Classroom libraries designed by teachers with a variety of categories are incredibly important for literacy development in early learners, according to literacy experts Phil and Sharon Callen.
Classroom libraries are a fantastic resource for students, especially early learners in Foundation Year (F) to Year Two.
Furthermore, Sharon and Phil Callen explained that including various categories, which are filled with rich, tantalising texts, will ensure all students are provided an entry point to finding books, making choices, selecting and reading.
“Book selection is a really big piece that we sometimes don’t think about enough,” Phil said on episode five of The Teacher’s Toolkit for Literacy.
“Every child, every day should have the opportunity to choose books that they can work with … (when) reading, without a doubt they should have choice. That’s why the classroom library needs to be full of all kinds of rich, engaging and accessible books,” Sharon said.
“There are some categories that are really specific to F to Year Twos that can really propel children into young readers who are learning and who are just coming into being emergent or early readers.”
Sharon said three useful categories for F to Year One students are repetitive, chronological and rhyming, which all allow children to predict what’s going to happen.
“Stories that have a repeating pattern give children a way to quickly join in with those stories because they can anticipate the kinds of things that are coming next,” Sharon said.
“So, anything like a counting book, an alphabet book, a book that might be about the seasons or the days of the week. Anything that’s chronological lets us start anticipating or predicting what’s is going to come next.
“So, we’re really doing the thinking as a reader. This is what all of these categories are helping us do – to think how this text is working and what’s coming next. How’s the writer doing this? You know, what are they doing? So, when we start seeing patterns, when we’re problem solvers as readers, we’re really engaging actively as readers.”
Another category which provides students an entry point into understanding the text is books that are familiar culturally.
“So things like celebrations within a culture, birthdays, events that come around every year … things that we have within our culture … multicultural events,” she said.
Cumulative stories and rollicking stories also allow emerging readers to join in and truly engage in the content.
“Stories that build on each other … we have one thing happening and then that’s repeated again, plus the next event or the next character coming into the story. And so once again, lots of repetition it is building on. And so I have (as a young reader) a way to join in. So if this is being read aloud or has big text, then I can start joining in with it,” Sharon explained.
“There’s good rollicking stories where we don’t necessarily have to say, ‘well, it’s a problem, a middle and a solution’ that works. It’s just such a great story to read with beautiful and rich language. Sometimes we just want a basket of those great stories that we love. And then they have a lot of elements of all the things we’ve been talking about. So it doesn’t mean that a problem-centred story might not be chronological or might not be cumulative or might not be repetitive. But it might ot it might not have those things.”
For Year Ones and Year Twos readers, categories such as chapter books, plays and fairy tales are key elements to bring into the classroom. Information books will also play a huge role in their literacy learning.
“There might be subcategories to [information books]. So, books about animals, books about topics to do with what we’re studying in units of inquiry. So, it might be about plants or it might be about families. It might be about games we play. It might be things that come off the curriculum,” Sharon said.
“We want to fill part of our classroom space with texts that relate to those things so that children realise ‘wow’ they can go to those for information at any time.”
Phil and Sharon also recommended compiling author categories as another way to create repetition and familiarity for young readers.
“Having collections by particular authors is a really nice way to think about how writers work,” Sharon said.
“Having baskets or having collections of books by authors and categorising them by the author is a great way for kids to start coming to a glorious understanding that there are people that write these books and that they have a style and it’s familiar to them. They’re almost there in this family of books that are in that same style, and that’s really supportive for those children as well.
“So when we say, ‘oh, these books are by this author’, then we have entry points into books that we haven’t seen before. I go ‘I think I know how this author works’, and so therefore I can start making some predictions and have some expectations.”
Phil added: “It’s the fact that the child is developing a relationship with that author. They’ve got the relationship with their teacher, but it’s now with an author, who’s another teacher in their class.”
Finally, another powerful tool is to start a category of students’ own publications.
“Children’s own publications are a wonderful addition to classroom libraries. A wonderful teacher I worked with, part of her classroom library was a bookcase that actually had a space for each child to display books that they’d made,” Sharon said.
“So, can you imagine what children feel when they see themselves in a classroom library, their books that they’ve written up there on the shelf available for anybody to have a look at? So there’s the wonderful power of reading linking to the writing, because they don’t live in isolation of each other.”