Effective Literacy Teaching and Learning for all Students

Unit 5

Establishing and using classroom libraries

Providing students with quality materials and time in Independent Reading cannot be done without a substantial commitment to developing resource-rich classroom libraries. Classroom Libraries are essential for the selection of texts for Independent Reading. A classroom library filled with an array of texts for students at all stages of their reading development provides the students with opportunities to select texts to practise and enjoy their reading. Students need lots of reading practice to become competent readers.

Go to Film Clip:

Victorian University SC: Hayley Harrison confirms value of classroom libraries

Listen to a secondary school literacy coach talk about the impact of classroom libraries on the literacy of the students. Later in this unit you will also see photographs of their libraries and in Unit 7 you will see them in operation with students engaged in Independent Reading while a teacher confers with a student.

Go to the document: Establishment and Use of Classroom Libraries. This document could be useful for your team, grade level or staff when evaluating the quality of your classroom libraries. You could request your literacy coordinator, or literacy coach to arrange a meeting to discuss the issues related to the classroom libraries. The person in charge of the school literacy budget should be involved in any discussions about building classroom libraries so that everyone understands the importance of Independent Reading.

Perhaps the most challenging issue is the way to keep the libraries attractive and interesting with new material to tempt all readers. Work together to brainstorm how to achieve this and how often the classroom libraries need to be refreshed.

Perhaps visit one another's classrooms to view the classroom library asking the teacher to comment on the layout and routines for Independent Reading in each room.

Involve your students in the organisation and maintenance of their classroom library so that they become familiar with the range of resources and can consider the best organisation of topics, genres and authors in the class collection. When they have ownership of a classroom library they are much more inclined to care for it properly. They could decide on a borrowing system and ways to recommend books to each other. Library monitors could help keep resources in order.

You can also learn from other schools as the photographs on the right demonstrate. The change in the classroom library from before re-organisation to after re-organisation indicates the importance of appealing and eye-catching design to attract readers and value books.

Note some interesting features that could be incorporated into your classroom library.

Go to: Photographs: Sharon Zammit St Albans Nth PS Classroom Library. Enjoy reading the book the Prep 1 students of St Albans North PS made with their teacher, highlighting the features of their classroom library. Reflect on the features that you like and that you may choose to implement with your students for their classroom library. Also reflect on the Independent Reading practices that you noticed in the book. Make a list of the features that you could adapt in your Independent Reading time.

Go to: Classroom Libraries and the Issue of Levelled Books. In conjunction with the previous document read this short article and incorporate its advice into your strategies for improving your classroom library. All students should have easy access to well-resourced classroom libraries if students are to grow as readers throughout their school life and there should be a great deal of discussion about the value of choosing material that is not too difficult to read and understand and about the purposes for also choosing material that is easy or challenging.

If it is necessary for you to establish a stronger classroom library, or establish your first classroom library, you will need to discuss with your students:

  • how to use the library
  • how to select a 'just right' book
  • how to select a variety of genres
  • how to manage the student book box, bag or kit
  • how to behave during Independent Reading
  • how to care for the library, including suitable borrowing and returning processes
  • Make sure all students eventually learn to become confident in selecting their texts without any help from you;
  • Model how to select various texts and monitor how each of your students is managing this;
  • Support those students who are not making good choices for their personal reading;
  • Discuss the routines for changing books and other resources;
  • Value the rereading of favourite texts but also expect new texts to be added to independent reading selections at appropriate times;
  • Collate a chart with your students about the protocols for Independent Reading

To see how students were involved in setting up their classroom library go to: Setting up a classroom library

The following websites may provide ideas for your book selection for your classroom library. As discussed in the article about classroom libraries, there needs to be a range of books of all genres and types so that students can select 'just right' books and other books that interest them.

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Effective Literacy Teaching and Learning for all Students