When to open the classroom library
In our room, Opening Day for the classroom library happens on day one.
I don’t want to waste a single day of school by keeping kids from the charming company of books. Many people and programs recommend waiting a few days to open the library until the proper routines can be introduced. I tried that for a couple of years but found that it didn’t make sense for my style. So sometime on day one, the kids get their little paws on all those tantalizing books.
Opening the classroom library
To make this a sane and enjoyable experience, do this in two shifts. In the first shift, point out all the areas they can explore — fiction/nonfiction/specific genres. Give them the lay of the land. Then, all the kids can leave their seats and explore the classroom library together. This will be loud. Go with it! Part of this initial exploration is that they can peruse all they want, but they can’t take anything yet. It’s bookish window shopping, if you will.
I’ll admit — this is one of my favorite moments of the whole year, watching them shriek when they find something they love, call each other over to share a discovery, and visit old favorites. There is a positive buzz as the first-day nerves evaporate into grins. And the message the kids get on the first day of school is this: books are revered in your classroom.
After five or ten minutes, the kids return to their seats bookless. They will be very anxious for the next stage. Next, call the students one by one. When a student’s name is announced, he can go grab one book from any part of the library, and then return to his seat to explore it. Once this first round is done and everybody has one book, call them up again one by one and let each take a second book. And finally, do one more round. At the close, every student should have three coveted books to place in their cubbies or desks.
Genres of books that do well on Opening Day
It takes a good year to build a basic serviceable library. Many first-year teachers begin with nothing more than the discards of other classrooms or the few books they were able to scrounge together from yard sales. If this is the case, you could try borrowing some of the following genres from your public library or even the school library. (Take a peek at this post to see how you can amass a very respectable library in your first month of school. If you move fast, you could have a big payoff. Below is a snapshot of the books I amassed from the rewards points of our September Scholastic order. All those books were free. Take advantage of September — it has the best rewards benefits you’ll get all year.)
Graphic novels have come into their own in the past five years. If you are not familiar with them yet, they’re like comic books but with more durable paper and larger pictures. These are consistently popular with all readers, from your kids who’ve already whipped through all seven Harry Potters to those who roll their eyes when it’s time for Reader’s Workshop. I have yet to see a student not love these books. Some of the more popular titles are the following:
- Big Nate
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid
- Dork Diaries
- Captain Underpants
- any book by Raina Telgemeier
- El Deafo
- The Adventures of Ook and Gluk
- Lunch Lady
- Rick Riordian books in graphic form
There are new titles rolling out all the time, so check with your librarian. Always give the books a skim, though, as not all graphic novels are intended for younger humans.
I have spent many Scholastic Reading Club points on graphic novels because of their wide appeal. And once I started reading them, I understood the draw. Many of them have very engaging story lines and stunning art work! The more of these you can get, the better. I now have about 4 copies of Raina Telgemeier’s Smile because so many kids wanted to read it.
Popular series for opening day
The most appealing books on day one are those the kids are already familiar with. So much is new when school starts — new teachers, new classmates, new room, new clothes, new schedule — that something familiar can be very grounding and comforting, even to those kids who seem like they have it all together. Here are some series kids make a beeline for on opening day.
- Harry Potter
- Percy Jackson (see how the bin below is empty?)
- Geronimo Stilton (I’m not a fan, but the kids LOVE them at the beginning of the year, so I keep these heavily stocked.)
- Origami Yoda
- Diary of a Minecraft Zombie (dreadful writing, just dreadful. But your non-reader, video-game playing kids will eat these up.)
Ditto on the authors. Here are a few writers the kids will be familiar with.
There will always be a contingent who naturally flock to nonfiction titles. I have a wide variety of sports books, biographies, and science books. Again, borrowing from your school or public library is a great way to start. Once you know your kids, you can begin building your nonfiction titles around their particular interests and hobbies. The Who Was and What Was series are very popular with some students.
Your Classroom Library!
Now let’s hear from you! In the comments below, tell us what were your comfort reads when you were younger? What books would you have loved to have seen in your teacher’s classroom library?
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