You are your most valuable asset. Don’t forget that. You are the best thing you have.
– Gary Paulsen, Hatchet
Besides space, what else do you need when putting together a reading lounge? You need resources and a lot of elbow grease. Our plan was to remove everything from the pods, paint the walls, and put in new furniture so kids can read and lounge. Here is a list of things on our original list.
Early in the process, we met with IKEA of West Sacramento and they jumped on board with the idea of making reading lounges. They donated their time in helping design 4 of the 8 lounges. Each lounge had its own book theme and our design specialist and school staff did a great job collaborating on what these rooms would eventually look like. IKEA also committed to furnishing the first two reading lounges! Our first room would be the Hatchet Room in the 5th grade pod. Hatchet is a novel written by Gary Paulsen. It is a survival story about a teenager lost in the Canadian wilderness after a plane crash. Here are some of the design ideas:
Orchard Supply Hardware of Antelope has always been a great neighbor. They will do anything for neighborhood schools so when we let them know of our project, they donated all the paint and painting materials and supplies. Here’s a picture of Missy from Orchard Supply Harward and one of our 5th grade teachers, Karina Almanza. After several hours of mixing paint and gathering supplies, we were on our way to transforming the pod!
After clearing out the room, our 5th grade teachers started painting the walls! This process took them much of a Saturday morning. Who spends their Saturday morning at school painting? Our teachers do!
After the walls were painted, IKEA delivered the furniture! Have you ever put IKEA furniture together?! There’s a skill set required and we were lucky to have some parents and friends help out. These 2 guys spent an afternoon putting together a bookcase, chairs, tables, and a sofa. There’s some serious elbow grease involved!
In the meantime, each reading lounge needed books and teachers were putting in orders to fill the bookcases. We can’t have reading lounges without awesome books for kids to read! Working with Scholastic Books, we have spent the last few months processing new books for the reading lounges. In the end, we will have added about 7,000 new books to our school using state and federal funds. We had to inventory and tag each book. Each reading lounge had its own color label on each book- this way, we would be able to keep track of lost books and determine where they belonged. Luckily, we had a lot of students volunteer to help tag books during their recesses and lunch breaks.
We are putting on the finishing touches to the Hatchet Reading Lounge…to be continued!
Steven Layne planted the seed a couple years ago. A group of us Barrett Ranchers went to a reading conference in Sacramento and heard him talk about the importance of developing lifelong readers. Not only did he talk about engaging students in reading books but he captivated an audience full of educators by engaging us in a read-a-loud of one of his own children’s books. After the conference, I got everyone his book, Igniting a Passion for Reading, and we started a small committee to do just that. We named it the “Spark the Fire” committee and our main focus was to come up with fun ideas to get kids excited about reading and books. One of these ideas, the reading lounge, was born from one of our earlier brainstorming sessions.
In Dr. Layne’s book, he talks about the idea of creating reading lounges in schools. It makes sense if we want kids to read more that we get them great books to read and create a space that allows them to engage in books. Dr. Layne warns in his book that there are systemic roadblocks (or excuses) to creating reading lounges in schools. The first roadblock is that there is no extra space. While we didn’t have extra classroom space, we did have shared pod areas that were used for small group work and storage. We have 8 of these pod rooms on campus and each of these connect with three classrooms. Space was not an issue for us. If we didn’t have the pod rooms, we would have looked at the computer lab (which is quickly becoming obsolete with the use of Chromebook carts in the classroom). Here is a photograph of a pod:
The second roadblock that Dr. Layne warns us about is the excuse of not having any money. In fact, at the reading conference a few years ago, he told every attendee that the principal always has money somewhere. I remember this exact moment because all of my teachers turned back at me with some raised eyebrows! Yes, we have some money but we didn’t have enough. When we make reading a priority, we will find the money.
Our idea was to convert all 8 pod rooms into reading lounges. The vision? The reading lounges would foster literacy, offer a quiet and safe space, create a sense of eagerness and imagination, and associate reading with leisure and pleasure. Each reading lounge would have a theme based on a book or author. One classroom articulated their vision of what their reading lounge would look like based on Aaron Becker’s Journey, Quest, Return trilogy:
“My students imagined an enchanted space with lanterns, little white lights and a huge magic carpet that they could sit or lay down upon to read. Painted on the walls would be a red hot air balloon, a beautifully exotic bird with purple feathers and two large trees, each one featuring a magic door at the trunk’s base. These two magic doors, one being red & one being purple, would symbolize their secret passage into the fantastical world of books!”- Ms. B., 2nd grade teacher
Of course, we needed the furniture, paint, hardware, supplies, and books. Did I mention books? We had some money but not enough money. This is where the community comes in….(to be continued).