Expert advice: Reading Club Editors on Building Your Classroom Library
Today we are joined by three Scholastic Reading Club editors who have tips for building a classroom library full of books that are just right for kids of all ages.
Preschool – 1st Grade
Hi, I'm Laura Demoreuille and I am the Scholastic Reading Club editor for babies through 1st Grade.
At this age, look for books that speak on an emotional level that any young child can connect with and understand. Whether it's teaching children how to express their everyday feelings or learn manners, books are the perfect tool to connect complex ideas in an engaging, easy way for children.
Tips to build a classroom library:
For young children, it is always important to have a wide range of topics, formats, and characters for all interests. While it’s essential to have favorite characters and topics to help children feel comfortable, it’s great to refresh the books on display so kids get an opportunity to find joy in reading something new. The most important thing about a classroom library is for every kid to find something they love to read; you never know what they will pick up next!
Themes are hugely important to the preschool and kindergarten set. If you organize your library by theme, make sure there are photographic books with informational text along with the fiction titles. Include photo-filled books with both animals and people, and remember that it’s important for every kid to see themselves in the books you have in your classroom library.
Because kids at this age will become readers at different times, be sure to include high-interest topics at a wide variety of reading levels. Audio centers are another great way to encourage reading skills in your students; children can listen and follow along, learning many sight words along the way.
A big theme this fall is books that encourage kindness and empathy in young readers.
- Try: Groovy Joe by Eric Litwin, illustrated by Tom Litchenheld; Rana DiOrio and Stephane Jorisch’s What Does It Mean To Be Kind?; Little Tree by Loren Long; Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade by Justin Roberts and Christian Robinson; How Do Dinosaurs Stay Friends by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague, and Red by Michael Hall.
Kids of any age love to laugh! There are some particularly funny books starring a variety of endearing animal characters.
- Try: Duck On A Tractor by David Shannon; Night Animals by Gianno Marino; Max The Brave by Ed Vere; Are Pirates Polite? By Mark Teague; If You Give A Mouse A Brownie By Laura Numeroff (illustrated by Felicia Bond).
And finally, it's always good to have books on hand for emerging readers!
- Try: Mo Willem’s The Thank You Book; The Cookie Fiasco by Caldecott winner Dan Santant; Bob Shea’s Dance! Dance! Underpants; Don’t Throw It To Mo by David A. Adler (illustrated by Sam Ricks); Fly Guy Presents: Weather by Tedd Arnold.
2nd – 3rd Grade
My name is Shelly Veehoff, and I'm the Reading Club editor for elementary school students in 2nd and 3rd grade.
Kids of this age begin to venture into independent reading, and chapter books are the perfect “novels with training wheels” to transition from picture books. Children are now also more likely to search for books that match their interests and hobbies – whether sports, animals, or more.
Tips to build a classroom library:
Newly independent readers feel confident when they encounter books with familiar characters or story lines. Make new titles in best-loved series easily accessible so children feel confident knowing they’ll enjoy their selections.
When possible, include different formats of books featuring familiar characters in order to appeal to kids with a wide range of reading levels. Series that are offered in picture book, reader and chapter book formats include The Magic School Bus, Amelia Bedelia, Bad Kitty, and Fancy Nancy.
Readers at this level are beginning to develop their own personal reading tastes and interests. Organize part of your library by genre so that children will be able to identify and read more of the books that appeal to them. One interesting new series from Scholastic is the Key Hunters, which publishes each book in a different genre so readers can get a sense of various styles of stories and select ones that they enjoy most.
We’re now seeing a trend in adventurous time travel! There a number of books whose pages act as a passport to faraway lands and days gone by.
- Try: The latest Magic Tree House title, Night of the Ninth Dragon; the Ranger in Time series by Kate Messner; Fantastic Frame by Lin Oliver.
For kids curious about the world around them, there are a number of engaging nonfiction titles with a focus on fun!
- Try: Jerry Pallotta's Who Would Win? series, including Who Is Tougher? Navy SEALs vs. Army Rangers; LEGO nonfiction books.
What is possibly most near-and-dear to the hearts of the 6-9 year-old crew? The love of laughter! We know that 70% of kids ages 6-17 want books that make them laugh.
- Try: Funny series including My Weirdest School, Princess in Black, Super Happy Party Bears and Diary of a Wimpy Kid; Dog Man by Dav Pilkey.
I'm Ann Marie Wong, and I am the Reading Club editor for kids in 4th grade all the way through high school.
Middle school and teen readers need to be able to see themselves in books when reading for fun. Kids at this age feel invested in the story and like to be able to find books with characters they can connect with across numerous genres.
Tips to build a classroom library:
Books can be a great way to open the lines of communication when it comes to timely topics or sensitive issues. This year marked the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes and Somewhere Among by Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu have the potential to personalize and contextualize this tragic event. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely is told in a dual narrative and takes a powerful and unbiased look at the issues of racism. With the 2016 presidential election right around the corner, showcase books about presidents, voting, and all things America.
Make sure your library is filled with stories and characters as diverse as you find in your classroom and in classrooms nation- and world-wide. All children deserve the opportunity to see themselves reflected in books and to read about the lives and experiences of people who are different from them. In doing so, they build confidence, empathy, and understanding.
Let’s start with epic series for readers who wait a year (or 7, in the case of Harry Potter fans) for the next book in a series, only to devour it in a single sitting.
- Try: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child; Rick Riordan's Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 2: The Hammer of Thor (Nine Worlds of Norse Mythology series); Diary of a Wimpy Kid; Dork Diaries; Big Nate; Jedi Academy; I Survived; The Waterfire Saga; and Maze Runner.
Comics and graphic novels for this age level are experiencing a renaissance. There is such a wide variety of genres, stories, and art styles that there is surely something for everyone! The combination of text and illustration can also be very appealing and encouraging for reluctant readers.
- Try: Raina Telgemeier's Ghosts; Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke; Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur Vol. 1: BFF by by Amy Reeder, Brandon Montclare, and illustrated by Natacha Bustos.
Books turned blockbuster movies are nothing new, but the roster this season includes more than just the paranormal romances and dystopian thrillers we’ve come to expect.
- Try: The BFG by Roald Dahl; Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson; Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs; A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness; Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
Finally, have you met the fun and hilarious Book Boys? Earlier this month they took us on a Facebook Live walk-through of the October Reading Club flyers. You can find them regularly Judy Newman at Scholastic, our blog where we discuss all the books we're super excited about.