Grade 1 Readers, Neighborhood Changemakers

In September, grade 1 teachers Betsy Gianakas and Caroline Lynett introduced their students to a classroom routine they would continue for the whole year: recording the titles of each book they read at school in a book log. Each girl was given her own book log, and the teachers demonstrated how the students would record the title and date after completing a book. I imagine that as the girls looked at the piece of paper with one empty line after another running down the page, they had different reactions.
There was probably a student who looked at the book log and thought it didn’t have enough blank lines for all of the books she would read throughout the year. This is the same student who raised her hand and asked if she could have a second book log. This question raised the eyebrows of another student who sat flooded with uncertainty that she could read enough books to complete the log. Ms. Gianakas and Ms. Lynett responded by assuring all their students that they would support them as they worked toward their goals.

As the year wore on and students started to see book titles fill the empty lines of their book logs, individual goals morphed into a team goal. The class started to get excited about the idea that eventually every girl would have completed an entire book log which when added together would total almost 400 books. They wondered how long it would take and how they might celebrate their accomplishment when they achieved it. They began encouraging each other, counting up all the books they had read and talking about how each book made them that much smarter. They enjoyed taking out their book logs to remember stories they had read and to look for book titles that appeared on several girls’ sheets. They planned what they might read next, getting ideas from each other. Every girl was actively participating, from the girl who was reading challenging chapter books to the struggling reader who persisted one sentence at a time.

It was the week of Valentine’s Day when grade 1 students recorded the last book title on the final book log. They had done it! Now, how should they celebrate? Josie Fairman had an idea. During a team meeting that week, she suggested that they should give books to other kids to get them excited about reading too. Everyone agreed a book drive was the perfect way to mark their accomplishment, and they decided to invite the grade 2 class to join them. The two grades came up with a top ten list of why they love books, but stopping at ten proved too difficult and it became a top ten plus one list. After listing all of their reasons, which ranged from “books help us to learn” to “books help us sleep,” the students wrote, “Let’s pay it forward and share the joy of reading with others.”

The students plan on giving their books to The Children’s Home of Pittsburgh & Lemieux Family Center. They are excited that a child who has been struggling with illness might pick up a book donated by them and experience reason #10 on their list, “books can cheer you up!” Reading books not only supported our grade 1 students as they developed as readers and writers, but it also developed their belief that they can affect positive change in the world by sharing their joy and passion for reading with other children.