“I didn’t do my reading homework last night,” one of my second-grade students said to me, sheepishly. Before I jumped to conclusions, I decided to probe for more details.
“I don’t have any books at home.”
Well. That’s a pretty legit reason.
I had been asking my students to read every night and it had never occurred to me that they might not have enough books in their home. These kids wanted to read, but didn’t have access to them! I knew that I needed to quickly remedy this situation. However, I wanted to ensure that I didn’t lose my entire collection of picture books as well. That’s when I came up with the idea of Take Home Book Bags.
I put together bags of books with supplemental materials, each centered around a theme or author. My students would choose one bag to sign out at the beginning of each week. They would take the bag home and share it with their families, before returning it at the end of the week. My goal with the book bags was not only for my students to read books, but to spend time with their families as well.
So, what’s in each Take Home Book Bag? I start with Store More Book Pouches from Really Good Stuff. They are very durable and the materials all stay inside. Ziploc bags or canvas bags also work well. Each bag gets a label so that it’s easy to locate on the bookshelf.
In each bag there are 3-4 picture books that relate to the bag’s theme. And no, I don’t go to Barnes and Noble to get hardcover books for this! I use older books or duplicates from my classroom library. I also purchase used books from local library book sales or yard sales (25 cents each!). It doesn’t cost me a lot and it’s not a big deal if they get lost or ruined at home.
The bag also includes a writing journal. Students have the opportunity to respond to short writing prompts that I’ve created to go along with the bag’s theme. Each bag has three prompts, so they are able to choose which one they want. I put together the journal by printing out pre-made pages and binding it together (a composition book or spiral notebook also work).
In the journal, I start with a sign-in sheet. My students feel very important when they “sign-in” to use the writing journal and they like to see who else has checked out this particular bag.
After the sign-in sheet, I include a list of questions that the students can choose from. I encourage them to discuss their answers with their families before writing it down. I also leave room for them to draw a picture! Since every student uses the same journal, it gives students the opportunity to read their peers’ work.
In each bag, I place a game for students to enjoy with their families. My intent is to provide an interactive experience. To make it even easier, the activity usually requires minimal or no materials. I print the direction and game pieces (if applicable) on card-stock and laminate it. this way it can be used multiple times without being crushed or ripped or needing to be replaced. I also place the game pieces in a zip-up pencil pouch (or Ziplock bag) to keep them all together.
I also provide a list of activities for students to do with their families that relate to the bag’s theme. These are just simple ideas to get families interacting and having fun together!
While I expect my students to read every night, I do not make the Take Home Book Bags mandatory. Before I being the projects, I send home a permission slip with students that describes the project and what is involved, if they choose to participate.
If a family chooses to participate, I do not require that they complete all the activities in the bag. My main goal is to provide them with books. The writing journal, games and activities are just added fun!
Take Home Book Bags quickly became one of my students’ favorite activities! They look forward to picking out a new bag every week and taking it home to share with their families.
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