Many teachers use book boxes or book bags in their classrooms as a place for students to keep the books they are reading and to use during independent reading time. We like using the book boxes from Resources for Reading in our primary grades, because they are big enough for the oversized picture books that our readers enjoy. I have a baggie in each book box to keep students “just-right” books. At this point in our kindergarten class, the baggies include: ABC books created with the student, familiar shared reading poems and songs that we have read multiple times in class (copied and stapled into books), books created with the students using their names, predictable books created from class shared writing charts (I can write. I can draw. I can play Nintendo. etc…) and guided reading books.
The book boxes also contain a Poetry Notebook where we add poems after we have read them all week during shared reading lessons. This is a 3-ring binder. I copy our new poem each week and we add it on Friday. Students illustrate the poem and take home the notebook every Friday to share with families. The Poetry Notebook is returned on Monday. (and yes, they are all returned – students LOVE reading from these all week, so they are really good about returning them) Students can also add 3-5 books from our classroom library as “look books”. These are favorites that have been read aloud or books that interest kids from our library. Students know they can read the pictures in these books, even if most of them can’t read the words.
During shared reading I often use highlighter tape to highlight words we know from our word wall. The words that go on our word wall are high-frequency words that children are using a lot in writing and seeing in our shared reading texts. I also use the Fountas and Pinnell lists from their Phonics books to decide what words to focus on each week. We add 3 new words each week. We do a great deal of word work with our shared reading texts on large chart paper. These shared reading texts are put into student book baggies as paper mini books. During our book box independent reading time, students can get a highlighter pen and look for words they know from our word wall in the books from their baggies. (just the paper books!) I stress the importance of reading the book first, as I always want the focus to be on reading continuous text and making meaning from the reading. This activity allows the students to try this task on their own, in the books they are able to read from their book boxes. I model this very explicitly, as I don’t want it to turn into a “let’s color our book yellow” activity. Highlighters are a very fun tool for our young learners! We started with everyone finding one word from our word wall and highlighting it. The next time we looked for two specific words. After a few times of doing this whole group, I put out the highlighter pens and invited the children to do this for any of the word wall words during book box time.
These paper books stay in the baggies for several weeks, and then I send them home for the kids to share with families. I sent home a sturdy freezer Ziploc bag with a label saying “Books I Can Read”. I tell the students to keep these books at home in a safe place and to continue reading them at home. For students who do not have a lot of books in their house, this provides one way to keep books available at all times.
Using mini books and poems as shared reading texts and then putting these in book boxes has allowed everyone in the class to have a wide variety of texts they can read during independent reading time. There are many great places out there to look for mini books (see below for a list of some links) and of course, you can always create your own. My teammates are experts at creating books for our kinders to read based on the curriculum and what our interests are. When the kids are engaged and interested during independent reading time, you’ll have a hard time getting them to put the book boxes away!
How are you making sure your readers have lots of “just-right” texts at their fingertips?
Links to find mini books for making into charts for shared reading:
Pinterest also has some great links for printable books