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Building a Library with Joan and Friends at BridgePointe

The act of putting pen to paper encourages pause for thought, this in turn makes us think more deeply about life, which helps us regain our equilibrium. ~Norbet Platt

If we are to develop lifetime readers and writers we must connect what we do in classroom with real life outside the classroom!

The act of reading and writing can’t be viewed as something separate and outside of what is important and vital to everyday living, just as good nutrition and final presentation is not outside of the act of cooking. I enjoy the process of cooking when I have chosen the recipe based on what I know about good taste and good nutrition and have the freedom to create something special for someone else and the pleasure of eating and talking and enjoying the meal together.

So often the assignments we give children with the objectives of learning to read or write in the early grades or reading and writing to learn in the older grades are so dry and colorless, there is no connection or with our students as unique and developing individuals and life its self and no lasting value in an of its self. Rather than being reading and writing experiences, which help us gain our equilibrium – they are so compartmentalized activities that they go nowhere beyond the “learning” objective of the assignment it’s self. How many pages of the basal workbook are worthy of bulletin boards and scrapbooks and other places of lasting enjoyment in our classrooms and homes? In this day and age of HIGH STAKES STANDARDIZED TESTING, we must think about the nutritional value (versus empty calories) that we bring to the students seated at our table everyday.

One of the first things I noticed when I came to our school six years ago, what that there was no school lending library. There was a room filled shelves stuffed with 30 year old books and dittos and papers and miscellaneous things that upon being expelled from teacher classrooms found its home on the shelves in this room.

The room its self was being used as a content area classroom. Children were not allowed to browse or borrow the books and teachers rarely bothered with them as well. I knew in those first moments that one of my personal and professional accomplishments must be to help the school build a school library. For five years, my men’s shower-room turned resource room classroom had become the underground library. Children came before school and during lunch and on their way to and from the bathroom to borrow the books I had collected from garage sales, friend’s children’s discarded libraries, and the bargain rack at the bookstores.

Two summers ago, a volunteer from BridgePointe, named Joan, who loved books and reading as much as I did came to my co-taught dual-language inclusive education classroom. It was a room full of soon-to-be third graders (some with IEPs and some without) that were such reluctant readers and writers they hadn’t even yet decided to embark on the journey. We read TO them and WITH them, we co-created poems and email letters to my 80-years old mother and wrote stories and book reviews and thank you notes and letters to the principal and each other and even postcards home. We make charts and graphs about the wide genre we read, we created an author corner, class books, and PowerPoint presentations and for a few minutes each day we relaxed in the patch of green grass in front of the school and we read to each other. One time, we walked 1.6 miles to the local public library and signed up for library cards. We had no workbooks or textbooks just plastic milk crates stacked like makeshift shelves in one corner of the room filled with stories and articles that entertained and informed us and a make-shift writing center filled with sundry items you might need to write. The children were welcome and encouraged to borrow and take home and share with their families. And they did.

By the end of the summer children were signing out armfuls of books for themselves, their little brother or sister and their cousin who lives with them. That summer we learned many things together and independently and those children – right before our eyes – became readers and writers.

Joan and I decided that summer we needed a school lending library. She sent out an email to her friends at BridgePoint who sent emails out to her friends that a sleepy little elementary school in in the city needed a library. And two months later – we had one. Thousands of books and cast off shelves from a public library in a northern suburb came to our school in boxes, in bags, in the arms of boy scouts and girl scouts and mom’s and their children, and young adult youth church groups. Two professional painters volunteered time to paint, people cleaned and organized and labeled books and one month after the first day of school  … my used-to-be second grade bibliophilics were the first in line to sign out books to take home and share with their families.

Joan is now living in Ireland with her husband because he recently was hired to a new job there. But we think about her everyday as we read-read-read with great pleasure in our beautiful school library.

About Maestrasasha

I envision a healthy, flourishing planet and society that sustainably and equitably meets the needs of all its inhabitants through an educational reform movement that is diverse, inclusive, successful, vibrant, and relevant, taking into account the needs, perspectives, and voices of all. Three decades of experience teaching diverse populations ranging in age from infants to nonagenarians. Innovative, talented artist with exhibition experience and art therapy and crisis intervention training; skilled school administrator with expertise in specialized services, sheltered English instruction, art education, curriculum development and early childhood; a proven ability to differentiate common core curriculum, meet the needs of students with learning and language challenges, and a strong background in project-based, art-infused, placed-based and inclusive education seeks to render my knowledge, experience, and expertise in all aspects - starting from organizational management, to policy making, to supporting classroom teachers, to transforming instruction through joyful, engaging and meaningful learning.

5 responses »

  1. I didn’t know the complete ‘history’ of how our school library has evolved into what it is now- until I read this post. There was a public library across the street from my middle school that had newer books than the ones provided in the library housed in my school building. I absolutely fell in love with books and reading because of the variety of books and the ability to escape from the walls of the city in which I lived. Thank you for following your heart and pocketbook in order to restructure and gift children with the gift of reading.

    Reply
    • Lisa, I love our library because it is a symbol of what a group of people can do when they put their hearts, hands and heads together. It is an important lesson we need to teach our students. I love how you are teaching your students how to fall in love with reading and writing! Perhaps you are helping them to “escape” something, as well!

      Reply
  2. Pingback: Becoming Change Makers - The Q’enqo Library Project: Through the Eyes of Grade Three Students | Angela Maiers Educational Services, Inc.

  3. As usual Sasha, you are such a positive asset to so many people! Very well written and a pleasure to read.

    Reply
  4. If we realize that writing and reading are more of a PROCESS learning objective, we can increase motivation and engagement by scaffolding students as they create their own CONTENT learning objectives. That is, help kids find and deeply explore their own passions, and let the PROCESS for exploring these passions be the reading and writing about what they love. Reading and writing are the tools used to dig deeper into what they care about. Your library is great because you are teaching students the best way to use these tools.

    Reply

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