A Preview from A Guide to the Reading Workshop: Middle Grades
by Lucy Calkins and Mary Ehrenworth
Over decades of research (1977, 2002), Richard Allington has returned often to the three key conditions readers need to thrive:
time to read,
access to books they find fascinating, and
The first condition, time to read, means examining middle school schedules to make sure students get time to practice. Allington argued, and many other researchers have argued, that above all, students need time to engage in reading in order to get better at reading. Arguing for time for independent reading in schools, Donalyn Miller (2015) likens the situation of students needing to read in order to get better at reading to learning a sport or an instrument. No one ever asks the coach why his players are practicing on the field, and no one asks the music teacher why students are playing instruments during practice times. The only way to get better at doing something is to practice doing it.
Last week in the first installment of this three-part series we discussed the inspiration behind the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project Classroom Libraries and began exploring the vision that guided the curators, a team made up of TCRWP staff, literacy coaches, renowned librarians, mentor teachers, and children’s literature experts such as Anita Silvey. This week we dive deeper into the fascinating story of the curation process.
The setting: Thorndike Hall, an enormous sub-basement at Teachers College, Columbia University. Hunkered down in their makeshift headquarters, TCRWP staff members sorted through boxes upon boxes of books recommended by over eight hundred educators and librarians from around the world. Over the course of a year, they meticulously reviewed tens of thousands of books using multiple selection criteria and consulted with dozens of the world’s leading experts in literacy and children’s literature. Lucy gives her first-hand perspective of the collaborative process here:
No matter how long you have been teaching reading workshop, it’s likely that Lucy Calkins' Units of Study for Teaching Reading series will help you to charge up the level of reading teaching and learning in your classroom. The series is chock-full of tips, advice, and suggestions collected from scores of reading experts, staff developers, and teachers. When implementing a series as robust as the Units of Study, there is much to consider. Classroom set up, resources, and scheduling have a huge impact on the success of the units themselves.
At this point in the school year, it is likely that you have begun to get a clearer picture of who your students are as readers. You have a good sense of the kinds of books they like, the kinds of books they shy away from, their reading levels, and the goals they are working towards as readers.