**I write this not to give an opinion on whether or not teachers should have fancy book corners, but to get a sense of what teachers think about reading corners and their impact in the classroom.**
Logging onto social media at this time of year is always fascinating as teachers are preparing their classrooms for September. One such preparation is the humble book corner.
Many classrooms across the country have designated corners (or spaces) in which children can sit and read. As the years go on, I see more and more elaborate and impressive looking reading corners. A reading corner can be the inside of a space ship; a rainforest habitat; or a desert island, allowing children to visit new a new destination in their own classrooms. Sometimes these corners are decorated with fairy lights, motivational posters, fluffy cushions and rugs to create a homely and comfortable space in which to read. Many reading corners I’ve seen are a real sight to behold.
My question is – Does a fancy reading corner have an impact upon a child’s enthusiam for reading?
What I’m asking here is not – Should book corners be fancy or not? Different teachers decorate their classrooms in different ways and I’m not about to join the great classroom display debate. What I’m asking is whether the reading corner itself has an impact on enthusiam for reading. Would children lack enthusiasm for reading if a classroom didn’t have a fancy book corner?
I have had fancy reading corners in the past and always loved decorating them based on different themes. However, when moving to my current classroom last year, I realised my book corner would have to be much simpler. I have no real corner that isn’t taken up by a door so finding space for books was a challenge. I remember feeling concerned about how plain it was, but had little choice in how it looked. It was what it was.
As the term went on, I realised my Year 6 class were accessing the books from the book corner regularly. Some asked to borrow books to read at home and others would recommend books we could include on the shelves. I’d do charity shop runs looking for books and come back with some to put on the shelves. The children would notice and start to read those too. I even had children wanting to tend to the book shelves, changing the non-fiction books to suit our topics using books from the library. To be honest, I was impressed but dumbfounded. It is a plain book case with nothing fancy about it at all yet the children were enticed by it and enthusuastic about selecting books from it.
It was only at the end of the second term, during an English lesson, that I realised why the children were so interested in the book corner. I was in the middle of modelling some writing. I picked a book up off the shelf, read out a sentence I loved and recreated my own version as part of our modelled text. I realised, upon taking the book off the shelf, that I’d said, ‘This book here is perfect for what we need… Listen to how suspense is created… Doesn’t this have you on the edge of your seat?’ Their eyes were wide as they listened to me.
Later, I reflected upon how many other times I’ve done this same thing. When I introduce a new class text, I’m positive, enthusiastic and go to the book case to show children other books I have by the same author. If I buy a new book, I show it to the children and make recommendations. If there are books I’m less keen on, I’m honest about it but ask the children to read them and make their own decisions. If we’re learning about a particular topic, I pick up the non-fiction books, pull out interesting facts and marvel at the design of the books themselves. I’ve recommended authors and genres and have dipped into many of those books, giving children a taste of what’s inside.
Bingo! The children in my class didn’t need a fancy reading corner because it was my enthusiasm for books that enticed them to our humble bookcase. This, in turn, sparked their enthusiasm and they started recommending books to each other or bringing books in from home to ‘lend’ to the shelves.
Returning to my question – Does a fancy reading corner have an impact upon a child’s enthusiam for reading? My answer is, not neccesarily.
If you don’t have a fancy book corner, don’t be disheartened. If you do, great! My point is this – regardless of what a book corner looks like, for it to have an impact upon enthusiasm for reading it needs to be used, and not just by the children. A teacher’s enthusiasm can be infectious and it is a teacher’s love of reading that, in my opinion, can have the biggest impact on creating a love of reading.
A book corner shouldn’t become part of the furniture or an extension of a classroom display. It can look wonderful, but if it isn’t being used, is it worth having? Equally, in a room where there is no fancy display, if the books aren’t being used, is the bookcase/shelf serving a purpose?
I think back to previous classrooms I’ve had. I’ve had beautiful reading corners that children rarely visited or only visited because I timetabled for them to visit them once a week. I’ve had children sit in the corners ‘reading’, yet still telling me they didn’t like reading and still rarely reading independently. Equally, I had a classroom once before that had nothing but a few shelves of books. Children hardly ever took books from those shelves and they sat gathering dust for a year.
I learnt that no matter what a book corner looks like, for some children there is no innate love of reading and they need more than a designated reading corner to develop enthusiasm. What they need is a culture for reading. Enthusiasm, encouragement, and exposure to books from the teacher, in my experience, has been more beneficial.
What do you think?