A large, varied, and often-refreshed collection of books

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n and Technology
dinator of the
ests include early
en co-editor of
or Literacy (1995),
5:35 PM
Page 1 (3,1)
The Im p o rt a n c e
of the Classroom Library
by Susan B. Neuman
A large, varied, and often-refreshed collection of books
in the classroom is a vital ingredient in improving
reading performance
). “Encouraging
iterature program
Reading Research
he effects of group
ding.” Reading
a difference: A
“The effects of
& S. McCormick
ors: Issues in
hicago, IL:
, S. (1996).
or children in
2). Constructing
Centers of Inquiry
acks for
matic, genre,
Recent studies on literacy confirm what educators have known for years: the more contact
children have with books, the better readers they become. Teachers can promote better
reading performance by reading to children daily and by having them interact with books
through the extensive use of classroom libraries. This paper outlines some of the most recent
research on classroom libraries and gives specific ideas on how to apply these important findings in the classroom:
• the benefits of surrounding children with books
• the important role of the classroom library in developing literacy
• characteristics of an effective classroom library
• reading activities to improve literacy
The More Time Children Spend Reading,
the Better Readers They Become
For virtually all children, the amount of time spent reading in classrooms consistently accelerates
their growth in reading skills (Anderson, 1996; Anderson, Wilson & Fielding, 1988; Cunningham &
Stanovich, 1998). One study (Anderson & Nagy, 1992) estimates that children learn an average of
4,000 to 12,000 new vocabulary words each year as a
Time Spent Reading Correlated with
result of book reading. Another study (Anderson et al.,
Achievement in 5th Graders
1988) found that the highest achievers in 5th grade
classrooms were likely to read over 200 times as many
minutes per day (21 minutes) as the lowest achievers
(who read for less than one tenth of a minute per day).
Such striking findings might be related to the number
21 minutes/day
of “rare” words outside of their current vocabulary that
children encounter in reading versus other language
Less than 6
activities. For example, Cunningham and Stanovich
(1998) report that children’s books have 50% more
10th Percentile
90th Percentile
rare words in them than adult prime-time television
Achievement Level
(Anderson et al., 1988)
or the conversation of college graduates.
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Together, these studies provide convincing
evidence that the amount of reading is a major
factor in growth in literacy.
libraries start with at leas
purchase two additional
each year. The Maryland
the Maryland State Depar
recommends each eleme
library media center con
titles per student. Each c
contain a minimum of 5
partially drawn from the
Unfortunately, however, socioeconomic factors
can lead to tremendous disparities in access to
books at home (Smith, Constantino, & Krashen,
1996). As a result, the International Reading
Association strongly advocates for school library
media centers and classroom libraries to provide
books for all children.
Optimal Number of Boo
Classroom Library
• 300-600, dependin
and number of cop
The Classroom Library Helps
Develop Literacy
ecent research emphasizes the importance
of the classroom library, particular in
children’s literacy development. In one
large-scale study (Neuman, 1999), classroom
libraries with high-quality books were placed in
over 350 schools to enhance the language and
literacy environment of 18,000 economically
disadvantaged children.
In one study, classsroom
libraries increased
reading time by 60%
Findings revealed that with books in close
proximity to classroom activity:
• time spent reading increased by 60%
compared to a control group
• literacy-related activities more than
doubled, from an average of 4 interactions
per hour to 8.5 interactions per hour
• letter knowledge, phonemic awareness,
concepts of print and writing, and narrative
Number of Books Teach
Children to Read Durin
competence rose 20% more than the control
group after a year, followed by continued
gains 6 months and 12 months later
• 1st Grade/Picture B
• 2nd Grade and up/
Many and Varied Books Make
Classroom Libraries Most Effective
Fountas and Pinnell (199
tion of about 300-600 bo
grade level and number
Their calculations estima
expect first-graders to rea
during the school year, a
are likely to read longer
the year.
uality classroom libraries are not simply
collections of children’s trade books
located in the back corner of the room.
There are certain characteristics and design features
that strongly influence whether or not classroom
libraries may be used to their full potential to
improve children’s reading performance.
A Large Supply of Books
In order to attract and hold children’s interests,
classroom libraries must be stocked with many
good books. According to the American Library
Association (Hack, Hepler, & Hickman, 1993),
classroom libraries should include about 300
titles, single and multiple copies, as part of a
permanent collection, with supplements from a
well-stocked school library. The International
Reading Association recommends that classroom
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libraries start with at least 7 books per child and
purchase two additional new books per child
each year. The Maryland Reading Task Force of
the Maryland State Department of Education (1998)
recommends each elementary school provide a
library media center containing a minimum of 20
titles per student. Each classroom collection should
contain a minimum of 500 titles, which could be
partially drawn from the library media center.
Optimal Number of Books in a
Classroom Library
• 300-600, depending on grade level
and number of copies of each title
Number of Books Teachers Should Expect
Children to Read During the School Year
e control
• 1st Grade/Picture Books: 100-125
• 2nd Grade and up/Chapter Books: 50-75
Fountas & Pinnell (1996)
Fountas and Pinnell (1996) recommend a collection of about 300-600 books, depending on the
grade level and number of copies of each title.
Their calculations estimate that teachers should
expect first-graders to read about 100-125 books
during the school year, and older children, who
are likely to read longer books, 50-75 books for
the year.
not simply
the room.
gn features
tial to
High-Quality Book
A Wide Variety of Books, Replenished
Classroom libraries need to include a wide variety
of books that span a significant range of difficulty.
Some of the books should be relatively easy, and
some should be challenging for all children. These
books may be divided into a “core” collection and
a “revolving” collection (Cullinan & Galda, 1994).
Just like a public library, the core collection is the
permanent collection, available throughout the
year. The revolving collection, on the other hand,
changes every few weeks, based on the topics to
be studied in class, the children’s current interests,
and special holidays throughout the year.
To spark children’s i
reading, books must
captivate their imagi
want to return to the
Only high-quality bo
(Neuman, 1999). Rat
books from garage s
physically attractive,
interesting, bright ill
should be added to
library on a regular
An Attractive Setti
Children are more li
libraries and actively
they are physically a
features have been i
Weinstein, 1986; Neu
Variety of Genres
Children also need to be exposed to a range of
language, topics, genres, and perspectives (McGee
& Richgels, 1996). They need books that reflect
the diverse, multicultural nature of our society,
books where they can learn about themselves and
others. The literature selection should include:
• Partitions: Book
at least two side
giving children
providing a quie
• Traditional stories: Familiar stories that are
found in every culture, including fables, folk
tales, myths and legends
• Ample space: T
accommodate a
• Fantasy: Stories that contain characters
who may have superhuman powers that
spark children’s imaginations
• Comfortable fu
bean bag chairs
to create a comf
• Realistic fiction: Stories with characters,
settings and events that could plausibly
happen in true life
• Open-faced an
Open-faced boo
of the books, an
the library; tradi
baskets hold mu
children to read
• Historical fiction: Stories set in the past,
accurately reflecting the time period in which
they occur
h many
n Library
t 300
t of a
s from a
• Biographies and autobiographies: Books
about the lives of everyday or famous people
• Literacy displa
from the public
message center
books), listening
• Information: Books that provide realistic,
accurate and authentic information
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High-Quality Books
To spark children’s interest and enthusiasm about
reading, books must catch children’s attention,
captivate their imaginations, and make them
want to return to their pages again and again.
Only high-quality books will achieve these goals
(Neuman, 1999). Rather than some old tattered
books from garage sales, books need to look
physically attractive, with fresh covers and
interesting, bright illustrations. Brand-new books
should be added to replenish the classroom
library on a regular basis.
a wide variety
ge of difficulty.
vely easy, and
children. These
” collection and
& Galda, 1994).
ollection is the
oughout the
he other hand,
n the topics to
current interests,
e year.
to a range of
pectives (McGee
s that reflect
our society,
themselves and
uld include:
aphies: Books
famous people
• Literacy displays and props: Book posters
from the public library, an author’s display,
message center (for favorite reviews of
books), listening corner, puppets, and flannel
ide realistic,
• Permanent “core” collection and regularly
replenished “revolving” collection
• Variety of genres
• Attractive, inviting setting
• Open-faced and traditional bookshelves:
Open-faced bookshelves display the covers
of the books, and naturally attract children to
the library; traditional bookshelves, carts, and
baskets hold multiple copies of books for
children to read to each other
in the past,
eriod in which
• Wide range of reading difficulty
Children are more likely to visit classroom
libraries and actively participate in them when
they are physically attractive. A number of design
features have been identified (Morrow &
Weinstein, 1986; Neuman & Roskos, 1992):
• Comfortable furnishings: Pillows, carpeting,
bean bag chairs, plants, and flowers all help
to create a comfortable atmosphere for reading
• 300-600 books
• New books with appealing covers
• Ample space: There should be room to
accommodate about 4 or 5 children at a time
owers that
Characteristics of a Literacy-Building
Classroom Library
An Attractive Setting
• Partitions: Bookshelves or other barriers on
at least two sides help to set the library apart,
giving children a sense of privacy and
providing a quiet, cozy setting for reading
tories that are
ng fables, folk
board encourage children to use the library
in many different ways, for quiet reflection
and reading, reenactments of stories, and
conveying messages to one another
Regular Reading Improves Literacy
and Comprehension
Time for Reading
Children need time to read independently every
day. Most authorities recommend about 20
minutes of uninterrupted time per day
to “get lost in a book” (Allington,
et al., 1996). Elster (1994) suggests
that teachers establish a daily
“sustained engagement time”
when all children are expected
to be engaged with books
in whatever manner
most comfortable
to them, whether
browsing through
books, looking
at pictures, or
reading the
library books alone
or with their classmates.
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Susan B. Ne u m
During independent reading time, reluctant readers
may be more likely to select a book if teachers
highlight particular books during daily read-aloud
sessions, or read favorite books at least three
times prior to placing them in the classroom
library (Martinez & Teale, 1988). Neuman and
Soundy (1991) found that storybook partnerships
— reading books with buddies — provided a
special enticement for sustained reading time and
conversations around books.
Re f e re n c e s
Conversations About Books
To foster a love of books, children need opportunities to talk about them. Studies suggest that
informal conversations around books, such as
book talks or book chats, enhance children’s
motivation to read. Wells and Chang-Wells (1992),
found that children develop more complex
understandings of stories by talking about their
books with others. During book chats, children
tell about an interesting event or fact in their
book, information about the author, and why
others might like to read it in 5-to-10 minute
conversations before the whole group. In the
course of retelling, children develop new knowledge and understandings, as well as gains in
• Allington, R., Guice, S., Mi
Li, S. (1996). “Literature-ba
schools.” In M.F. Graves, P
Taylor (Eds.), The First R: E
New York: Teachers Colleg
• Anderson, R., Wilson, P., &
“Growth in reading and ho
outside of school.” Readin
• Anderson, R.C. (1995). Res
Reading. Urbana IL: Cente
Special Invitational Confer
• Cullinan, B., & Galda, L. (1
Child (3rd edition). Orland
• Cunningham, A., & Stanov
reading does for the mind
22: 8-15.
• Elster, C. (1994). “I guess t
children’s emergent readin
Young Children, 49: 27-31
In Conclusion
• Fountas, I., & Pinnell, G.S.
Portsmouth, NH: Heinema
Research confirms what has often been written:
Children learn to read by reading.
Teachers can promote children’s involvement
with reading by reading to them daily and by
having them interact with books through the
extensive use of classroom libraries. With hundreds
of good books to read and time to read them,
children will get on the right road to reading
• Hack, C., Hepler, S., Hickm
Literature in the Elementar
New York: Holt, Rinehart
• Martinez, M. & Teale, W. (
kindergarten classroom.”
For more infor
your classroom l
To order a customiz
author studies, curr
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Page 1 (2,1)
Susan B. Ne u m a n
Dr. Susan B. Neuman is a Professor in the Curriculum, Instruction and Technology
in Education Department at Temple University, where she is Coordinator of the
Reading and Language Arts Graduate Program. Her research interests include early
literacy, parent involvement, and technology. Dr. Neuman has been co-editor of
the Journal of Literacy Research; her most recent books include: Children
Achieving: Best Practices in Early Literacy (1998, International Reading
Association), Single-Subject Experimental Design: Applications for Literacy (1995),
Literacy in the Television Age (Ablex, 1995), and Language and Literacy
in Early Childhood (Harcourt Brace, 1993).
The Impor
of the Clas
by Susan B. Neuman
A large, varied, and ofte
in the classroom is a vit
reading performance
Re f e re n c e s
• Allington, R., Guice, S., Michaelson, N., Baker, K., &
Li, S. (1996). “Literature-based curricula in high-poverty
schools.” In M.F. Graves, P. van den Broek, & B.
Taylor (Eds.), The First R: Every Child’s Right to Read.
New York: Teachers College Press: 73-96.
• Anderson, R., Wilson, P., & Fielding, L. (1988).
“Growth in reading and how children spend their time
outside of school.” Reading Research Quarterly, 23:
• Anderson, R.C. (1995). Research Foundations for Wide
Reading. Urbana IL: Center for the Study of Reading,
Special Invitational Conference.
• Cullinan, B., & Galda, L. (1994). Literature and the
Child (3rd edition). Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace.
• Cunningham, A., & Stanovich, K. (1998). “What
reading does for the mind.” American Educator ,
22: 8-15.
• Elster, C. (1994). “I guess they do listen: Young
children’s emergent readings after adult read-alouds.”
Young Children, 49: 27-31.
• Fountas, I., & Pinnell, G.S. (1996). Guided Reading.
Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
• Hack, C., Hepler, S., Hickman, J. (1993). Children’s
Literature in the Elementary School, (5th edition).
New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
• Morrow, L.M., & Weinstein, C. (1986). “Encouraging
voluntary reading: The impact of a literature program
on children’s use of library centers.” Reading Research
Quarterly, 21: 330-346.
• Morrow, L.M., & Smith, J. (1990). “The effects of group
setting on interactive storybook reading.” Reading
Research Quarterly, 25: 213-231.
• Neuman, S.B. (1999). “Books make a difference: A
study of access to literacy.” Reading Research
• Neuman, S.B., & Soundy, C. (1991). “The effects of
‘storybook partnerships’ on young children’s
conceptions of stories.” In J. Zutell & S. McCormick
(Eds.), Learner Factors/Teacher Factors: Issues in
Literacy Research and Instruction. Chicago, IL:
National Reading Conference: 141-148.
• McGee, L., & Richgels, D. (1996). Literacy’s
Beginnings. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
• Smith, C., Constantio, B., & Krashen, S. (1996).
“Differences in print environments for children in
Beverly Hills, Compton, and Watts.” Emergency
Librarian, 24: 8-10.
• Wells, G., & Chang-Wells, G. L. (1992). Constructing
Knowledge Together: Classrooms as Centers of Inquiry
and Literacy. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
• Martinez, M. & Teale, W. (1988). “Reading in a
kindergarten classroom.” Reading Teacher, 41: 568-572.
For more information on Scholastic’s wide variety of affordable paperbacks for
your classroom library, please call toll-free: 1-800-SCHOLASTIC (1-800-724-6527).
To order a customized list of books for your library, please e-mail your thematic, genre,
author studies, curriculum or leveling needs to Julie Kreiss at [email protected],
and we’ll send you a personalized list FREE.
Recent studies on literacy co
children have with books, t
reading performance by read
through the extensive use of
research on classroom librari
ings in the classroom:
• the benefits of surr
• the important role
• characteristics of a
• reading activities to
The More Time Child
the Better Readers Th
For virtually all children, the
their growth in reading skills
Stanovich, 1998). One study
4,000 to 12,000 new vocabul
result of book reading. Anoth
1988) found that the highest
classrooms were likely to read
minutes per day (21 minutes
(who read for less than one
Such striking findings might b
of “rare” words outside of th
children encounter in reading
activities. For example, Cunn
(1998) report that children’s b
rare words in them than adul
or the conversation of colleg