A tome of course is basically a BIG book, suggesting to me the range of ways books and other reading materials can be BIG in a classroom.
In my little play on words, my interest of course is in keeping books and reading prominent and present in classrooms from the first day of school. Unfortunately, I’ve been in too many rooms that have a very nice collection of what might be delightful books, but nobody actually reads them. In circumstances like those, no matter how large the books are, they aren’t BIG in the children’s experience.
To set a tone for success in our classrooms, I recommend we start with a terrific collection of good tomes and other reading materials that actually get read. To establish such a collection, I recommend we make librarians some of our very best friends, or at least among our most trusted and honored colleagues. Librarians, public and school, are reservoirs of rich reading resources.
As teachers, we’re often equipped with text books to give our students for each subject. A brief look at any textbook will showcase just how many fabulous and fascinating books were carefully read and analyzed in order for the authors to put together a text for yearlong learning. And within the bibliographies of each of these textbooks, we can find the authors’ sources of inspiration.
Often, however, this pre-digestion of original books of theories, practices, resources and so forth is actually part of what keeps textbooks from being anybody’s favorite read. It’s rare when students find anything special about which to start a conversation, share a personal insight or research more eagerly by reading the assigned pages of a textbook.
On the other hand, a solid and inviting bookshelf containing a growing subject-focused set of books, magazines, monographs and web links offers depth and breadth typically unavailable through textbooks. This mini-research library sets a tome (ahem!) for the possibility of personally surprising adventures and small group discoveries of the talented people, magical concepts, fascinating discoveries and important events that make up most of the reasons for teaching a subject in the first place. The kids can and will help build this treasure if we just ask.
This collection, initially came from reading professional journals, talking with colleagues and supervisors, setting our subject-focused radars to be open to finding the classic, as well as fresh books and ancillary materials everywhere we go. The result just might, reader by reader, create from day one, class meetings that result in engagements above and beyond what is possible from the lock-step reading of a single text.
Time is the other factor in the equation. It is the currency we invest in what we and our students do. Students need to have BIG blocks of time to collaborate, explore and discover, and enter the zone of unhurried and uncrowded learning that classroom text sets nurture.
If teachers and students invest that currency in inquiring, researching and reading the riches of our subject areas, we will have positioned ourselves to set the perfect tome for success throughout this new academic year.