Penny Kittle teaches freshman composition at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire and has logged a few decades in public school as a reading teacher and literacy coach. She's picked up some NCTE awards, written some books, and generally done pretty well professionally. But for my money, one of the coolest things she has done starts with this story:I stood in a most perfect bookstore in the Memphis airport one evening smelling the strong scent of Bar-B-Q that permeates the place as I waited for my flight.
Under maple bookshelves lit softly by spotlights, I came upon a collection of animal books, not just The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein and A Dog’s Purpose by Bruce Cameron, but Cassius: The True Story of a Courageous Police Dog by Gordon Thorburn, which explores the scenting capabilities of police dogs that help solve crimes.
But I also twirled around the room for a moment and imagined clearing out the center shelves in the store and putting in tables, writing notebooks, and students. My classroom should be such a celebration of reading. We need a book for every reader, recommended by readers, shelved by interests and inviting browsing.
When I speak to teachers about leading readers they want this place, and I want it for them. Many have contacted me after bargaining with their principals and colleagues to set up classroom libraries and support independent reading.
But the truth is, as budgets have shrunk, books and libraries and school librarians have been cut in far too many schools. Books can have an incredible effect on children’s lives, yet there’s only one book for every 300 kids living in underserved communities in the U.S. Students need books - the right books that they can connect with.