by Maurna Rome
As my students pass through our classroom door, the morning buzz begins. The kids are already reminding me… “It’s Friday, Mrs. Rome!” We all know what that means. It’s Friday Fun Day! It’s time for “Book Talk, Book Shop, and Book Swap.”
The kids in Room 132 do not seem to care about missing out on the usual “Fun Day” menu choices of extra free time, videos, or games. They are excited about our special day of literacy-based activities. The sign-up list for book talkers is growing… the maximum of 10 is quickly reached. The titles being promoted come from a variety of sources; the public library, our school or classroom library, personal collections from home (which change frequently, thanks to our weekly book swapping) or even from our very own “classroom author collection”.
The first book talk title is Cardboard by Doug TenNapel. A lover of graphic novels, Keme explains that it all starts with a birthday present that is nothing but a cardboard box. A boy and his dad turn the box into a cardboard person but when the clock strikes midnight, it comes to life. Since the only rule for “Book Talk” is NO SPOILERS, we are left hanging with this teaser: “After the cardboard box breaks, the boy rushes home but his heart is pumping so fast, so he might not make it!” Several hands fly up in the air… “How many copies do we have?” “Can I have it after you, Keme?”
Once the book talkers wrap up, the book crates that store our massive collection of classroom books are uncovered. Eager shoppers are ready to select new titles for their personal book boxes, which are stored on the counter that runs the length of our classroom. Each plastic bin holds from 4–15 books, depending on the genre and thickness. These books are selected almost entirely by students. Although we all understand what it means to have books that are “just right”, occasionally students need to reflect on their book choices. However, I don’t insist that kids pick books that are only from a specific Lexile or guided level. The main criteria is that kids choose books they want to read. I often wonder how this could be considered a “novel” idea… shouldn’t this be the rule of thumb?
Finally, the last piece of our Friday trifecta. The book swap is
underway. Gently used books that were turned into the book swap box in the morning are carefully laid out on a table. Book swap coupons are place on top of each book. Coupons can be used right away or saved for a future swap. In addition to this day’s inventory, we add many other books from previous Fridays’ book swaps. Readers who are ready to make a trade, collect their coupons and begin perusing the available titles. Sometimes, extra coupons are handed out as rewards. The classroom is transformed into a bustling mix of book swappers, some choosing new “gently used” books for themselves while others are looking for a book to give to a younger sister or brother. Unlike books that are chosen during “book shopping”, book swap books are taken home “for keeps” or perhaps, brought back to be traded in a future book swap.
As I sit back and watch a love of books and reading take over our classroom, a satisfying smile spreads across my face and my heart. This is really what it is all about. Kids who want to share their thoughts and opinions about what they are reading.
Kids who want to make their own choices about the books they are reading. Kids who want to read. We always seem to struggle to fit all three components of Fun Friday in before the end of the day, but we do our best. Sometimes the kids plead to do more book talking, shopping and swapping on Monday. My answer is always the same, “Well… I suppose!”
This afternoon of promoting a love of literacy is not outlined on any district curriculum plan, it is not found on the pages of any teacher guide, and it most certainly won’t be the focus of any questions on the mandated standardized tests coming next month. However, I will wager a bet that years from now when these amazing 8- and 9‑year-olds think back to third grade, they will fondly recall “Book Talk, Book Shop, and Book Swap” and the fun we had on Fridays in Room 132!