Shelfies: A Snapshot of Our Reading Lives by Melissa Guerrette
Thanks to popularity among the Nerdy Book Club-types, shelfies have become trendy. Many of us have even made shelfies something of a habit. Just look at the call for #winterTBR stacks or the unsolicited shelfies we’ve all been posting in anticipation of snow day reading bliss.
So, why is it? What is it about sheflies and TBR stacks that have us all playing along?
When you and I gather up the books off the top of our to-be-read stacks (Let’s not pretend you don’t have multiple stacks, too!) and artistically position the camera at just the right angle to capture their spines or covers and post those shelfies to the social media world, we’re keeping reading lives–our own and each others’–alive.
In this vein, my #winterTBR picture prompted me to experiment with this theory in my school community.
Before Christmas vacation, I enlisted my students’ help to take my shelfie.
And then, I turned the camera on them, snapping pictures of each one with their reading plan for the two-week break.
And we made posters.
Yes, posters. Big, loud, colorful, you-can’t-miss-us posters with printed pictures of the students’ shelfies. And we blitzed the hallways of our school with them.
Then we waited to see what would happen.
What happened was a whole lot of talk about reading.
There was animated book conversation from the start. As students were shopping in the classroom library, consulting the TBR lists in their notebooks, and making arrangements to borrow titles from one another, students were making plans–reading commitments–and talking to each other about books. Then came slogans and phrasing that encouraged others to read as students lettered their posters. And as they shopped for prime real-estate in hanging their posters around the school, my students considered their audience and who they were trying to promote reading with.
But then there was more. We noticed other students and teachers pausing at our posters, looking at the students’ faces and the titles in their pictures. We overheard other students who recognized titles they loved in our pictures, and other students who wondered aloud about books they didn’t know. And the best comment that we overheard? It was the one from a 5th grader in the classroom next door when she pleaded to her teacher, “Can we make TBR posters, too?”
So, again, what is it about this shelfie trend? Why did my students take it on so quickly?
- The students were engaged in self-expression. Making TBR posters was a way to express their reader-self, and they’ve grown comfortable with this mode of self-expression.
- The students were making connections with other readers by visually representing their reading. Everyone in the class was working on a poster, sharing in the common mission to promote reading to others. Sharing a goal contributes to a greater sense of belonging in our reading community.
- The students were making a commitment, and sharing it publicly, to read over vacation. They were issuing themselves their own challenge, setting their own goals. No one else was dictating what they would read over vacation, and sharing short-term reading goals motivates the students to achieve their goal.
- The students were promoting reading, beyond the walls of our everyday classroom community. They realized their voice has value, and they can influence their peers as readers, too. They feel empowered as they are beginning to actualize their role in a greater reading community.
Last week we found ourselves staring at another crossed out week on the school calendar. February vacation stared back. As if they could read my mind, my students asked, “Are we going to make posters to share our vacation TBR lists?”
Why yes, ladies and gentlemen, I thought behind my smile. Yes, I think making a reading plan and sharing that is a very good idea. And the bustle began again. This time their plans came along more smoothly and quickly (Is it just me, or did it seem like they had been thinking about this?), the students were more honest with themselves in setting their reading goals, and not one of the students needed coaxing to participate. Eagerly, we created our posters, hung them proudly throughout the halls, and packed our bags with books for vacation.
Maybe you and your students are just getting back from a vacation, or maybe you’re anticipating one in the near future. Or maybe it’s not so much about a “vacation” at all. Next time you get ready to post a shelfie, think about your shelfie as a snapshot of your reading life. Can shelfies be a snapshot of your students’ reading lives, too?
Melissa Guerrette is a 4th grade teacher in Oxford, Maine. Her professional passion is empowering students and helping them uncover their individuality–as readers and as people–for themselves. Melissa has currently finished six of the nine books on her vacation TBR list, which her students are skeptical that she’ll complete.You can follow Melissa on Twitter at @guerrette79 or visit her blog at www.melissaguerrette.blogspot.com.