosing books in the future” (p. 46). In the classroom, students are taught meaningful strategies for selecting books. Considering that books are not leveled in the real world, this is a more authentic approach. Additionally, the ability to successfully choose a text that meets personal and academic goals is a vital skill (Miller, p. 47).
This approach to growing readers is a natural match with a primary goal of the school library program -- to create lifelong readers. While many factors play a role in achieving this goal, one is access to current, high quality, interesting, and extensive collections of books. In our school library, books are organized by type (e.g. “Junior Fiction”) using a standard classification system. This enhances our students’ ability to find materials in other libraries, including our local public libraries.
Our school library is a place where students can fully explore their reading interests. In collaboration with the classroom teachers, I encourage “choice” books as well as books on a student’s reading level. The classroom teachers and I continue to work together in order to support our students’ growth as readers while fostering a love of reading.