When K-2 teachers involved in PREP-KC’s Early Literacy Benchmarking Initiative came back to school in August, they found new classroom libraries full of books to use with their students. Classroom libraries are a key strategy that teachers use to close gaps in literacy and help their students learn to read by grade three. To help students reach this goal, PREP-KC delivers powerful resources to K-3 teachers: targeted professional development together with classroom libraries.
Why does having books in the classroom matter? Because classroom libraries provide one critical component of seven research-based strategies to improve of early literacy: Read Aloud, Guided Reading, Shared Reading, Independent Reading, Classroom Libraries, Word Study, and Writing about Reading. Teachers involved in PREP-KC’s Early Literacy professional development sessions learn how to use the classroom libraries to help students select books that will advance their literacy skills.
The 2013 study by Debbie Miller and Barbara Ross, “No More Independent Reading Without Support,” indicates that ‘Students who read independently an hour a day scored at the 98th percentile on standardized tests, while students who read only five minutes daily scored at the 50th percentile and students who did no out-of-school reading scored at the 2nd percentile.’
Indicators of a Quality Classroom Library:
• Library has a prominent place in the classroom and invites readers to “shop” for books and read.
• Library includes a variety of genres and literary forms–poetry, picture books, informational books, mysteries, fantasy, and popular series.
• Library contains culturally relevant books where students find characters and subjects they can relate to their own lives.
• Students are involved in the selection, organization, planning and upkeep of the classroom library.
• Library is easily accessible to all students, and struggling readers find books they can and want to read.
• Procedures for using the classroom library are clearly posted.
In the Continuum of Literacy Learning K-8 Guide to Teaching, by Fountas and Pinnell, classroom libraries are shown to support reading aloud and foster independent reading among K-3 students. The teaching guide states, “Reading aloud to students is not a luxury but a necessity. We consider reading aloud to be an essential foundation of good language and literacy program. Reading aloud supports learning in every other area.”
The 1988 study, “Growth in Reading and How Children Spend Their Time Outside of School” by Anderson, Wilson and Fielding, was one of the most extensive studies of independent reading yet conducted. The researchers found that the amount of time students spent in independent reading was the best predictor of reading achievement. It also is the best predictor of the amount of gain in reading achievement made by students between second and fifth grade.