“Wow. Look at all those books!” This is exactly the reaction I want as kids enter the classroom and find a giant pile of books on the rug. Yes, before a new unit of study that is exactly what I do – I let the children wade through a pile and touch all of the books for our upcoming unit.
Now during COVID-19, it can’t be the free-for-all I would like it to be. Instead, kids approach the pile one at a time and begin to sort. The others look on, pretending to read independently, but I know they are watching. For these few moments, I want them to watch.
As one child sorts, I sit on the rug and help the student decide which books to find. During this process I hear, “Oh, look – these are all the Yasmin books.” Or, “Wow! Look at this one.” As they sort, it is my chance to introduce the child to new authors, characters, and series I hope they will enjoy.
Once the student chooses what to collect, they grab an empty basket and find all the matching books. Now my favorite part begins. This student needs to move one of the book baskets from our “current unit of study shelf” into the larger classroom library. I love watching these little hands grab an old basket, walk across the classroom, and decide where to place it. They often yell to their classmates, “If you are looking for the books about sea animals, they are right here.”
Once they are done, they head back to their seat with a book from the basket they created and an index card. Their job is to make a label for the new basket.
Now our “focus library” is ready and I breathe a sigh of relief. The time it takes me to collect texts from my book collection, the school library, the book room, and the public library was worth it.