I felt so guilty this morning planning final details of my lesson. After all, we are three weeks into the quarter and there is so much to do already. Three weeks and what have we really done? And yet, the books had been piling up. I had seen the students book hopping, abandoning at a rapid pace. And I knew there were so many great books to share. If only we did not have to do these other things. If only we had the time.
So this morning, I realized that we needed to find the time. That book shopping was not a luxury I could hope to get to but instead was a necessity. And not in a hurried, five minutes at the start of class kind of way either. Not in a “let’s fit it in quick so we can get to this other thing” kind of way. No, we had the need to make book shopping THE thing to do today. No matter what else we should have been doing.
They came in and immediately saw the piles of books; my favorite reads from the summer, brand new books that I haven’t even read, and some older favorites that I know they need to discover. Right away, the questions started. “What’s this? Did you see this?” As the students grabbed their readers’ notebooks, I interrupted their conversation. “Come on over.” And they did, surrounding me in the rocking chair as I read aloud the inspiring It’s A Book by Lane Smith. I love reading this book aloud to older students because they always giggle and then look to me to see if I got it too. And I do and I giggle too, and we marvel at the wonders of simply reading a book.
I asked them how they find new books to read and we brainstormed a list together. Nothing extraordinary but a simple reminder to indulge in the art of looking for a book. To take the time to truly go through the books and not just cast a glance at the cover and then make a decision.
They were itching to go. The books calling out for them and yet, I held them back for another few minutes as I book talked a select few books in each pile. Already the students were writing down titles.
“I know Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan looks like a giant book, but the pages will fly by as you read.”
“You think that The False Prince is a good book, but then you get to page 88 and it becomes a book you have to read as quickly as you can to see what happens next. And did you know the same author wrote A Night Divided?“
“In my hand I am holding the best book I have read so far this year. Yes, Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt is really that good.”
Finally, I told them to take their time, that I would give them the whole class period if they wanted it. And off they went. Their papers clutched tightly and their hands reaching out for all the books.
I stood back, observed, and smiled. Everywhere students were reading pages, sharing books, offering recommendations and scribbling down titles. Questions floating through the air as students told each other why they had to read this one, or how they couldn’t wait to read this other one. One child proudly showed me they had already found 10 titles to read and they knew they would find more.
As I walked around, the students came to me and offered up book recommendations, asking me to please write it down because they knew that so and so would love the book. They asked me if they could book shop our regular shelves or if I knew of a book that was like this other one they loved?
As I stood there and observed, I realized that it was not merely book shopping that was happening in front of us. It was the beginning of a community of readers. Of students that want to talk about their books, that want to share the stories they love with others, and that cannot wait to read a book. Not all of them, but many, and the others I will continue to work with.
We may not have gotten to that other lesson I thought we needed. We may not have gotten all the work time we need for the first speech we are giving. We may not even have had our independent reading time that we so ferociously protect. Instead through the discovery of books, we really discovered each other. I cannot wait to see where these communities will go next.
PS: If you are wondering which books I book talked, many of them can be found right here.
If you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. The 2nd edition and actual book-book (not just e-book!) comes out September 22nd from Routledge, but rumor has it that it is out on Kindle already!