The Missouri Reader Vol. 40, Issue 1 - Page 41


In the five years I have been teaching first grade, I have learned the importance of students reading at school and at home. To encourage reading at home, I use reading book bags in the classroom and at home. Book bags allow parents to be included in the learning and teaching process by working with their child in reading. Waldbert, Meyers, and Meyers (2006) stated, “An appropriate method to bridge home and school is by involving parents and family members of young schoolchildren in the facilitation of their children’s emergent literacy skills” (p. 774 ).

Each individual student is given a book bag at the start of the school year that contains DRA leveled books. Each book bag contains three to five books and a reading book log for parents to log the books the students have read, as well as who listened to the reader and the date of the reading.

A good source to obtain readily available books for the bags is the reading A to Z website ( The site does require a yearly subscription, but it offers unlimited access to resources, in depth guided reading lessons, and assessments. The books on the site are leveled by commonly used leveling systems. The books can be printed and made into books that can go home with students in their book bags. I collect the books at the end of the year and reuse them.

The book bags are also used in the classroom during small group reading instruction. The students read a familiar book or a book we have previously read in whole group time, and then I introduce a new book to the students. The familiar book and the new book all go home in the book bag for repeated reading to improve not only fluency, but comprehension.

The book bag is a good tool for young learners. The book bag encourages reading at home and involves parents. Student motivation is increased by a prize incentive of reading from their book bag and recording the readings in their book log. Pachtman and Wilson (2006) found reading for homework and the use of book logs were two strategies to increase a student’s motivation to read. Also, parents can get a good idea of what their child is reading at school and provide the level of text that will encourage their young reading abilities and allow for teaching points at home. Students also get extra practice with fluency and sight words; both important key components to reading. As Routman (2003) stated, “students need lots of time to practice reading” (p. 161), and the book bags provide them with the books and opportunities to read.


Pachtman, A.B., & Wilson, K.A. (2006). What do the kids think? The Reading Teacher, 59(7), 680-684.

Routman, R. (2003). Reading essentials: The specifics you need to teach reading well. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Waldbart, A., Meyers, B., & Meyers, J (2006). Invitations to families in an early literacy support program. The Reading Teacher, 59(8), 774-785.

Hope Berry teaches first grade at Willow Springs Elementary School in Missouri. She taught second grade for two years before having the opportunity to teach first grade - her true passion in teaching. She obtained her BS in education from SBU-Mountain View and is enrolled in the MS Literacy Program out of Springfield with the MSU campus.


Book Bags in the First Grade Classroom

Hope Berry

Classroom Close-up