Six years ago, I moved from teaching fifth grade to teaching sixth grade. I thought my teaching life would look different…and it did, just not the way I envisioned. When I was considering a change to middle school, I decided to visit some English classrooms. The ones I saw were sparsely decorated and in none of those classrooms did I see a classroom library, so as I packed up my fifth grade classroom and my extensive library, I donated most of the books to the teacher taking my place.
As the days passed in middle school, I quickly realized I’d made a grave mistake. My students needed books. The bi-weekly twenty minute trip to the school library was not nearly enough for them or for me…so I started all over again.
Book by book, I rebuilt my classroom library. I begged for donations. I asked friends and family for books, especially those who have kids older than middle school. I asked students to bring in books they wanted to donate (I also add a sticker that identifies the student who donated the book). I asked parents for donations.
Scholastic book orders added so many books to my library: If parents ordered online, the class got a free book. I’d spend time book-talking books in the book order and ask for donations. I used every Scholastic point I could. I found warehouse sales, made friends with the owner of the used bookstore, went to library sales and became a Prime member for Amazon. Even on vacation, I found advanced reader copies at a bookstore. When I told the owner that I was a teacher, she let me take four instead of only one. Tip: Go to local thrift shops. Bring your teacher id. Explain what you’re doing. ASK! It’s the key to building a great library.
Books, books, books. I started with three shelves of books. Six years later, I have around a thousand books in my classroom library…and it’s still growing.
Why? We have a beautiful school library, which we visit weekly, so why do we need a vibrant, growing classroom library?!?! I believe the environment sets expectations. Walking into my classroom, everyone knows reading is important.
My students are surrounded by books. They are immersed in books. The classroom library is a daily reminder of what our goals are: We are readers. Reading is an expectation. Reading is fun!
Today, we have ten bookcases filled to overflowing. (I have my professional books on half of one shelf. I rotate those from home when I need them.) We have window sills holding books, computer carts holding books, books on the chalk tray…books, books, books.
Thanks you, Michelle, for being such an avid supporter of books and sharing that passion with your students! No one would be able to walk into your classroom and not figure out what priority one was — brava!