Book Brawls

My introduction of a graphic novel bin into the classroom this week has been the inspiration for this post. We had a lot of book fights in our classroom this week.

A book brawl, in my terms, is a desire to read a new book when someone else is already reading it. There’s no harm done, no names called, no punches thrown. It’s holding up a book and hearing two or more individuals say “I want that book!” … without any fighting going on. 

Some might say that book brawls could be avoided by clearly laying out rules and regulations. Delivering lessons about fairness and sharing. 

But, I say that book brawls are good. 

Graphic novels haven’t been the first things that have caused book brawls in my room. I witnessed them three years ago when I did my student teaching- I would read a book and leave it on the read aloud shelf in my co-op’s classroom. Students would race to see who could get the book the fastest.

They’ve continued in my own classroom- each time I get in a new order of books, there’s always tension in my room to see who will get the book first the moment we have any free minute to read. 

Donalyn Miller addresses this in Reading in The Wild . She holds lotteries for new books so each of her classes gets a fair shot at getting the new books. She also uses waiting lists.

I draw sticks when it’s time for independent reading, and if you happen to be drawn and your eye is on one or more of our new books, you’re in luck. Of course, once you’ve read it, you have the chance to share it and pass it on.

It’s never happened that I have had a student say “I have never gotten to read (such and such) a book!” The students respect their reading relationships with their classmates and they want others to experience an enjoyable book, so books get passed on and on, and sometimes around for a second or third round if they’re what a reader is craving. 

Some students try to hide the books in their desks or baskets if they really don’t want to give it up. Usually, other students have their eyes on the book and they will ask their turn for the treasure.

I love book release days and days when I get in new book orders as much as the students. 

In a nightmare world, I would hold up the new books and students would show zero interest in what I was showcasing.

But in my classroom, and many others, students anticipate the new book arrivals and can’t wait to see what they might be reading next. 

Book brawls show us that students desire to read. That they are craving something new. That they are interested in what we have to share. All eyes are on the books as I pull them out of a Scholastic or Amazon box.

Book brawls build community. Readers get to talk about what they want to read next, recommend new titles, and practice sharing and loaning to other readers.

When I put the books in my classroom, I don’t say they’re MY books. I tell students that they’re our books and we get to share them with each other. 

Book brawls indicate that we must be doing something right in regards to reading. Students will do anything to get their hands on a new book. In some places, that’s not the case.

When Tedd Arnold’s newest non-fiction Fly Guy came out last week, I new it was going to be a hot read. There were a few students I knew would go nuts for it, but in all fairness, I avoided putting it on anyone’s desk. I did the usual routine of drawing readers as they went to select books. I was expecting disappointment when the first reader got their hands on it, but instead, there was excitement. 

“Oooh! You are lucky!”

I sit right next to her so I will get a sneak preview!”

Now she can tell me what it’s all about before I read it!”

That book has been passed around ever since, and will remain a staple in the room until the next edition of Fly Guy comes out. 

I have a Scholastic box of brand new books I got at the end of the week. I have them stamped and sorted, and I’m ready for the book brawls when I put the books into the hands of excited readers on Tuesday. 

3 thoughts on “Book Brawls

  1. I love the term “book brawls”! Sharing new books with students is such a joy! My students also enjoyed “First Read Club,” an idea from Stephen Layne. We would open up the box during a recess and any interested students (there were lots) would preview or read new books and select one for independent reading.

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