One of the ways that we support our youngest readers in getting started with the workshop is by using a device called Personal Readers. We got this idea from Donald Bear about 10 years ago.
Personal Readers are simply small, curated collections of familiar materials packaged in folders for students to read. Our children are able access these materials easily and confidently. They’re able to practice the early literacy cornerstones of concepts of print skills, sight word practice, fluent reading, and phonics practice. Our kinders are also able to build stamina for the Reading Workshop!
The Personal Readers contain a carefully selected core of materials including:
- class “list” of photos of their classmates with names beneath each photo
- our school song (we begin teaching this nearly the first day, so that kinders can become participants in our school-wide assemblies where this song is ALWAYS sung)
- class stories about activities — essentially what we used to call Language Experience Stories
- familiar poems or chants from the class repertoire
The Personal Reader itself consists of a two pocket folder with brads in the middle. The pockets hold tools such as sight word cards, decodable sentence cards and whatever else might exist in that particular classroom. Also, items from the Special Services teacher, ESL teacher or other specialist can live in here, customizing it for the student. The brads in the center hold 5-6 clear sheet protectors. Each of the charts, poems, or stories in the Personal Reader is housed inside of plastic sheet protector sleeves. This allows students to mark the sleeve using dry-erase markers, erase, and start again. It also allows the teacher to quickly and efficiently trade out old materials for new ones, keeping the Personal Readers appropriate for the kinders as they grow.
The Personal Reader live in the browsing boxes or bags for Reading Workshop. When workshop time begins, the students have text that is appropriate and accessible to them.
Here’s a peek at a few of the readers: