Student-Centered Book Bins

Recently as part of our online summer book club to discuss Reading to Make a Difference: Using Literature to Help Students Think Deeply, Speak Freely, and Take Action, Mary Howard reminded us about the importance of honoring student voice. Mary suggested that we invite our students to participate in the decision making when sorting and generating labels for the book bins.  Second grade teacher, Daniel Hoilett reflected on this notion as he recalled his first year teaching and how he inadvertently created opportunities for his students to organize their classroom library.

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post from “Reading to Make a Difference” Facebook Group

When school started Daniel enthusiastically introduced his new group of second graders to their classroom library. He introduced the books through book talks and

modeled how some of the books might be organized. He then invited the students to examine commonalities across books, sort them into like categories to create book bins, and create a label for the collections of text. By inviting students into the sorting and organization process, students have a greater sense of ownership over the collection. They will know where the books are kept and will have greater access to books. This will reduce time spent “shopping” for books and will increase time spent reading. After all, research shows us that access to books, choice in book selection, and time spent reading are key predictors of overall success in reading (Allington & Gabriel, 2012).

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Books written by Mo Willems
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Books featuring non-humans
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Mystery books
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Books labeled “Loving You!”
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Books labeled “Young Kids Saving the World”

We love all the labels these kids came up with, but our favorite is “Young Kids Saving the World.” What a powerful way for students to see how other children can take action to make the world a better place. Perhaps these books will serve as doorways (Bishop, 1990) for these young readers and inspire them to make a difference in the world.

Consider following Daniel’s lead, how might that play out in your classroom?  What if you brought in several empty boxes or laundry baskets and filled them with the books from your classroom library?  What if your students spent a morning getting familiar and sorting the books into sets that are meaningful and accessible to them? What if?

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