On Tuesday of this week, CCBC opened its doors once again. And once again, as I entered, it felt like home. I immediately spotted some friends, and we began having conversations about the books we read and were hoping to read. Staff members (familiar faces) who weren’t busy at the cash register mingled with the customers, listening and offering suggestions, getting to know their clients. People sat on comfortable chairs, perusing possible new purchases. Although perhaps a bit smaller, the wonderful children’s section was there, its shelves filled with a mixture of the best in new publications and beloved classics.
As I walked around and talked with people, I began to think about the lessons that could be applied to the classroom, especially reading and writing workshop. As teachers, we want to find our students’ strengths and build from that. In redesigning the store, the owner and staff of CCBC started with what they knew was most successful for them – the children’s and fiction sections. We all know how effective book talks and teacher and student recommendations are in the classroom. At CCBC, they decided to concentrate on the “Staff Picks” shelves instead of just stocking all the best sellers. Nothing beats a personal recommendation. But perhaps the biggest lesson is finding and growing that sense of community. As the school year begins, take the time (and it may take some time) to build a classroom community. Students will have more ideas, more energy, and more sense of pride in their work. And who knows, as with CCBC, the community created may just help a struggling or reluctant writer survive.