At the beginning of the school year, I promised to pursue the goal of building my classroom library. I also promised a set of before and after pictures to show the progress I accomplished over the year… so here we go!
I am really proud of the progress I made, needless to say! Here’s a quick run-down of what worked, what didn’t, and what’s next.
- Asking for book donations gets results! I received donated books from students, parents, community members, and my own friends and family. It turns out that a lot of people have extra books around that they are happy to donate to the good cause of young readers. The key is to keep asking!
- My classroom library promoted more reading in an immediate, engaging way. Kids really do read books when they are readily, freely available. Especially when I displayed the newest additions at the front of the room, they were often borrowed immediately. It’s also great to be able to say, “Oh, you finished your book? Here, grab one of these next.” Getting a book in a kid’s hand ASAP can often be the difference between progressing toward a reading goal and falling off track.
- I am so proud of my student readers. They read like gangbusters and although I can’t take credit for most of it, I do know that they like reading things I recommend to them. That’s one of the most enjoyable things about the classroom library–it’s preloaded with recommendations! I have read many of the titles on my shelf, and I’m at least familiar in a cursory fashion with ALL of them. It makes it easy to quickly find the perfect title for a bookless student.
- A book return station is important. This is an important practical detail. Even normally responsible students seriously cannot put books back correctly. No matter how many gentle reminders are administered, students will misclassify and abuse the books by shoving them any which way on the most convenient shelf. Don’t even try. Get a crate like this instead, and reshelve everything yourself on a daily basis. Some battles just aren’t meant to be won.
What didn’t work:
- As I wrote in my original post, I had planned to use the app Lend It! to manage book checkouts. It turned out that using the app (and using several others of the same ilk that I beta tested) was just too clunky, unreliable, and time consuming. I ended up defaulting to keeping track of checkouts via old school paper signout method. That was still problematic, though, because sometimes students would take books without formally checking them out. I am still figuring out a balance between making sure that books are freely and easily available and keeping better track of my collection.
- That leads me to my next problem, and in talking to my colleagues it seems that this is just the nature of the beast–books will go missing. Kids will inevitably lose them, lend them to unsanctioned friends or siblings, or accidentally destroy them. This is simply a reality of sending books into backpacks. It can be disappointing to see a portion of the library just disappear, but it’s still worth it to know that more kids are reading as a result of the fine-free borrowing system. But hey, books are meant to be read! I would rather have my kids read books into oblivion than have a pristine collection that lives only on the shelf and never gets checked out.
I’m looking forward to another building year for my classroom library. Our reading culture is alive, well, and growing. I love being a part of that. I’m progressing on my own goals as a reader–which include becoming the resident science-fiction expert–and my students are becoming more sophisticated, more excited readers with each year that passes. A serious commitment to reading results in sheer magic, and I’m fully convinced that the deeper we dig into it, the more often we celebrate the process of reading committedly along with our students, the greater the positive transformations we observe as teachers will be.