The Book Basket That is No More...

When I started teaching 7 years ago, leveled books were all the rage.  Everyone had baskets of books they had painstakingly leveled all over their classroom.  These were the books the children had access to and could read independently.  The read alouds were kept on a separate shelf where they were safe from the wear and tear of kids.  They were treated like dress clothes that you only wear to special occasions.

I found out I would be teaching kindergarten 3 days before the start of school.  Luckily, my mom was up visiting and I had amazing friends available to help me set up a classroom that had been used as a storage closet (junk room) for the last several years. I had a very small library that consisted of generous donations from teachers from all over.

As I was making book boxes, I really wanted them to be separated according to category and not level.  It felt weird to keep a kid from reading a book about alligators only because it wasn't on their "level".  I had several of the little books that are great for beginning readers.  They had a sentence or two per page but the interest level was very low.  I put all of these books in a basket called "Books I Can Read"...ouch!  I know, right!  The mere title of the basket suggested that the rest of the books in the library the kids couldn't read or those that read from this basket were somehow inferior.  This basket bothered me from the moment I created it but I was a new teacher, short on time and not ready to come up with something better.

I still see leveled book baskets in libraries and cringe a little when I see kids ask their teacher which basket they can choose from.  Then today as I was sorting through my library weeding books and straightening up...there it was "Books I Can Read".  It was still there in the middle of my library staring at me, taunting me as if it were saying "whatcha gonna do now?".  What do I do with those books that some readers need to feel successful.  There is a place for them in my classroom but not in this basket.  Then like a tons of bricks (sometimes I'm slow)  it hit me.  Why couldn't these books fit into category baskets just like the hundreds of other books in our library?  Why can't kids proudly walk over to the "Insects and Arachnids" basket and pick out a book that has just one sentence per page?

So today was the last day for "Books I Can Read" in my classroom.  The books that were good got new homes in baskets that highlight their topic and not their "level".  The other books were packed up and offered to a new teacher starting her library with one stipulation-she cannot put them in a basket with a level.

I have thought about this moment several times today.  Why hadn't I noticed that basket in a while?  Was it because I don't read books from that basket?  Was I trying to forget it was there or was I in denial that I had created it?  Who knows why today was the day that basket stuck out like a sore thumb but it did and now it gone.  I feel a lot better about my library again.

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