A Reading Principal’s Office

The principal that hired me as a teacher back in 2000 made it a point to read aloud in my 5th and 6th grade classroom. I got to see him as more than just the principal. I observed how he managed a classroom, facilitated discussions and integrated different subject areas as he shared quality literature with students. These are some of the essential components of a read aloud.

When I became an elementary principal twelve years later, I made a point to follow his example as a reading principal. For instance, I have heavily invested in books, shelves and other materials in my office. As a principal, I don’t have time to stroll by the library and pick up a book to read aloud in a classroom. I have to have materials ready and a schedule to follow to be intentional about sharing great books with classrooms.

Before the school year started, I took a purchase order with me to a local children’s book store, The Book Look in Plover, WI. I sat and took notes while the owner, Mary Lou Manske, rattled off one book after another that she felt were read aloud-worthy. Below is the spreadsheet that I developed to organize my read alouds by grade level and subject area.


The four categories on top are based on Regie Routman’s resource Teaching Essentials. She agrees that read alouds are teachable moments that require planning and intent. Working in a school with a lot of diversity, it is vital that I represent multiple cultures when I share important literature with students. To note: This spreadsheet is a living document. As I find better read alouds I switch out books. However, I am getting to the point where a new list will be needed.

Having these books at the ready is necessary. With the help of my custodian, I have my read alouds on display in my office.

Some of the students’ favorites adorn these shelves.

The books I am currently reading aloud in classrooms sit in mounted magazine racks for easy access.

Novels and more picture books have a home on this shelf.

Anyone who enters my office can look around and immediately know how much I value literacy. Much of my dispositions go back to the early mentoring I received from my first principal. I hope that same attitude is made evident by me with the faculty in my own school.

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is an 18-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th-grade teacher in Rudolph, WI. He now serves as an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District (http://mineralpointschools.org/). Matt also teaches online graduate courses in curriculum design and instructional leadership for the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD (www.ascd.org) and Lead Literacy (www.leadliteracy.com).

11 thoughts on “A Reading Principal’s Office”

  1. Fantastic post. I love what you have created in your school and I am sure your faculty, students, and parents feel the same way. It is a great way to build community.


    1. Hi Jim, thanks for the comment. It has been helpful in getting to know the kids and teachers more quickly as a new principal. BTW, I thought I was following you on Twitter but I wasn’t. I am now!


  2. I love reading your posts too! Your literacy efforts are so deliberate. I’m going to emulate this strategy next year in my first year as a principal. I’m so glad you are in my PLN. Thanks for this.


  3. What you’re doing is really wonderful. My son’s class has 30 minutes of the teacher reading aloud while the kids knit at the end of the day. It’s so vital for kids to see adults valuing what’s inside books. I blog about tech and kids, and I wonder your thoughts on kids books on the iPad or Kindle. (I’m a traditionalist when it comes to kids and screens, much to my son’s frustration!)


    1. That’s very cool, knitting while being read aloud to. Could really help the active kids, especially boys listen longer as well as work on their fine motor skills.

      The jury is still out on eReaders, in my opinion. Our school has been trying them out iPads with teachers as a tool for intervention. Reading eBooks on it is definitely engaging for our more reluctant readers. Many are finding the iPads are better for math than reading, but it is early. We didn’t even consider Kindle Fires. As resolution is now better on the new iPads, I would think the reading experience would benefit as well.


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