Friday, April 4, 2008

Starting A Classroom Book Library

Starting a classroom library isn't as daunting as it seems. For a new teacher heading in to the classroom for the first time, most of the time, you're heading in with nothing. You're surrounded by teachers who have built resources over their careers, and you walk in with nothing, but you have to start somewhere.

The first thing you can do, and it can work even in a more economically disadvantaged school, is ask parents if they have any unwanted, age appropriate books that they can send. I sent out a letter like this near the beginning of the year, and got over 150 books from parents, many of them great, some of them the types of books that no student would ever choose to read on their own (those Sweet Valley High books from the 80s and stuff like that).

So from there, I took the unwanted books, and headed down to the local used bookstore. Here in Las Cruces, we have a used bookstore called Coas, where you can trade in used books for credit towards buying other used books from their huge collection. I got a lot of stuff this way.

Finally, and probably the most popular way for teachers to get books is to sign up for Scholastic Book Clubs. No, I don't work for them or anything like that. CLICK HERE to go to their page where you can request their catalogs. A Scholastic catalog comes with all the fliers to send home for students. Students who want to buy either send a check, or cash, which you take and write a check in place for.

Scholastic constantly offers special deals on bonus points, and you get bonus points depending on how much your class buys. You use the bonus points to buy books for the class, and a lot of times they have big sets and things like that, so you can build your library rather quickly. I work in an economically disadvantaged school, but students still order a book here and there, it's nice to give them the choice.

So over the course of a year or two, you can easily build a library of over 300 books just by putting a little work in to it. I started my library this year, in August, and now, only 8 months later, I have almost 400 books in my library. With a class of 20 students, this is a ratio of 20 books to every student, which gives them sufficient choice and the fact that nobody will read the entire collection.

Of course, also think of age appropriate books. I teach 5th grade, so I have books that cover the range from 1st to a high school level. Good luck, remember, the only way to become a better reader is to read.