Nesting: Building a Reader Friendly Environment

August is a good month to think about cozy reading spots.  At least once a day I find myself seeking out the perfect spot for reading a book. If the day is not too oppressive here in Northern Virginia I often head to the screen porch.  A comfy chair and a glass of iced tea provide the backdrop for countless happy reading moments at home.

Students need a cozy spot for reading too. During the first week of school last year I shared Amy Hest’s The Reader with my middle school students. Lauren Castillo’s lovely illustrations show a boy and his dog packing up for a snowy adventure outside that culminates with the two friends sharing a book in the ideal wintry locale. I ask my students to talk and write about their favorite reading spots. Some students are quick to name a place or two but others have never found a spot to call home.

Right now I am giving a lot of thought to my classroom environment.  With 120+ sixth graders sharing the classroom daily I need to give careful thought to creating a space that breeds freedom and work at the same time.

There are certain non-negotiables in the classroom space.  First, the classroom needs to have a reading corner. I do not care how old the students are…they need a reading corner. This location is a gathering place — an open space to read, lounge and move around.

IMG_0865 Since this picture was taken, the classroom reading corner has grown to include more comfortable chairs and a greater area. The space needs to accommodate 25 or so students when we gather.

The room also needs a place where students can look for or share book recommendations at the drop of a hat.  There is always a wall open for book suggestions. Students share books in blog posts, book talks and shelf talkers but it is important they own the wall space for talking about books too.

IMG_0875Most importantly, comfortable reading spots are in the eye of the beholder. My students can make themselves at home anywhere they want in the room.  As students squeeze into small corners, lay across desks or grab a pillow to find a solitary space, they are designing their own reading moments.

IMG_0082 IMG_0578

For the next few weeks I will have fun hunting for new chairs, big pillows and throw rugs to help feather our classroom nest. Yes, I will need more desks this year as our student population grows but reading will continue to reign in this middle school classroom.

Nancie Atwell talks about the reading zone as a place where students “left our classroom behind and lived vicariously in their books.”  Getting into the reading zone can be tough in the confines of a 45 minute period amid a fast-paced middle school day. My goal is to help ease the path to reading by giving students the freedom to move about, own their space and read away!

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