6 Tips for Building and Using Lit Kits in your Classroom

As an English teacher and a high school librarian I want to instill a true love of reading in my students.  I want students to find a book that they can connect with and fall in love with.  Nothing makes me happier than having a student tell me that the book I recommended was the first book they enjoyed.

The other English teachers and I have worked really hard to develop a set of Lit Kits for each grade level at our school.  It's been a process of trial and error and we have switched out titles through the years and updated the kits as books get lost or damaged.  In general, each kit has 5-7 titles and 5-6 copies of each title.  There are 30-32 books in each kit.  I preview / 'book talk" each book for my students and then let them pick any book from the kit.

The primary focus for using the kits is ENJOYMENT and promoting a LOVE OF READING.  We give students time each class to read and do not require daily summaries, lit logs or a reading journal. We monitor accountability through group meetings.  Students who are reading the same title meet once a week to discuss their book.  I give my students book marks and on the back they can jot down ideas for their discussion as they are reading.  Grab a FREE set of bookmarks HERE.

This is key! These kits are not about the books that kids should read, but rather the books you know they will WANT to read.  I pick books I know that my students will love and my list might end up being very different from your list. I have a variety of genres in each kit.  Grab a list of the Lit Kit books I use HERE Keep in mind what my students enjoy, might not work for yours.

All of our kits have a non-fiction book that my students can choose.  It is amazing how many of them have never read a non-fiction book and it is wonderful how many are surprised to find themselves enjoying it as they read.  Often, once they read one non-fiction book, they'll end up reading many more in our collection.

It is important to provide a variety of levels of books - at least one lower level book and at least one higher level book.  (This will really vary depending on your students.)  Students need to feel like there's at least one book that's accessible to them in each kit.  When I preview / book talk the books to the kids I usually say something along the lines of "If reading isn't your favorite thing to do..." or "If you don't have a lot of time for reading right now..." or "If you're looking for a more challenging read...".  I just like to give the students options but I do not want to assume that I know what book is best for them.  Student choice is paramount to the success of the Lit Kits.

It's important to me that my students see themselves in the books they read, so as much as possible I include books that represent a diverse range of authors and characters and will appeal to kids from across a wide spectrum.  As a Canadian teacher I also try to highlight Canadian and Indigenous authors and stories.

I give the students class time to read, class time to discuss and class time to think about a final project.  I do not require daily summaries or reflections, but I do ask each group to present to the class their review of the book (without giving away the ending!). These book reviews are an informal presentation - every member of the group must contribute something, they have to share the theme, and what they did or did not like about the book.  Because of the book review presentations students often ask to read other titles from the kit when they are done with their original book.

I know many of you are reading this and thinking... but what if the students don't read the book? How do you know they have read it?  I monitor the students' weekly discussions with their group and can easily figure out if someone hasn't read the book just be eavesdropping.  I have read most of the books in the kits so a quick conversation will also let me know what is going on.  IF students are NOT keeping up with their book I can have a chat with them and figure out what their challenges are.  If necessary we can switch books or I can find a way to help them get where they need to be. If you are required to have students keep a reading log or reading journal check out my Reading Journal for ANY Novel Study and Lit Circles.

 I think the key to success with Lit Kits is giving students CHOICE and having a project to wrap up their reading.  I like to let my students know their options as we START reading so that they can keep it in mind as they are working through the novel.  We either do a NOVEL INQUIRY PROJECT or use one of the PROJECTS for ANY NOVEL that I have created.

We store our Lit Kit collections in large plastic containers that are labelled with the grade level and kit number.  We have color coded each grade and have therefore color coded each book.  For example all of our 10th grade books are coded with blue stickers and then number according to which kit they belong to.  We have 6 kits for 10th grade so a book with a blue sticker and a #4 is from 10th Grade Lit Kit 4.

Also check out the great ideas from my fellow Secondary English Coffee Shop colleagues that can be used with ANY NOVEL.


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