For our youngest students or English language learners, books and book boxes can be tricky to manage. This can be especially true with students who are reading emergent-level books (a few words or one sentence per page and with strong picture support). These books are important for beginning readers, but a single title will not engage them for extended periods of time. We know how important these emergent books are for beginning readers, so we work hard to build an engaging emergent library in our classroom.
We begin each year by teaching students Three Ways to Read a Book. After this lesson, students can extend their practice time by adding Read the Pictures and Retell the Story to reading the words of their easy books.
We use a magazine holder, ziplock bag, or other containers to house 8–10 books for each emerging reader. This provides enough books to last an entire round of Daily 5.
Occasionally, we’ll have a child who really struggles to limit their selection to good-fit books. If this happens, we use a technique that helps them organize their reading time in a way that guarantees they start with their independent-level books. We place a divider sheet in the book box. One side is labeled 1. Good-Fit Books because they will be reading all of these books first. The other is labeled 2. Goal Books because they will be reading these books after they read their number one books. A small illustration will help remind them that they will be reading the pictures in these books.
It isn’t a technique we use with every child. Not every child needs it. But we’ve noticed a distinct increase in stamina and motivation when we make this allowance for students who do.