What Works Wednesday: Book Bins & Beyond

For the past several years I really have been placing an emphasis on Independent Reading. This year it has gone to an entire new level thanks to the addition of book bins. I first read about book bins in a post from Franki Sibberson on the blog A Year of Reading. I knew immediately I needed to implement them in my room.
You see, it’s not enough to discuss what my readers are currently reading. I now ask them what they plan on reading next and if they have a book or two in their book bin. Precious reading time has been lost due the readers telling me they are looking for a book, still looking for a book, or can’t find a book. Gone are the days of “I don’t have a book” or “I can’t find a book.” So let’s talk about book bins and beyond.
Get the books:
First off, I’m a “bookmonger”. While I would love to be able to purchase the newest and hottest releases, that just isn’t possible.  I case the public library and check them out on my library card. I then sprinkle them around the room for my readers. We have a magnificent library in our building too, so I also snag books from our school library.  I think about what my readers enjoy and I comb through the popular books. Then I check those books out under my name and shower them around my room. My readers have actually found it easier to chose a just right book when the selection is smaller and more focused to their liking.
Put the books in the bins:
Here’s the honest to goodness truth, the power comes from me talking about the book and suggesting it. Once I talk about the book and create a frenzy, the readers are all clambering for the books. The book then goes in their bin. I simply write the reader’s name on a post-it note and they drop it in the appropriate bin. If multiple students are interested in the book, then I add additional names on the inside of the book.
Share the book love:
I begin every reading session by quickly asking my students what they are reading now and if they have a book in their bin. If they do not, they use the last five minutes of the lesson for book browsing. They enjoy seeing what books are sprinkled around the room, as this changes almost daily. They also like to see what other readers have in their bin. Last but not least, they *adore* the LOVE THAT BOOK recommendation wall. It’s one thing if their reading teacher recommends a book, but it takes it to an entire new level when they see what their peers are reading. FullSizeRender
Book Bins & Beyond, it works, it really works.


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What Works Wednesday: Book Vines

What Works Wednesday!

It’s all about what is working well in my classroom.

Today I’d like to focus on…

Book Vines!

I work with readers in grades 4-6 and my readers have been doing a fantastic job with independent reading. They have been devouring books and challenging themselves to read more and more. Luckily, books in a series provide them with opportunities to reach their reading goals. Some of the most popular books they enjoy are I Survived, Diary of a Wimpy Kid (of course), and graphic novels galore! My mission though is to encourage them to reach out and supply them with books to break their book binging habits.

But there has been a void.

A void in reading and enjoying picture books.

Honestly, I can understand because most often picture books are associated with younger readers. Picture books are overlooked even though there are so many great picture books out there that are certainly appropriate for readers at this level.

It’s left me in a quandary!

How do I promote the love of picture books to my readers to ensure that they are enjoying the beautiful illustrations and to be sure they are engaging in the text in a meaningful fashion? The answer…

Book Vines!

A Book Vine reminds my of a book club, sort of. The reader selects a picture book of interest from the Book Vine options and then reads it independently. Along the way, they jot down what they are thinking on a Post-It note. Here are the six thinking strategies my readers use to demonstrate their thinking:


The “book club” aspect is that the reader has the opportunity to see the Post-It note and the thinking of the previous reader. They can react to the original thought or add their own thought, hence creating a vine, a book vine, of thoughts.

When the reader is finished with the book, they keep their Post-It notes in the book for the new reader to enjoy. Then they add the Post-It notes from the previous reader to the book vine chart. Now the chart can be shared by all, those who also read the book or even those who may be interested in the book.


Here are the picture books for the first round of book vines. They are all excellent books and the readers are thoroughly enjoying them.


My readers are asking if they can sign up for more than one book and they are already asking which books will be in the next round of book vines.

They are enjoying!

They are thinking!

They are reading!

Mission accomplished!

Book Vines!



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Visit There Is a Book for That to see what else others are reading.

Setting goals is something I do all the time in my running world, but I have never set any reading goals for myself. I have to admit, I find it kind of overwhelming. Truth be told, I’m a ~~slow~~ reader. But that’s okay, right? (say yes, or nod your head here!)

When I came across the hashtag #MustReadin2017, I certainly had no difficulties compiling a stack of books. I mean what reader doesn’t have a never-ending list of books they want to read, right?

But, I’ll tell you that creating this stack really gave me a focus for what I want to read next. I’m usually grabbing at books here and grabbing at books there and that too gets overwhelming. Creating the list and having a focus, now that’s a good feeling, for me anyway. I’m also keeping an open mind and accepting what I do complete from this list as a success.

Regardless, I thought it would be fun to see what else others are reading and enjoy some great books along the way. And, perhaps the best part is that I get share the books with my friends, readers, colleagues, and PLN. So, here’s what my #MustReadin2017 stack looks like. Drum roll, please…

On my reading radar now:

  • small great things by Jodi Picoult: Wow, intense and certainly thought provoking! I’m wondering when the small great things are going to make an appearance in this book. I love Picoult’s writing so I’m anxious to see how she pulls everything together or not…
  • How to Live a Good Life by Jonathan Fields: This book is in the self-help genre, which is a favorite genre of mine. I have found so many wonderful wise words in it and it is also where I found my One Little Word for 2017 (more details about my OLW for 2017 in another post).
  • The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd. I received this book when I went to the Scholastic Reading Summit and somehow it got pushed to the side. Then my partner in crime, Katie, told me I must.read.it! I would.love.it! So that’s what I’m reading next.

Happy reading!

Thank you, Carrie for hosting #MustReadin2017!



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A Magical Tasting of Books

There were books!

There were raffle prizes.

There were more books!

There was white & grape sparkling juice cocktail served in champaign flutes.

There were more books!

There were macaroons, brownies, and crepe cookies sprinkled on silver platters.

And there were more books!

Yes, there was magic in the air! It was a Book Tasting hosted in the Literacy Lovers’ Lounge by two book enthusiasts ready to share their love of books with their colleagues.


Your hostesses: Amy & Katie

Two weeks before the Christmas break began Katie & I hosted a book tasting for the fellow book lovers at our school.


The book tasting was a huge success and the buzz of books was eve-ry-where. So perhaps you’re wondering what a book tasting is or how you can host one in your school. Well, read on to see how it unfolded.

Katie and I first decided which books and which categories/genres we wanted to highlight for our tasting. Boy was that difficult! There were so many books. We kept adding books to our list and kept adding books to our list! We came up with the six genres we wanted to share: realistic fiction, fantasy, non-fiction, poetry, picture books, and professional books.

Then we made “library cards” for each book (cute and fun). The library cards were talking points and highlights of the fantastic features of the book. We attached curling ribbon and added them to the book in a bookmark-like fashion. And, of course, we added the books to a Padlet so teachers could reference them after the tasting.


displaying the books

We invited the teachers to join us and for anyone who RSVP’d we sent them a free downloadable resource on how to host a Book Swap before the Christmas break. This was a great way to make sure everyone had a book to read over the break.

On event day, we set up a raffle table and handed out raffle tickets to teachers who showed up, wrote a book recommendation, and visited both rooms of the “literacy lovers’ lounge”. The raffle items were everything from a reading survival kit (fuzzy blanket, cozy socks, and a box of tea bags) to picture books to chapter books. Who could resist such wonderful prizes!


drop your raffle ticket here

And, of course, we weren’t just tasting books! We had small treats sprinkled here and there to enjoy while book browsing.


macaroons, brownies, and crepe cookies

But the best part of all…

the book platters!


realistic fiction


poetry/books in verse

Last but not least, our book friends arrived and Katie and I talked, chatted, shared, and babbled about the books we had selected.

The atmosphere was magical!

We shared some of our favorite books and teachers were “eating them up”!

It was a magnificent morning sharing our book love.

But the magic didn’t stop that morning. The excitement continued as teachers in our building hosted their very own Book Tasting with their readers. I was honored to attend and talk about books with a group of 5th grade readers.

And that my fellow readers is what it is all about…

You can find magic wherever you look.  Sit back and relax all you need is a book!”

~Dr. Seuss


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Readfessions of a Reading Specialist



Nothing But the Truth!

Welcome to Readfessions of a Reading Specialist.

Just some quick & clean happenings from my reading world.

Readfession #1: My readers love their reading journals!

This year I decided that I would utilize reading journals (again). I’ve used them in the past, but about two years ago our school started providing an iPad for each learner so reading journals have been on the back burner. I was excited to introduce them  and it’s funny how pumped my students get when I tell them that we are writing in their journals!

My readers decorated the front cover and then together we added some standard pages and some anchor charts. Throughout the year the journals will be used for responses from explicit instruction and for responses to independent reading. The reading journals serve as a great tool for formative assessment and a way to track progress.

Readfession #2:   I love Scholastic’s new resource, Storyworks Jr. 

This summer I attended the Scholastic Reading Summit. It was a great one day conference that was jam-packed with exciting books, awesome keynote speakers, and fabulous sessions. Oh, and need I mention, I had some great colleagues attend the conference too! (You can read about it here!)

Anyway, the point is that during the conference Scholastic was promoting its brand new multi-genre resource, STORYWORKS Jr. Since I love STORYWORKS, I knew STORYWORKS Jr. would be perfect for the group of readers I instruct. I purchased a subscription and I couldn’t be any happier. The online resources includes lesson plans, videos, audio recordings, and multi-level versions of the story. I love the reading selections and so do my students. It’s a reading win-win for me. It’s a reading win-win for my readers!


Readfession #3: Independent reading is a huge success!

You know what Dr. Seuss says:

The more you read, the more you know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go!

Well, my readers are going places! Independent reading has gone to a whole new level this year. I’ve always made it a priority, but again after attending the Scholastic Reading Summit, I just knew I had to push more this year. And pushing I am! I cannot emphasize enough the power of the book talk. If I read the book, they want to read it. If I talk about the book, they want to read. I am truly amazed how simple yet powerful book talking is. My worry, I can’t read the books fast enough and I’m afraid I’m going to run out of books!  I’m stocking my room with books that I purchase, books from the school library, books from the public library, and most recently, e-books for my Kindles.

We’ve also been utilizing “book bins” this year and they too are quite powerful. It’s not enough for me to ask, “What are you reading now?” I also am asking, “What are you reading next?” or “What book(s) are in your book bin?” Visit Franki Sibberson’s blog to read more about book bins.

Book bins=powerful reading!

Readfession #4: I am busy reading too!

Here’s what’s on my short stack:

  • Finished: Ghost by Jason Reynolds
  • Reading Now: Finding Perfect by Elly Swartz
  • Up Next: Wish by Barbara O’Connor
  • In the Bin: Six Kids and a Stuffed Cat by Gary Paulsen

my short stack

Well, that’s a wrap of readfessions for this reading specialist!

Until next time,




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