#classroombookaday & The Power of Shared (Picture Book) Stories by Jillian Heise
It started with inspiration from Donalyn Miller, as many great things do. It started three years ago with a few extra minutes of class time, and thinking about how best to use them. It started with lamenting that I wasn’t sharing enough picture books with my students, and their request for more. It started with knowing the power of sharing stories, and needing to bring back the joy of read aloud. It started as a simple idea, that ended up having a big impact. It started with the commitment to bring #bookaday into my classroom; a public goal to read a picture book aloud every day of the school year to my 7th and 8th grade students. (Yes, you read that right, I was committing to reading aloud a picture book to my middle schoolers every day of the school year!) It has become #classroombookaday.
Why a public goal? Because like anything else, I thought if I made it public and told people, I’d be more likely to stick to it. Beyond that, I also wanted to make it visible. I knew the covers of books I’d read outside my classroom door were not only a good visual and reminder of all the books I had read that school year, but they also became a conversation piece – a way to make book recommendations quickly and talk about reading volume and goals with my students. I wanted a similar impact. I saw the potential with the big, blank wall across from my classroom – why not fill that bulletin board with covers of the picture books we would be reading? So I enlisted help from a colleague and the “grid” display was created – with 180 numbered squares – one box for each day of the school year. My #bookaday goal was out there for all to see, so then I really had to make it happen.
And happen it did. To great effect. I wrote my initial blog post just two weeks in, and it only got better from there. The power of sharing over 170 complete stories with my students, that we could refer back to in all circumstances, was unmatched in my teaching career. I was able to bring in more texts representing the diverse backgrounds and lives of the students in front of me, and to have shared experiences around them with the whole class. My kids learned theme better that year than any other way I’d tried to teach it up to that point because they practiced identifying and giving evidence for it so many times. They were able to enjoy, form an opinion about, appreciate, and respond critically to a multitude of books. It was a success beyond my expectations, and it was simple. There were many benefits (gleaned from my observations and assessments), both intended and unintended, which was all the justification I needed to devote precious minutes of class time to this goal.
Beyond the standards, my 7th and 8th grade students re-learned how to enjoy a story, how to appreciate the art of picture books, how to sit back and be read to for the pure joy of hearing and sharing stories. Many of them commented that it allowed them to be a kid again, to forget the stresses of school for a few minutes every day, to calm down from whatever was happening outside our classroom and refocus. What a powerful statement on the benefit of picture books, with all ages. #bookaday was a consistent, sacred time in our day that became part of the culture of our classroom. I was floored by how much it meant to many of my students, and grateful for the ways it enhanced our classroom community.
After sharing about my year of #bookaday picture book read alouds that first summer, other teachers tried it in their classrooms and wanted a place to share titles and their daily reads on twitter, so the #bookaday in my classroom goal became #classroombookaday.
And here’s what some of those teachers had to say about the power of implementing #classroombookaday with their school communities:
“As a primary teacher I read a LOT of books to my class, but #classroombookaday ensures I am reading daily just for the pure joy and community of the read aloud experience. For me, it is all about my belief that big stories reside in small spaces – a picture book is a way for us to wander about in another life for a few moments. And that wandering is a shared classroom experience that enriches our community learning. It builds our collective knowledge, experiences and helps us to look at values and decisions together.” -Carrie Gelson, @CarrieGelson
“It promoted reading, joy, and a sense of community that quietly permeated throughout the school year.” -Dan Dooher, @misterdreads
“I absolutely love #ClassroomBookaDay and think it was the best thing I did this year. It became a natural part of our day. The kids couldn’t wait for the selected book and constantly look at the board and reflect on the books we have read. They make amazing text connections to previous books and the conversations that evolved from the books were thought provoking. We laughed, cried, and had deep meaningful conversations.” -Anna Barba, @MyRedCooper
“I’ve always used picture books in my classroom. By tightening it up a bit with #classroombookaday, the use of these books has gone to a whole other level. The bulletin board of picture book covers has become the focal point of our classroom. We refer to it daily. The addition of #classroombookaday has been a huge positive to both my classroom and my readers!” -Patrick Andrus, @patrickontwit
“It has really helped to give my morning meeting focus. I am able to connect our social skills to authentic text and build the love for reading at the same time.” -Scott Fillner, @sfillner
“#classroombookaday has created a close knit community in my classroom. Students feel safe and accepted through books in which they see themselves. Their minds and hearts are opened as they experience books that show them how others think and feel. We have common texts to go back to all year as we anchor new learning. #classroombookaday is one of the best things I’ve done this year! It starts our day on such a positive note. Students can’t wait to see what book we are reading each day.” -Jill Bless, @jillbless
“The best thing for me has been that I have been able to share so many from my vast collection of picture books!! The best thing for my students was this story a parent told me at fall conferences: She thanked me for doing picture book a day because it gave her gifted daughter who had abandoned them as ‘babyish and easy’ permission to read them and fall in love with them all over again. Daughter now takes great joy in reading picture books to and with her younger siblings.” -Mary Lee Hahn, @MaryLeeHahn
“#classroombookady has altered my classroom and teaching. It is the perfect start to [my 6th grade] class. Reading picture books daily has led to some of the deepest discussions in my classroom and I see those discussions transfer to writing and reflecting in all texts that we use. It is one routine that I will definitely be using again. It was magical.” -Mrs. Hull, @mrshull6
“Being an intermediate teacher, I’d shied away from using picture books unless there was a “tie-in” to a lesson I was already teaching. To be honest, I had become a chapter book pusher. Doing #classroombookaday for 10-15 minutes each day brought me back to why I decided to become a teacher: my love of books. It was truly the favorite time of my day (and I think many of my students feel the same). They came to recognize authors and illustrators and called them by their first names as if they were old friends. It sparked discussions on empathy and kindness, two things every classroom needs. It was definitely the best thing I’ve done in a while!“ -Katie Reilley, @KReilley5
“We’ve laughed, we’ve been stumped, we’ve asked questions, and made connections – all thanks to #classroombookaday. Picture books have brought such joy and opportunity to my students this year. They have talked with authors and checked out stacks at the library. They book talk with each other and exclaim when they see a new picture book added to our library! #classroombookaday has stoked the reading fire within my students, and I could not be more thankful for the experience we have all shared.” -Miss Terbrock, @Miss_T_Reads
“#classroombookaday was a game-changer in my classroom this year! At first, I was nervous that my middle schoolers would think me reading picture books to them was too childish. But when I kicked off the school year reading picture books like School’s First Day of School, Wild About Us, and Hello, My Name is Octicorn, they were hooked! #classroombookaday has exposed my students (and myself) to new authors, illustrators, and topics, and it has taught them that you are never too old to enjoy picture books!” -Christina Hanson, @hansonhallway
“Since hearing about #classroombookaday 2 years ago at Nerd Camp, it’s become a staple to my students and our room. It’s helped build community, and provided a starting point for conversation on a difficult topic several times. When I told students I’d loop with them last year, their first question was if we’d do bookaday again. There are several books I’ve been saving for the end of this year as we say goodbye. The books also give me an opportunity to give the kids a moment to relax, eat a snack, and just enjoy the book. #classroombookaday is more than just reading a book to the class. It’s the highlight of many days for students and me.” -Mrs. Atkinson, @MrsAClass_Rm214
“#classroombookaday has helped my 5th grade students in so many ways. Not only do we address figurative language and text structure through a smaller portion of text, but they love to sit on the carpet like they did in the primary grades and just enjoy a great book. Sometimes when we tweet the books we read the authors make comments and interact and this helps the students to see that authors are right there at their fingertips. They are always excited to see what they have to say.” -Jennifer Cord, @jennifercord
“Thanks to the #classroombookaday idea, I have become even more committed to sharing picture books and intentional in the choices I make. These books bind us. We became a family through our shared experiences with them. We have discussed courage, justice, kindness, gratitude, empathy, and all kinds of social issues through our bookadays. Kids reread their favorites and constantly reference those that we read months ago. Our classroom identity has been built around these shared books. Most importantly, my 5th graders know that they are NOT too old for picture books!” -Kristen Picone, @Kpteach5
“#classroombookaday is the best part of my day! Students have a common anchor text to refer to when learning skills. They get a chance to enjoy listening to wonderful stories and I get to read those stories and laugh, cry, and be grossed out right along with them.” -Mrs. Hess, @MrsHessClass
“#Classroombookaday has made an incredible impact at Remington. Students seem to be talking about books more. I can’t put a number on this, but my fellow teachers and I FEEL it. #Classroombookaday has ignited a reading fire. The reading culture is warmer and more meaningful. Bulletin boards always get picked apart and torn up within a few days. Not the #classroombookaday board, it is still almost perfect! It’s as if the students are proud of it and are taking great care of it. #Classroombookaday has been a highlight of my year. I can’t wait for next year.” -Allison Stout, Library & Technology Specialist, @rtslitech (Allison reads to kindergarten, her Literacy Coach reads to 1st, one Reading Teacher reads to 3rd, and one Reading Teacher reads to 4th. They try to read the exact same book everyday to all four classes.)
“#classroombookaday has built an incredible reading community. There is excitement about reading, authors, and books. Reading picture books is about sharing stories, and kids need to hear stories to learn about our world, ourselves, and each other. When we share together, there’s more to talk about…then you can get to the ‘work’ related to reading. Everything I’ve learned about students, I learned from their reactions to picture books.” -Angie Huesgen, @ajhueySTL (Angie is a schoolwide Instructional Specialist in her building, so she adopts a classroom to read to visit everyday to do #classroombookaday read alouds and displays a board & books she’s shared outside her office in the school library.)
We’d love for you to join in #classroombookaday next school year! What’s the best way to prepare? Start reading picture books yourself…A LOT of picture books! Some of my must-read 2017 favorites are pictured if you need recommendations. It’s a perfect tie-in to your summer #bookaday reading.
Jillian Heise, NBCT, taught 7th & 8th grade ELA in the Milwaukee area for eleven years before leaving the classroom to support teachers’ professional development through BALB Literacy Consulting. Currently she is a graduate student (again!) pursuing her MLIS, and is thrilled to be getting back into a school to talk books with kids as a K-5 Library Media Specialist in August. Jillian is a passionate advocate for student choice to increase engagement & the power of shared stories through #classroombookaday picture book read alouds. She also brings her literacy expertise and passion for books to her role as Chair of the WSRA Children’s Literature Committee. You can find Jillian talking books and education at Heise Reads & Recommends and on Twitter @heisereads.