I noticed last year that I had lots of nonfiction books and magazines that really were not being read or even looked at during reading workshop. I tried a variety of ways to increase their use, but only a few high interest books and magazines were read on a regular basis. In order to have the books read more frequently I decided to apply for a grant from the National Center for Family Literacy for $500.00 to create take home Wonder Literacy Bags for children to share with their families.
I spent last summer gathering many of my nonfiction books and magazines. I then organized them into themes. After establishing the themes, I pulled in some fiction books that also went with the themes. Finally, I spent time researching Wonders at Wonderopolis to incorporate into the bags. I spent the $500.00 on plastic page protectors for the Wonders and to purchase books to fill in holes. Originally I was going to use much of the money on the bags themselves, but I was fortunate enough to have bags donated.
Each bag consists of three to eight books and magazines and one to five Wonders. The books are on a different levels. The magazines are Zoobooks, My Big Backyard, and Ranger Rick. Originally I was concerned about the readability of the books, but in the letter to parents I stated that many of the books and Wonders may be too difficult for students to read. I encouraged this to be a family learning experience where parents may need to read the materials to their children. I shared different ways parents could encourage their children to "read" the books. As the year has progressed, and we have spent more time with nonfiction, students have had experience reading nonfiction texts in different ways. Also, I encouraged families to visit the Wonders together. Children can also listen to the Wonders being read to them if they have internet access at home.
Another component to the Wonder Literacy Bags is to have children digitally write about what they read, learned, and are still wonder about after reading from the bags. They blog at our class Kidblog site. If they don't have internet access at home, they were given a journal to write their learning and wonders in, and then they blog at school (this has been a bit slow, because I don't have the time to devote to help these students at school).
Students often come in excited to share their learning with the class. When we are having a class discussion, we often have experts about the topic because of something they learned from one of the bags. Friday is our "switch day" and the students are always excited to pick a new bag. I often hear things like, "where's the parrot bag?" or "who has the snake bag, because I want it next?"
I have approximately 35 bags for 27 students. This allows for students who forget to bring their bag back and allows students to choice their own bag each week, rather than one being assigned to them. Some of the bag topics are:
- animals that hop
- baby animals
- farm animals
- saving the earth
- American symbols
- ocean life
- fairy tales
- rain forest