This post originally appeared on the blog Buzzing with Ms. B.

Prepare yourself:
As you read this post, you may find yourself wanting to make a cup of coffee, curl up in a cozy blanket, and read a delicious book.
 
That’s because this post is all about a special spot in my school: our reading lounge.

Also, please prepare yourself because I am so very in love with this room that I took about 5,000 pictures. It was basically impossible to choose which 429 of them to include in this blog post. So be ready for photo overload. I can’t help it. It’s too beautiful!

 
Many of our students come from backgrounds where they don’t have access to books or reading at home. We want to give them the positive experiences they needed to become readers. To learn about this, my teachers and I did a book study on Stephen Layne’s Igniting a Passion for Reading. He introduced the idea of a reading lounge: a dedicated place for students to read and learn to love the act of reading. 

My teachers and I fell in love with the idea. Three years later, we are the proud owners of this gorgeous space! We, as a faculty, took a vote and decided to name it our Reading Garden, and, as you can see, we really went all in with that theme.

The whole space! Our reading lounge includes cozy seating and garden-themed decor to provide a positive experience with reading.

How do we use the reading garden?

We have a sign-up binder with a calendar on the counter. There are 30-minute time slots that teachers can sign up for at their convenience.

Our sign-in area and book return.Sign-in binder.Sign-in binder.

Comfy seating and cozy decor in our reading garden.Teachers bring their classes in to the lounge to read! Kids arrive with their books and choose a comfy spot.

During this time, many teachers work with a small reading group or literature circle, or they have reading conferences to talk to kids about their reading!

 
The basic expectations are that kids will read the whole time, keep their feet on the floor (not on the furniture), leave the furniture where it is rather than moving it around, only read in the lounge when a teacher is present, and respect the other readers by remaining reasonably calm and quiet. 

We’ve also talked about having the kids come share their own writing in the reading lounge as “guest authors”.

Comfy seating and cozy decor in our reading garden.
Comfy seating and cozy decor in our reading garden.

Our Buddy Books Lending Library in English! Each set includes at least 6 copies for kids to read with their friends. Comfy seating in our Reading Garden.Comfy seating in our Reading Garden.Comfy seating and rugs in our Reading Garden.

How did we furnish the reading lounge?

When we first started, we asked teachers for donations. Different faculty members brought in a couch, a loveseat, a couple lamps, and some little storage cubes. I also purchased camp chairs for five dollars each from a sports supply store and some beanbags from Target.

The school paid for our rugs from Lakeshore. We chose the leafiest, garden-iest rugs we could find!

READ letters decorate our shelves.

But we were just getting started. Our room was simply furnished and teachers were starting to bring their classes in to read, but we had big plans for that space! I wrote a grant sponsored by Price’s Creameries and we received $3000.00 to create our dream reading lounge!

Apparently, Price’s recorded a video of me on the day of this grant awards breakfast. So now I’m on a commercial on one of the Spanish TV channels! The kids keep looking at me funny when I walk into classrooms, and then they say, “Miss, I saw you on TV!”

We hired our incredible art teacher to paint the room in a garden theme, bought new couches and lamps, and of course, books! Those were for our Buddy Books Lending Library where kids can check out books to read with their friends in a sort of book club.  One of our lovely teachers made the adorable rag curtains, too.

Buddy Books Lending Library in Spanish!

After we finished all of our work with the grant, we had a “Grand Opening!” Each teacher received a beautiful garden-themed bookmark purchased by my assistant principal, and a handout full of ideas for using the lounge and the Buddy Books lending library. 

Our grand opening!
Materials from our grand opening!

Six tips for building your own reading lounge!

  • Consider your school’s layout and available space. Choose a space that will remain designated for the lounge. If your school grows in enrollment, will that room become a classroom? Our room was previously a large meeting space we rarely used. It was full of unused furniture.
  • Share your plans with interested faculty. Start with getting your boss on board. Referring to Stephen Layne’s book is a great way to do it. Then, add on other faculty who are interested. On our campus, about six teachers expressed interest in brainstorming and planning our lounge. We largely communicated via email about the project. 
  • Start with what you’ve got. Ask your faculty to donate items they no longer need. Worn sofas and well-loved lamps can take on a whole new purpose in your reading lounge!
  • Look for grant opportunities. This is a great project for a local business to fund for a school in the area.
  • Mark the space! We decided to paint the room so it was clear to future faculty and administration that this was a special space and not just a store-room for extra furniture. We want our room to last!
  • Have a grand opening! This is valuable because it gets teachers to come to the lounge and think about how they can use it for their kids! Coffee and donuts aren’t expensive, but they go a long way in building excitement!

  Our Reading Garden: A Space for Reading

Want a guided tour? Check out the video! 

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Chrissy Beltran is an elementary school instructional coach who spends her school days working with teachers to engage their students in quality reading and writing experiences, and her evenings creating resources to support teachers in planning and delivering exciting lessons! She also makes time for a handful of hobbies: reading, gardening, walking the dogs, and teasing her husband. Check out Chrissy’s TpT store, blog, Facebook, and Instagram for more teaching ideas (with an occasional side of sass).