We don’t know about you, but we still get back-to-school jitters. The combination of excitement, anticipation and a daunting to-do list has our minds racing in the middle of the night. One way literacy leaders can lighten the load at this time of year is by helping teachers get the books they need to get their literacy block up and running. Here are a few ways literacy leaders can help support classroom teachers at the beginning of the school year.
- Support Curriculum Units of Study
As literacy leaders, we review curriculum maps for each grade level and fill a rolling cart with baskets of books to support their first unit of study. For each grade level, we think about the genres, authors, and topics each is studying. We are careful to select texts at a variety of complexity levels so teachers can find books for all the readers in their classrooms.
After our cart is filled, we wheel it directly to classrooms and invite teachers to do a bit of book “shopping.” When we bring the books to them, it makes it easy for teachers to choose the books they need for their classrooms. As they find books and baskets they want to borrow, we make the sign-out system easy by recording what each teacher takes right then and there. Teachers have so much to set up in their classrooms it really helps when literacy leaders help them get the books they need for those early weeks of school.
- Highlight What’s New in the Bookroom
To refresh interest in the bookroom, we recommend hosting “What’s New in the Bookroom” sessions and creating a section of the bookroom to showcase these new texts. These sessions are often voluntary and take place before or after school. As literacy leaders, we showcase new books that are in the bookroom, and we invite the librarian and teachers to share new or favorite books they discovered over the summer. It is such a fun and low-key way to learn about new books. Schools are very busy places and classroom teachers may not have enough time to search the bookroom or school library for texts to add to their classroom library or to find a just-right book for a reader. When we make time to share what is new and provide a space to highlight these texts we find they are more likely to get into the students’ hands.
- Feature Books at Faculty and Grade Level Team Meetings
At the beginning of the year, we make a point to bring books to meetings. We think about some common themes or topics students might want to explore at the beginning of the year and create baskets from bookroom texts for teachers to add to their classroom library. While teachers wait for a meeting to begin, there is often time to browse through some baskets. These few minutes are just enough time to spark interest in a particular title or for a teacher to learn about a new author. We often share text sets related to friendship, acceptance, family, and community at the beginning of the year. When the meeting ends, we invite teachers to take any books that interest them and we let them sign them out right then and there!
- Make Sure All Classrooms Have Adequate Volume
Literacy leaders connect with new teachers, teachers who have changed grade levels and teachers who request help organizing their classroom library. Every student deserves to have equal access to books, and the bookroom can make this happen. Sometimes we make appointments with a teacher in the bookroom and help them choose some baskets and text sets to add to their library. Other times we have an email exchange or quick conversation and then bring the books to them. The easier we make accessing books in September the more likely teachers will continue to use the bookroom throughout the year.
- Bring Back Old Favorites
School librarians always know what’s hot and trending, they also know what students loved at the end of the previous year. Helping teachers have some of these authors, series, and genres up front and center in classroom libraries will ensure our students are engaged in reading from day one! When there are so many new things for students to navigate at the beginning of the year, a familiar read can be comforting and reassuring. It also helps teachers quickly and easily begin conferring and getting to know their readers.
We know there is so much to do at the beginning of the year. When we all work together to support book access for teachers and students we ensure that every student has the opportunity to be a lifelong reader. If you are a literacy leader, mentor teacher, or in a position that does not require much set-up in those early days, consider lending a hand to classroom teachers by getting them the books they need to engage and instruct their readers.
Tammy Mulligan and Clare Landrigan are staff developers who are still teachers at heart. They began their work together twenty-four years ago co-teaching in an integrated first and second-grade classroom at the Eliot Pearson Children’s School in Medford, MA. They now lead a private staff development business, Teachers for Teachers, and spend their days partnering with school systems to implement best practices in the field of literacy. They believe that effective professional development includes side by side teaching; analysis of student work; mutual trust; respect; and a good dose of laughter. You can find them online at Teachers for Teachers