With so much up in the air for this next year, flexibility and creativity are going to be some of the most important elements in the classroom with safety being the top priority. COVID-19 changes a ton of aspect of learning and life, but it doesn’t change the fact kids need to get books in their hands. Pernille Ripp has really good insight on the minds of young readers and her blog post on classroom libraries during this pandemic has some really novel ideas (pun intended).
Before I make any suggestions or express any of my ideas, I first want to clearly iterate student and instructor safety is of the utmost importance. Yes, students need books, but not at the cost of illness.
The ideas I have rolling around in my brain are an amalgamation of Ripp’s ideas, teacher blogs I’ve been perusing, and my own brainstorming. I’m sure each of these ideas could use tweaking and I’m willing to be flexible. I also think the ideas I’ve outlined below can be carried over into non-pandemic times. It feels foolish to put all our energies into systems and protocols that will be thrown out the window in a year’s time, so I hope these structures can at the very least become semi-permanent.
- Create a how-to video on the public library system, getting a library card, and locations of public libraries. I know that as teachers with fantastic titles in a classroom library it can feel almost like betrayal to recommend a different place for students to receive books, but I think this is a strategy that can ensure students maintain a reading life beyond their grade school years. Creating a short video on how to access the public library online database, request books for hold, and utilize a public resource could open the door for students to read books we may not be able to put in their hands. With this video, I also would attach the form for applying for a library card and a map with the locations of the public libraries in and around my school. This way, no matter the school’s policy on student access to materials, kids at the very least have books available via the public library.
- Create an online classroom library database so students can digitally browse books to check out from school. I almost never walk into the library or a bookstore with the exact title I want or need in my head. I typically spend several minutes browsing, picking up books, flipping through pages, and reading blurbs. This isn’t the best option for now. While evidence points to the virus only inhabiting living bodies and having a very limited life on paper, I would still air on the side of caution. Students can browse this online database, request via Google Form 2-3 books to check out for the week. All books would undergo a 72-hour decontamination period before being put back into recirculation.
- Weekly book talks for 5-ish titles I think would be of high interest for students. While there is no substitution for an in-person discussion with a kid about what books speak to them and the direction they want to head in, creating a weekly video highlighting books I think hit on important topics or tell really good stories can engage a reader better than reading a short blurb can. This one might be a little labor intensive, but I think at the end of the day it would be worth it.
With all that being said, I think it’s very important that we create some sense of normalcy for students over the next year. It’s going to be tough to restart in-person learning in the fall, and that’s if schools even return immediately. Giving kids these options and resources can assist them in falling back into the routine of school and hopefully help them become life long readers, even if it’s socially distanced.