For six years of her life, I have provided my daughter choice when it comes to selecting books to read.
At the public library we visit often, she will grab a book that interests her, sit down on the ground, and slowly, carefully study the book page-by-page to decide if it will make it into the check out pile.
There are no levels or discussions about letters. There are no rules or boundaries. (I'll be honest. There have been an occasional eye roll at a book selection ... but I can only take so much Barbie or My Little Pony. Yes, I know that I shouldn't book shame...)
Choice, interest, motivation, and recommendations drive our 100+ books checked out from our library.
And this is why a conversation that happened during our first grade meet the teacher meeting at our new neighborhood school surprised me ...
After briefly meeting the teacher and unpacking her backpack, our next task was to select three books for her book bin from the classroom library. I thought this was an awesome idea as I now know that her teacher values books and provided us an opportunity to check out the library together and select new books for her book bin.
We walked over to the classroom library and I happily smiled at all the books in baskets organized by genre, topics, book series, and authors. A great selection of books for her multiage classroom.
She stopped and looked at the book baskets and looked at me. She then whispered, "But I don't know what level they are."
My heart dropped, but I quickly reminded her how we select books.
"Find a book that interests you. Here's a nonfiction book basket! You are really into learning new information. What about this favorite character? Remember, there are three ways to read a book. Let's open this book up -- oh, you can read the words in this one. And this one you could read the pictures ... "
The fixed level cloud lifted, she pushed me aside and got to work browsing the library. She took her time. She selected an old favorite, a new-to-us book, and one that was just added to her to be read list that morning. Three books that interested her. Three books that she wants to read. Three books selected by choice. Then she added them to her book bin to start the year with excitement.
Later I thought about this brief, but powerful encounter, wondering why she had questioned her book selecting abilities ... then I squirmed remembering her kindergarten room with a small library organized only by level -- one basked per F&P gradient letters. This is what she remembers from her kindergarten classroom library experience: Picking books from a leveled basket.
For six years of her life, I have provided my daughter choice when it comes to selecting books to read. And I am thrilled to know that she can continue selecting books by choice this year in first grade.