What do you think when you see this photo of the view from my desk at the office? I hope your first thought is, "Gee, that's a LOT of books!" There should not be a shred of doubt that you have entered the lair of a reader when you come into my office. When colleagues in other departments bring their kids to the office, somehow they work their way down the hall and into my stacks. Kids know.
So, what do kids think when they enter your room? Are there books waiting for them? Are there some strewn on your desk? Some on the chalk ledges? The first day of school was the time I put all of my pop-up books around the room: on ledges, on desks, on chairs, on top of cabinets. While I was filling out all the forms and cards, kids browsed the books. There was a lot of nudging as they manipulated the tabs and pulls and movable parts. The message I sent loud and clear that first day? BOOKS ARE FUN! That is Lesson #1.
When I search for information about reading communities, most of the hits I see are for canned programs or organizations dedicated to raising test scores. When did this happen? To me, reading communities are all about how I can continue to connect kids to books and to the world and to each other. It is about connections and not test scores or program points. It comes back to the poem by John Donne:
No Man Is An Island
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.
No student should be an island, either. All of them need to be connected, need to find the just right book. One way to make the odds more in our favor is to have plenty of books and other reading materials available (I even had old magazines, newspapers, Reader's Digests, etc.) in various forms (audio, eBooks, more traditional texts) everywhere. Booktalking, reading aloud, book pass, sharing informally, reading walls and doors: all of these are like scatter shot--they are like the lines of a spider web waiting to catch the unsuspecting kid.
There will be more to post about environment as we move from the classroom to the school at large. Stay tuned.
By the way, the comment about all the books that line my office walls was more than likely followed by, "I wonder if she has read them all?" These are the books WAITING to be read. The ones I have already read are in the hands of others by now. I put an envelop in the mail today to my pal, Paul with SERAPHINA. Last week, Donalyn Miller and I handed hundreds of books off to the fine folks in our workshop in San Angelo. I want books to leave my hands and go into the hands of another potential reader.