The Learning Environment Part 1: The Reading Area

The learning environment is a key element of a school’s curriculum design. The planning of a school’s physical space should coordinate with its goals and philosophy. The traditional classroom has all the student’s chairs facing the blackboard and the teacher. The classroom set up of a progressive school though are demarcated instead by different learning areas or decentralized, allowing the children and teacher to move around each area.

The learning areas are usually the following:

1. Reading Area

It houses the books of the classroom usually on low shelves with book covers out. A mat is usually found in front of the shelves in order for the students to assume any comfortable position while reading.

One of my frustrations when I was observing schools is the scarcity of books available in this area. I understand that books are a big investment and school directors often choose to keep the “good” books out of children’s reach for fear of them being torn or destroyed. However, the love of reading can only be developed if books are made available to the children. In our school, we set up a Library Program Fee that the parents pay in the beginning of the year. This allows the child to borrow a book from the Reading Area and the School Library. If their child did not lose or damage a book, the parents have an option of getting the fee back or donating it to the school to improve the Library facilities.

Book choices in this area stem from the class theme and students’ interests. There should also be a conscious effort to include culture based books. For example, a progressive Filipino classroom should have Filipino story books in its shelves. Adarna House and Tahanan Books have great Filipino writers under their roofs! The process of reading for a child begins in being read-aloud to. Jim Trelease has a great book called The Read Aloud Handbook that informs parents and teachers the value of reading out loud to children and lists down book suggestions by kind, level and age

The Reading Area may be a corner, a bookshelf or a box of books.

Your Reading Area is progressive if:

1. It has enough books for every child to choose 2-3 books to read (the number of students you have multiplied by 2)

2. It contains developmentally-appropriate books.

3. There are books related to the class’ theme and the children’s interests.

4. There are culture-based books.

5. The children can borrow the books.

6. A teacher is present to read the books to the children.

7. The children are allowed to TOUCH the books!