Topics: Featured Reading Independent Reading

Building a Library to Support a Purposeful, Joyful Volume of Reading

Lainie Augensen

by Lainie Augensen

May 16, 2023
Building a Library to Support a Purposeful, Joyful Volume of Reading

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Posted in: Aha! Blog > Wit & Wisdom Blog > Reading Independent Reading > Building a Library to Support a Purposeful, Joyful Volume of Reading

This month, we turn our attention to the Volume of Reading libraries in Wit & Wisdom®. The Volume of Reading text lists were developed to extend students’ knowledge on the topics of each module. As the school year closes, many educators may be considering how to add to these libraries for next school year or which texts to recommend to students for summer reading. Lainie Augensen, a Great Minds® implementation leader, shares some practical guidance for growing Volume of Reading libraries at any school site.

A Volume of Reading

As a child, I often went to the library with my mother and filled a big paper grocery bag with books to take home. I would also hide our class novel under my desk to read ahead. I have always loved books and like many educators, my love of reading inspired my decision to pursue teaching. I came to the classroom eager to show my students how joyful reading can be.

As an educator, I have learned that students need opportunities to read a volume of texts based on individual choice and teacher guidance. David Liben explains that reading is “where stamina, efficacy and persistence develop, where vocabularies and knowledge bases can be rapidly expanded through contextualized exposure to lots of words, and where students learn the sheer pleasure of becoming lost in the printed world of ideas” (8). More than mere fun, reading widely on engaging topics helps students succeed as independent readers.  

Wit & Wisdom modules include Volume of Reading (VOR) text lists. Teachers can use these flexibly to support students in becoming savvy readers. Rather than replace core texts, VOR texts add to knowledge that students build in each module. Wit & Wisdom’s curated VOR text lists support not only module content and themes but also purposeful and joyful reading by cultivating these qualities.

  1. Confidence. When students have background knowledge on a topic, they better comprehend what they read, even when tackling challenging texts independently. Background knowledge can also instill purpose and excitement into students’ reading.
  2. Choice. By offering wide-ranging, high-quality reading materials related to module topics, VOR texts help students gain the agency to explore the texts they find most compelling. Marzano explains that “[c]hoice in the classroom has … been linked to increases in student effort, task performance, and subsequent learning.” VOR texts offer students an opportunity to make meaningful choices about their own learning.  

  3. Community. To create a community of readers, teachers can encourage students to share their reading with peers. This allows students to help each other better understand how reading can be purposeful and fun.  

Building a Library

Wit & Wisdom’s VOR text lists reside in Appendix D of the Teacher Edition, and we encourage educators to continually add to their school or classroom libraries. Providing additional mirrors—opportunities for students to see their own experiences reflected in literature—and windows—views into unfamiliar experiences—that enrich Wit & Wisdom instruction will extend students’ knowledge on module themes and topics.  

Educators might consider these questions as they expand their VOR libraries: 

Question 1: Which Wit & Wisdom topics do students want to read more about? 

Why Next Steps

Readers add to what they know about the world via their reading materials. Texts on topics of personal interest can help students further explore their passions.

While students are more likely to enjoy reading about topics of interest, they should also use their background knowledge during independent reading to build confidence, deepen vocabulary, and help make inferences. 

  1. Survey students to find out which Wit & Wisdom topics they find most exciting.
  2. Identify the texts already available in your classroom or school libraries that align to module topics and themes.
  3. Prioritize adding more texts to the libraries that build on Wit & Wisdom topics, especially those not already represented in the libraries.
  4. Organize and display these texts by module to highlight opportunities for further reading.
  5. Continue to note topics or themes that lead to lively discussion during Wit & Wisdom instruction. 


Question 2: Which texts offer powerful mirrors and windows for students? 

Why Next Steps

Every student should see themselves in texts that help module content feel personally relevant. Educators affirm students’ unique identities by offering texts that reflect students’ experiences.

Reading also acts as a window to the world. VOR text lists provide opportunities for students to learn about experiences different from their own. 

  1. As you review available texts in your classroom or school libraries, consider the following:
    • Do these texts reflect the racial, ethnic, cultural, and linguistic experiences of the students we teach?
    • Do these texts reflect the racial, ethnic, cultural, and linguistic experiences that our students may not experience or understand?
  2. Explicitly seek and add texts that fill the gaps identified in your review. 


Question 3: Which genres are underrepresented in your library? Which genres do students most enjoy? 

Why Next Steps

Just as Wit & Wisdom instruction incorporates a wide range of genres, students’ independent reading should include many kinds of text.

Students gain experience with text structures and features when they independently read a range of genres. Understanding how to navigate these structures and features helps students develop stronger reading skills. 

  1. Inventory the genres represented in your classroom and school libraries, focusing on texts aligned to Wit & Wisdom topics.
  2. Survey students to discover the genres they most enjoy reading.
  3. Seek texts that create additional genre diversity in your libraries. Consider
    • graphic novels and illustrated texts related to module themes and topics,
    • poetry or novels in verse that correspond to what students are learning, and
    • magazines, newspapers, or periodicals—including interesting articles from your own reading—that offer more current information about Wit & Wisdom topics.  


Question 4: Which new award-winning texts relate to the grade level’s Wit & Wisdom topics? 

Why Next Steps

Teachers and school librarians can make their VOR lists and libraries feel fresh and relevant by frequently adding new books.

Book awards provide a strong starting point for seeking high-quality texts that build knowledge and increase representation of diverse experiences in a wide range of genres. Award-winning texts often include features that students and teachers love in Wit & Wisdom texts—beautiful illustrations, intentionally crafted language, and effective writing. 

  1. Consult book lists published by Caldecott, Newbery, National Book Awards, Pura Belpré, Coretta Scott King Book Awards, Schneider Family Book Awards, and Walter Dean Meyers Awards.
  2. As you review new and award-winning titles, identify texts that build knowledge, increase representation, and add genre diversity to your library. 

Educators and librarians should carefully consider the texts they add to their school and classroom libraries. The steps above will lead to stronger options that increase students’ volume of reading. Educators may also consider how new texts can extend module learning and help students answer each module’s Essential Question.

And of course, taking the time to read new library additions allows educators to reconnect with the joy of childhood reading.


Engaging students in a volume of reading builds their confidence, offers them meaningful choice, and fosters a community of readers. Don’t be surprised if you catch a student or two reading a VOR text under their desk!


Works Cited

“Growing Knowledge Matters. A Lot.” Student Achievement Partners, 2021,

Liben, David, and Meredith Liben. “‘Both and’ Literacy Instruction K–5: A Proposed Paradigm Shift for the Common Core State Standards ELA Classroom.” Student Achievement Partners, 11 Sept. 2013,

Marzano, Robert J., and Debra J. Pickering. “Tips from Dr. Marzano.” Marzano Resources,

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Topics: Featured Reading Independent Reading