Supporting Pre-Nerdy Readers

Nerdy Book Club
As a first grade teacher I start the year with a group of mostly pre-readers. Every year I find that they love to listen to books but are uncertain about what to do with a book independently. Over the past several years I’ve found two ways to use their love of read alouds to support their independence with books.

In the first few weeks of school I read several books a day to my students. These are books that I love and that are comfortable to them. By comfortable I mean that these books are ones that they settle into quickly as they listen, they are able to relax and soak in the story and the characters. I often try to read multiple books in a series (Piggie and Elephant, Froggy, Black Lagoon) or by the same author (Laura Numeroff, Kevin Henkes, Dr. Suess).

The great majority of the books I read in those first critical weeks are ones of which I have multiple copies, as many copies as possible. By the end of the second day I usually have enough copies of books I have read aloud for every student to put two into their brand new book box. They are now able to ‘read’ these books to themselves. Even if they are unable to read all the words and don’t exactly remember the story, their comfort with the characters and the support of the pictures allows them to linger over each page and enjoy the book.

Pictures are a critical support for early readers. Unfortunately, I have found that many of my students don’t really know how to use the pictures to help them understand the story. We spend a week or more reading wordless picture books; there are many fabulous ones out there. I start by telling the story I see in the pictures. Over a few days they begin to take over the storytelling.

By the end of the first or second week of school each of my students has at least five books in their book box that they have heard read aloud as well as a few others chosen from our classroom library. These other books are ones they will read more through the pictures than the text, at least for a while.
I will continue to read books aloud all year long (as much because I love it as because my students do). Hopefully after all this support at the beginning my students will be able to enjoy the read alouds and books all on their own.

I know these supports have worked for my students because they can’t wait to talk about the books they are reading. I had to implement what we call ‘book buzz buddies’ at the end of independent reading. Each student finds a partner and takes about three minutes to share their books. They might read a passage to their friend, point out pictures they love, talk about something that surprised them, made them laugh, or was sad. It’s a highlight of our day.

One of my greatest hopes for my students is that they love books and reading as much as I do. One of my greatest goals is to do all I can to support that hope. I think we are on the right track.


Jenny Orr


Jenny teaches first graders at a Title I school in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. Her nerdy book clubness is not only shared with her students but her two young daughters as well. She is a national board certified teacher and a teacher consultant with the National and Northern Virginia Writing Projects. She and her students blog about their learning at and she writes without them at