At just the mention of the word “library,” you might hear an “Shhhhhh!” rushing from the mouth of an unseen adult. Maybe you see intimidating stacks filled with book spines or breathe in that musty smell of shadowed aisles—nothing but a tomb for old books.
Or perhaps “library” floods you with memories of paradise, a bank vault of treasured books—all just for you. To you, the library was not a maze of shadowed aisles but a territory you navigated with the ease of a long-time resident.
Either way, chances are “library” doesn’t evoke memories of a dedicated space in your childhood classroom. Most of us didn’t have a classroom library—a space in the room with a collection tailored to the interests and abilities of students. That has changed, and classroom libraries have become an essential component of daily life in school. A classroom library can become a treasured respite for your students, the go-to spot for information, recreation, escape, and exploration.
Is It Really Worth It?
No doubt, setting up a classroom library takes work. Still, there is general agreement in professional literature that a classroom library is a key component in developing reading and writing and, more importantly, fostering a love of reading. A classroom library must receive top priority if you expect your students to become thriving and engaged readers (Routman, 2003).
Classroom libraries create an accessible and familiar space where books are readily available. Familiarity and accessibility naturally increase the amount of time children spend with books, and ample research supports the notion that the more time children spend reading, the better readers they become (Neuman, 1999; Routman, 2003).
Time with books fosters familiarity with all aspects of a book, from awareness of genre, format, and structure to even general book-handling knowledge. The more your students read, the more confidence they gain to establish their reading preferences and grow to become stronger readers—and, therefore, stronger writers.
If you still need convincing, see what happens when books are near classroom activity:
- time spent reading increased by 60%
- literacy-related activities more than doubled
- letter knowledge, phonemic awareness, concepts of print and writing, and narrative competence increased by 20% (Neuman,1999).
We’ve Convinced You—Now What?
Your classroom library must be attractive, well-organized, and accessible to reap the benefits. For it to become where children gravitate when there is a free moment, the library needs to be filled with resources that capture the interests and fit your students’ abilities.
In addition, if the classroom library becomes the go-to spot, the collection must include material students can read accurately and fluently. This, of course, suggests the need for having many of the books in your collection leveled. Access to books you can read increases fluency, which is linked to successful comprehension (Allington, 2000).
The most significant growth occurs when students increase both volume of reading (the number of books read) and their reading stamina (the amount of time spent reading) (Allignton, 2000). Therefore, the collection must not only be something students are drawn to, but it must also be filled with quality texts, engaging and interesting writing, and visually appealing materials.
The research is clear: time spent reading is a key component in the overall development of positive attitudes about reading, increased reading achievement, and improved comprehension. Access to texts and increased reading time is essential to reading success (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1998; Routman, 2003).
So let’s agree that an accessible classroom library dramatically affects literacy development!
This post was adapted from The Classroom Library Book, written by Lester Laminack and Reba Wasdworth. Copyright © 2012.