Thursday, July 22, 2010

About Reader's Workshop: Making Books Accessible

When I was writing my post about the reading habits of my students, one of the things I thought about was how my students were going about procuring their books. They all borrow books off me, of course. Many of them now use their local libraries (now that the councils are amalgamated there's a pretty huge choice), are common visitors to their local bookshops and even get brothers and sisters to get them books from the high school libraries.

But very few of them borrow from our own school library.

Why was this? I mean, there's a big resource there in the school library, they have access to it before school, during lunch breaks and after school, plus we go as a class once a week - so why aren't more of them borrowing?

It could be the time. During our borrowing time we only have fifteen minutes to look, choose and borrow. If we're running a little late, the class before us is late or the class after us is early, our time is cut down. Books in a library can be quite overwhelming, and most of these are spine out, so they take more time to look at. Do the students need more time to take in the books, to make plans about what they want to read, like they do in the classroom?

It could be the collection of books. Money to buy books in the library is always tight, and our librarian has to make some really hard choices about what books to buy and which ones not to. There's also less books for the 11-12 year olds, though that has improved over the last couple of years. But because the librarian is buying for 600 students, compared with me buying for 27, there will always be less books 'meant' for my students.

One thing that really struck me was accessibility. Our students are not allowed to borrow unless they have a library bag. I understand the theory here. Library bags keep library books together, they protect them in school bags, they let parents of younger children know that the children have borrowed. But when the students reach grade 6 and 7, they seem to be less comfortable with carrying a bag for library books around. I think it also makes them feel like they can't be trusted, and since they can be trusted with classroom books, which they can just throw in their school bag, or carry in their arms, they'd rather borrow those.

So, how can I make the books in the school library more accessible? I can't change the library policy on library bags, but maybe there's some way we can make the library more interesting, or more open to the students. What are the borrowing habits of your students?

Photo from flickr


julie Niles Petersen said...

I'm just wondering why you can't change the library's policy on book bags. You make very valid points and access to books is very important. It is great to read about teachers worried about this. Your students are very lucky to have you as their teacher.

A Reader's Community said...

Unfortunately it's one of those hard and fast rules that they'll never change. :( I'm just glad my students have lots of books to borrow from other places

Donna and Rebecca said...

I would agree that the library bags are are a barrier to older students making use of the library. I could even see some of my fourth graders embarrassed to carry a bag. At our 4-8 school, we don't have assigned library times. Last year my students were able to choose going to the library during my independent worktime or right after recess during our quiet time. Sometimes I would sign up the library for our reading workshop time. The librarian would do book talks and display books out on tables that she thought were great reads. My students would shop the books for future reads or check out some books at that time. Anyone that was not book shopping or checking books out would be reading independently. I loved those days and this year I have decided to schedule these days on a weekly or biweekly basis. Our library has so many GREAT books. How many books are you allowed to take out? Another thing that the librarian allowed us to do was to check out a library cart full of books. My students would fill the cart, I'd check them out under my name and we'd add the cart to our classroom library. Only thing is, I would be responsible if a student lost a book. I usually had them keep the books in school. This worked especially well if we were doing a research unit on a topic. Students learned how to use the library system to find books and videos on their subtopics and then we'd fill the cart. FUN!

A Reader's Community

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Queensland, Australia
A Reader's Community is a place to find ideas, information, resources and recommendations about Reader's Workshop.

This Blog has five main types of posts.

About Reader's Workshop - information about Reader's Workshop in my classroom and how it works

Reader's Workshop Tools - resources you can access and use to help you with reader's workshop

Book talks - Book recommendations of two or three books centred around a particular theme

Book letters - in-depth reviews of one particular book

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