What are you doing to put books into children’s hands?

What are you doing to put books into children's hands?

 Carol Lauritzen – President Elect


I am currently reading the book Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. The book is a wonderful read for its ideas, its style and its use of language. I found this book in the little library that I have in my front yard. I hope whoever left it took an equally enjoyable book. This book caused me to reflect on how we readers choose books. I often rely on the recommendations of friends or on lists of award-winning books. But another important factor is accessibility. A book that is easily obtained is more likely to be read. That is why I have a little library in my yard. It is used by both children and adults in my neighborhood and by me!

According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, 42% of America’s children grow up in families that don’t have enough money for basic needs. These families aren’t buying books and many live where going to libraries isn’t easy or possible. As literacy educators, we see books as a basic need. Numerous studies show that access to books, especially book ownership, has a significant impact on reading achievement.  Studies by Allington & McGill-Franzen have shown that giving children 12 books for summer reading can stop the summer reading slide. The research compendium published by Scholastic cites many studies that show the positive relationship between books in the home and reading achievement. One finding that was particularly impressive was that books in the home is a higher predictor of college graduation than the education level of the parents. The study also found that putting books in the homes of those that have the least has the most impact.

These research findings give a strong support for the projects of many of our local councils that are actively giving books to children. My own local council (Mountain Valleys) regularly gives away books at the food bank, Santa Mall and school resource fairs. We also prepared Family Literacy Bags to provide books for summer reading. Putting books in children’s hands is a key step to a lifelong reading journey.

What is your council doing to get books into children’s hands and homes?  Send me your stories at clauritz@eou.edu so we can feature your council’s projects in a future ORA blog. 


A Message From ORA President Elect:

Today I read two blog posts that were wonderful reminders for the start of the school year.  It is so easy to be caught up in the details of organizing a classroom, putting up decorations, and getting our physical surroundings in order that we may not take the time to consider and reconsider our goals as teachers, especially teachers of literacy.  As Mark Condon reminds us, our goal is to have students who choose to read as a lifelong endeavor. While we often feel the pressures of Common Core Standards and scores on state assessments, these are short term goals.  What we really want is to create citizens that use literacy as a way of being thoughtful participants in our democracy.  We need to be cautious so that we do not sacrifice this long-term goal for short term results.  Paul Thomas reminds us that the opening day of class is to learn who we are and to develop the concept of why we are here. As teachers, we need to remind ourselves that the relationships with our students are of prime importance. As much as we teach what we know, we teach who we are and what we value. If we value literacy, we give time in our classroom for read-alouds, time to talk about books, and time for students to read self-selected books. These books need to be ones that engage the students at a difficulty level that matches their abilities.  May your year be rich and fulfilling as you help students find just the right book that continues them on their paths to lifelong literacy.


–Carol Lauritzen

ORA president-elect

Do you dread sending your students on the bus at the end of the day because you know that it is going to be a disaster?

I don't know about you, but some days I dread sending my students home at the end of the day because I know that the bus ride is not going to be a pleasant one (for a multitude of reasons). But what can we as teachers do to help the bus drivers do their miraculous job (a job that you couldn't pay me enough money to do!) Well, one Reading Council helped a school find a solution by trying something a little different.

Amity, Oregon is a small school located within the boundaries of the Vineyard Valley Reading Council. The Amity School District is a rural school with students that ride the bus from all over and some ride for over an hour each way! (Again, thank goodness for our bus drivers!) In order to make the bus ride a little more palatable, the teachers paired with Vineyard Valley Reading Council to create book bags that would be housed on the bus. They roped in one willing bus driver, who was willing to try new things. When that was agreed upon, off they went on this new adventure together.

With all participants willing to give it a try, the teachers got together with donated fabric and people with sewing skills to create some darling bags that housed 3 different grade ranges of books (K-2, 3-7, 8-12).

The making of the books bags in action. Who in your circle has some sewing skill that can help with this? 

Jen Schulze- Vice President; Vineyard Valley Reading Council.



What a great use of vinyl to label each of the bags. 

Once the bags were made and labeled, now came the fun part… deciding what books to put in!

Diana Sohn loading up the bus bags with books.

Once they were created, labeled and stuffed, it was then time to ship them off to the bus. The bus driver was in need of a system in which the students were able to access the books, so she had an older student volunteer to pass the books back and be in charge of making sure they were returned to the correct spot when the students got off the bus. She also needed a crate with a lid to keep the bags in so that when the bus went around corners the books wouldn't go flying. 


They tried a couple of different crates, but the one with a lid worked the best for this rural bus driver.

A group of responsible 5th graders are in charge of checking the bags for any issues or needs. When that is communicated, the bags are refilled. What a great opportunity to fill it with books that the students have book talked the week before!

This system has grown in Amity to include all six of their busses. The district has yet to see a reduction in bus behavior referrals using this system because it was only one bus.  The bus driver did report that the students were happier, less whining and bickering.There has been chatter amongst other teachers in neighboring districts to see if they can use this system with some of their bus drivers. Would this be a viable option at your school? What a wonderful opportunity to make friends with your bus drivers. Again, that is a job that you could not pay me enough to do. Try this with one willing bus driver to see if it works. After all, the journey to progress starts with one baby step (and a bus driver who is willing to try anything!). The books were $1 deal books purchased through Scholastic Dollar Books Website

If you are interested in making these bags, contact Diana Sohn. She can send you in the right direction. Happy reading!



Read Alouds

   In a discussion that could have lasted all weekend, teachers from around the state gathered at the Oregon Reading Association Leadership meeting held in Albany, Oregon. The discussion at hand was about read alouds for each grade. We know that there are a tremendous amount of read alouds that have been around for ages. What are some of the read alouds that have been recently published that you enjoy reading to your students?

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