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- Five YA Novels to Understand Refugees - January 31, 2017
- An Alternative to Book Reports: Assessing Independent Reading - January 3, 2017
- NCTE and ALAN Conference Highlights - December 5, 2016
- How Response Notebooks Differ From Reading Logs - November 2, 2016
- Celebrating Banned Books in the Classroom - October 25, 2016
- The Importance of Attending Professional Conferences - October 20, 2016
After attending a Penny Kittle workshop in spring of 2014, I decided that I wanted to radically change the reading/literature instruction in my twelfth grade English class by setting up a Reader’s Workshop. In order to do that, I needed a classroom library. In fact, I needed an extensive classroom library if I wanted the RW to work. The problem was I had 104 titles–many out of date–and no money.
I teach in a Title 1 district, and asking my principal or the board for money was out of the question. I didn’t want to request Title 1 funds either because I really wanted the books to be mine. I wanted to be able to take them with me wherever I was in the district (or if anything happened to my position, I wanted the books to come with me).
As a teacher and a mom to three small kids (one who is only 12-weeks old), I don’t have extra money lying around to put into a starter library either. But I needed those books. The more I thought about it, the more determined I became that the key to turning around all those reluctant and non-readers in my classes was tons and tons of glorious books at their finger tips.
The first thing I did was hop on Amazon and create a Classroom Library Wishlist. I took all the books Kittle had mentioned that day along with a bunch of my favorites and I put them on the list. Then I asked my current students what authors and books they liked. And I asked our media center specialist (who is always very up-to-date on what the hot YA lit books are) and I added her suggestions. Then I wrote about my dream of the classroom library on my own blog. And I shared on Facebook. And Twitter. And by word-of-mouth.
Then a crazy thing happened. People gave. They gave a LOT.
In less than a month I quadrupled my titles from 104 to over 400. I came home to Amazon boxes daily for over a month. People sent me their used books as well. People gave money and gift cards to Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
I also applied for the Book Love Foundation Grant. I didn’t win the 500 books, but I was a runner-up and was awarded $500 towards books. Before the official paperwork came through for me to place my book order, my teaching position changed. I went from teaching eleventh and twelfth grade to eighth grade. Most of the books that had been donated were for older readers, so I was fortunate to be able to place my Book Love order for more junior high-appropriate titles.
A year later, my library now boasts over 700 titles, and I’m still working on adding more. My students are constantly telling me what I “need to get” and I keep adding the titles to my Wish List.
When I tell this story, many co-workers have said, “but I don’t have a blog. Who is going to donate to me?” You would be surprised. One of my colleagues, a special ed teacher in our regional center, set up a Wish List as well and put out the call on Facebook. She doesn’t have a blog or a Facebook fanpage and she still received tons of books proving that the books don’t have to come from around the country to still come.
If you want to build a classroom library without school funds, this is what I suggest:
- Create an Amazon Wishlist
- Routinely scope out thrift shops, garage sales, used book stores, and library sales
- Hit up warehouse sales like the Scholastic Warehouse Sale
- Be public about your need: Facebook, church bulletin, etc.
- Apply for grants like the Book Love Foundation
- Let your students’ families know you take used books
An extensive, well-loved classroom library doesn’t just have to be a dream. It doesn’t have to be something that affluent districts have. People love to give books.
You just have to ask.