In this series, I hope to provide support with organizing beautiful, engaging classroom libraries to support the Units of Study for Teaching Reading by Lucy Calkins and Colleagues (of which I am honored to have had a role in coauthoring). Over the next several weeks, I'll lay out suggestions for each grade level. I began with kindergarten. Yesterday, I addressed first grade. Today's post is for second grade.
A second grade classroom library should reflect the personalities and interests of the children in the room. Baskets of books might be labeled, "Disgusting and Gross Things!" or "Fairies and Princesses" or "Extreme Sports" or "Adorable Baby Animals" or "Our Favorite Authors." Inside these high interest baskets, kids will find books that are just right for them. You might use a type of leveling system to assist kids in finding books - dots on the covers, or letters written on the back, but these need not be the main feature of the library. It will be far more important that kids open up each book and try it out, deciding for themselves if the book feels like a good fit.
Across the year, baskets of books can rotate in and out of the library to support the work of each particular unit, while also keeping the library fresh and new. Throughout the year, your library will be filled with fiction or nonfiction books, and sometimes a mix to match the range of reading levels and interests of your second graders. Dividing your library into two halves - fiction and nonfiction will help you organize for upcoming units and manage book shopping more easily.
Unit 1: Second Grade Growth Spurt
In this unit, you can anticipate that each child will read approximately 6-8 books per week. This means if you have five kids reading at a particular level, you'll need a bare minimum 30-40 books at that level. Ideally you'll gather 3 times that many for each level, so that kids will have books to choose from, and your classroom library won't be completely empty every time kids shop for books!
The Growth Spurt unit is not genre-specific, meaning kids can shop for books to fill their book bins or baggies from both the nonfiction side of your library and the fiction side. If books are in short supply, you could scrape by with one basket of books for a group of students to share, rather than each student having their own books for the week. This, of course, is not ideal, but will make it possible to teach the unit with fewer books until you're able to build your collection.
Unit 2: Becoming Experts: Reading Nonfiction
In every unit, you'll want to rearrange the library to reflect the unit of study, and to spark new interest. As such, for this unit you'll probably want to close the fiction half of your library to highlight the nonfiction books. Ideally, you'll organize these books into topic baskets, so that students can shop for multiple just right books on one topic, allowing them to practice carrying questions and ideas from one book to the next.
It is a common issue that many schools have a nonfiction book shortage. If this is the case in your classroom, you are certainly not alone! You can make the best of what you have by having groups of children share a basket of books on a topic, rather than each student having their own supply. Or, instead of each student having six books in their book bin, perhaps each student selects two books for their topic, and fills the rest of their book bin with other topics. When nonfiction is in very short supply, you might decide to have part of the reading time be devoted to nonfiction reading, and then switch halfway through to fiction or mixed-genre reading. If this is the case, it might make sense for each student to have two baggies - one for nonfiction, and another for the mix of books to read when it's time to switch.
Unit 3: Bigger Books Mean Amping Up Reading Power
This is another unit where kids can shop for both fiction and nonfiction. That means the fiction half of your library can be reopened--hooray! In fact, now that you've taught an entire nonfiction unit, you might encourage kids to shop for half and half. With the series book clubs coming up, you will probably want to go through your library before you open the fiction section, and set aside as many series books as you can, saving them for Unit 4.
Unit 4: Series Book Clubs
As the title of this unit suggests, your students will be reading lots and lots of wonderful series books in this unit. Your kids will love diving into beloved series books like Horrible Harry, and Pinky and Rex, and Magic Treehouse and Marvin Redpost. The trick to this unit is to have plenty of choices of books, while at the same time teaching kids to agree on a series to read together with others. Ideally for each series, you would have multiple copies of each of the first few books in the series, in a row, without skipping around. You'd have a variety of series at each level for each club to choose from as well.
However, things aren't always ideal, so if you must, you could get by with just one copy of each book in the series. If you can't get all the books in a given series, know that of all the books in the series to have, the first book is the most helpful. Usually it is the first book where characters are introduced most clearly, where the setting is developed, and other important groundwork is laid.
It is also possible to do the work of this unit using books with strong characters that aren't necessarily part of a series. You might gather books featuring characters with similar traits to read like a series. For example, When Sophie Gets Angry (Molly Bang), The Recess Queen (Alexis O'Neill), and Sheila Rae the Brave (Kevin Henkes) all feature characters with a few things in common. You can offer more choices for your readers by thinking creatively about the characters in your library and grouping them together into bins.
Students will have better, stronger conversations when they've read the same title, but they can get by with talking at least about the same characters. If you don't have many multiple copies, you can teach kids to read a book, then swap with their club members so that after a day or so, they've all read at least one book in common.