The Missouri Reader Vol. 42, Issue 1 - Page 45



"You might presume that shame emerges when students face text that is “above” their level. Actually, students face intense feelings when sharing their strategies or their interpretation of text. Children want to know they can talk freely without feeling analyzed (Miller, 1995). "

students grabbed a Sharpie© and started writing "Cam Jansen” on a label. At my conference table, there were students passing out tubs and putting tubs on the bookshelf. On the other side of the classroom, students were sorting books, writing labels, and putting the labels on the silver rings. As I watched in awe, others had decided that certain colored baskets would be specific genres (pink baskets became fiction and blue baskets became nonfiction). An hour later, my students managed to successfully organize my books and had the classroom library put together. My students did not just now know every single book that was in my library, but they were excited about the books they could read, and they were proud of themselves. I heard many students with excited voices talking about books and how they could meet together and create their own “Book Club.” In the months to follow, my students did just that. They discussed the texts they had discovered while organizing my library during any spare moment they had during the school day. I kept hearing students say, “Remember that book? We found it when we were organizing the library. I wonder who has it and if I can read it next!” To hear the excitement in my students’ voices and to know that this phenomenon may not have happened if I had not had my students organize my library really made me stop and rethink my actions as their teacher. I started to wonder about what else I could do within my classroom to encourage this kind of interest in learning.

After that experience, I will never go back to organizing my classroom library by myself again. Yes it was loud, messy, and caused some arguments, but my students’ sudden spark for reading made this experience worth it! According to Young and Moss (2006), “Providing interesting books for children is a powerful incentive for reading, perhaps the most powerful incentive possible” (p. 207), and having students organize these interesting books in their own classroom library was a powerful way to encourage my students to read. I’m so glad I decided to take a chance on my students and our classroom library.


Routman, R. (2003). Reading essentials: The specifics you need to teach reading well. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Young, T.A., & Moss, B. (2006). Nonfiction in the classroom library: A literacy necessity. Childhood Education, 82(4), 207-212.

Stephanie Willoughby teaches second/third grade for Springfield Public Schools in Springfield, MO. she graduated with my Masters in Education- Literacy from Missouri State University.


heart. That’s a win win in my book! Add pennies in their banks. I try to take time to do the little things that fill their banks. By this I mean doing small tasks such as hot gluing a broken necklace, tying a shoe, fixing a ponytail, listening to a really long story (at exactly the wrong time), or giving a simple pat on the back with an encouraging smile. It is amazing the things they will remember about you.

Do teacher read alouds. Every day after lunch, my students meet me at the carpet. I sit in my rocking chair with them at my feet and we just read for enjoyment. After expectations have been set, stamina has been built, we just enjoy the story. It may be a chapter book or a picture book, but it is always a piece that I love. This is one of my favorite times of day, and not just because they are quiet and calm. The books build our relationships. My students get to know me as a person, and learn about my childhood though sharing connections. The books prompt great conversations about how to treat a friend, how someone would feel in a hard situation, or ways to be a better person. I just get so excited to hear the insightful thoughts they have about things I didn’t even dream they could understand.

Books can offer you the chance to laugh with your students. The belly laugh of a seven year old can absolutely make the stress of the day dissipate into a faint memory. I have listed below some of my favorite books that can prompt conversations and build relationships between my students and myself, and strengthen classroom community.

Pig’s Egg by Katherine Sully

The Sandwich Swap by Kellie DiPucchio

Thank you, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polaco

Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Ellen Spinelli

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

Because of Winn Dixie by Kate D’Camillo

The Tale of Desperaux by Kate D’CamilloI

In Conclusion

I know none of these strategies are mind blowing or revolutionary. Yet, I do believe that all admirable teachers need reminders. We all need to focus back on the thing that brought us to the classroom in the first place. It is the children with their fresh sweet faces and their innate love of learning.

If you take the time to find the thing you like about each student, and acknowledge that to your student, relationships with develop organically, So when the day is long, and the piles of papers are high, just remember to build the relationship, and they will learn. They will learn because they love you, and they love the way you love them through reading, writing, and the simple joy of learning.


Routman, R. (2003). Reading essentials: The specifics you need to teach reading well. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Routhman, R. (2005). Writing essentials: Raising expectations and results while simplifying teaching. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Kellie Tackitt Bell is a 2nd grade teacher in the Nixa Public School District. She has been an educator for 23 years. She recently graduated from Missouri State University with a master's degree in Teaching and Learning.