What’s the “Book Room”?
Park School’s Book Room is a former walk-in storage closet across from our school library that staff, parent volunteers and PTA funds have transformed into an exceptional resource for Park’s teachers and students. It houses a “leveled library” of children’s books and book sets teachers use for one-on-one reading instruction, small group work and as take-home books for reading with a parent.
What’s a “leveled library”?
A “leveled library” is a collection of books that have been analyzed and assigned a level according to their degree of difficulty. At Park, instructional books are leveled A-Z according to standards developed more than 20 years ago by nationally recognized educators Irene Fountas & Gay Su Pinnell. Numerous factors determine a book’s level, including the number and complexity of words and sentences on a page, the familiarity of vocabulary and content, and the degree to which illustrations and graphical elements support understanding. As levels increase, books’ text characteristics place growing demands on the developing reader.
Why is a “leveled library” important?
Having a library of leveled books allows teachers to differentiate reading instruction by matching readers to a wide variety of “just right” books -- books at each child’s individual instructional level that pose enough challenge to nurture the child’s growing repertoire of problem-solving strategies, without causing frustration (because it’s either too hard or too easy to make progress). Variety is essential because different text types, formats and genres make different demands on readers, so exposure to a variety of books helps readers build a flexible reading process. With multiple copies of the same book (a book “set,” usually 4-6 copies), teachers can work effectively with a small group of readers at the same level.
Is using leveled books for reading instruction new at Park?
No, Park teachers have been using leveled books for reading instruction for many years. However, they lacked a dedicated, centrally-accessible space for storing and sharing leveled books. Most leveled readers were kept in teachers’ individual classrooms, in RAMP or Resource rooms, or in the first grade annex and, if shared, were shared informally and more easily misplaced. To increase variety per classroom, book sets of 6 were frequently split into three classroom sets of 2, but that made small group instruction more difficult.
How does the Book Room benefit Park students and teachers?
The Book Room brings together many small leveled libraries into one large inventory shared by all Park teachers (classroom, resource, and RAMP). Individual copies or sets of two have been matched into larger book sets for enhanced small-group learning. An online inventory tracks titles, numbers of copies, and a growing number of other features, such as instructional focus, topic, theme, and genre. A checkout system facilitates sharing, reduces book loss, and greatly increases students’ opportunities for variety and number of “just right” texts. Having a central inventory allows teachers and PTA to share responsibility for the time-consuming and expensive effort of maintaining and adding to teachers’ collections of leveled books. All students benefit regardless of how big or small their teacher’s collection is. The book room gives teachers an opportunity to physically see a bigger picture of what’s happening throughout the grade levels, it sparks professional conversations about reading instruction and assessment, and it deepens our school-wide vision of reading development. Having and using a wide variety of leveled readers is a best practice that aligns with new Common Core standards calling for reading across a wide range of increasingly complex texts.Does this mean my child’s classroom no longer has a library?No, teachers’ classroom libraries remain the same. Book Room books are instructional books that teachers previously stored in a separate area. Can my child and I visit and check out books from the Book Room?No, the Book Room is a resource for teachers. However, your child will have access to many leveled books your teacher checks out from the Book Room. Many teachers also send home Book Room books for nightly reading with a parent.How large is the Book Room?The Book Room currently holds more than 12,500 leveled books. Of those, about 11,600 are sorted into over 2,400 sets of 2-8 copies, and almost 900 are single copies. Click here to see the Book Room’s book set inventory online (click “tags” to review by level).How do I find out the level at which my child is reading? Is the level indicated somewhere on books that come home?Students are assessed by the teacher to determine their reading level and strategies they use to monitor their reading and manage their comprehension. Readers may bring home texts that are within a range of levels that are "just right" depending on a number of factors, such as content, the reader’s prior knowledge and the teacher's instructional focus. Contacting your child’s teacher is the best way to find out at what level your child is reading. Book Room books’ front covers have an orange sticker on the outside and a level marked on the inside.I’d like to get my child more books at her/his level. How can I determine a book’s level when I’m at the library or bookstore or looking at a reading list?
The Book Room uses Fountas & Pinnell’s leveling website, which requires a paid subscription. Scholastic's "Book Wizard" and Mackin are also good online sources and are free (look for the "Guided Reading" level).
How did the Book Room get started?
Park teachers had long wished for a shared leveled library. After Park’s remodel in 2012, new space in other parts of the school and a volunteer clean-up effort made it possible to empty and repurpose a large storage closet. In 2013-14, staff met several times to develop a vision for the book room, and voted to allocate a majority of the year’s LIFT* funds to creating and expanding it, with a focus on grades K-2 in 2013-14 and on grades 3-5 in 2014-15. Park PTA’s Executive Board supported staff by coordinating fundraising for LIFT, researching and visiting other schools’ book rooms to help staff identify essential features, and organizing parent volunteers to move, sort, and label books. Teachers’ leveled books were moved into the Book Room during the last days of the 2013-14 school year, and the Book Room Committee and parent volunteers worked over the summer to get the Book Room up and running for the start of school in August 2014.
How is the Book Room funded?
The Book Room’s original inventory of more than 9,400 leveled books was purchased over time, before the creation of the Book Room, using a variety of school and district funds, PTA supply money, and teachers’ personal accounts. Since 2012, PTA’s LIFT and TnT* fundraisers, as well as direct donations to those funds, have made setting up and expanding the Book Room possible -- thank you parents! To date, PTA has funded $12,500 in new leveled book sets, $3,000 in bookcases, and $3,500 in bins, bags, labels and other administrative supplies. Proceeds from used book drives (books donated by Park families and friends) supplement these funds; in 2017-18 almost $3,000 was raised through used book sales.
Who should I contact to learn more about or volunteer in the Book Room?
Please contact anyone on the Book Room Committee (Teachers Sally Strike, Maureen Behrs and Julie Herrera, librarian Jane Ritter, and parents Heather Mathews, Jesse Rice, and Christiana Ferroggiaro). Volunteers are periodically needed to move books, sort and label books, bins and checkout cards or handle returns. The Book Room also needs helpers for its used book drive and sale.
Last updated: July 2019
* LIFT (Learning, Innovation, and Faculty Training) was a Park PTA fund established in 2012 for teacher professional development, innovative teaching and learning area upgrades, and funded a variety of teacher trainings and initiatives that would not have otherwise been paid for by the district, PTA or Kiddo!. In 2014-15, funds earmarked for teaching and learning support were renamed “TnT” (teaching and technology). These programs are no longer available.