You are your most valuable asset. Don’t forget that. You are the best thing you have.
– Gary Paulsen, Hatchet
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).