This may be a very obvious post for some English teachers, but until recently, I never understood the real reason to have a classroom library in a high school setting. We have a wonderful librarian with an unbelievable open door policy who orders nearly every title that a faculty member or student can suggest within her limited budget. Her superpower is matching kids to books. I never really saw the need to supplement her library with my own. This is sort of strange, since I came from a middle school setting where I used Scholastic points to build my middle school library every year. When I transitioned to high school, I just didn’t see the need.
Even though I am a big believer in using the public library, I do also own lots of books. They were in my closet at school or on my bookshelf at home. Students would occasionally ask if I had “fill-in-the-blank” title. I would say (not very confidently), “I think so” and then send them to rummage through the stack. Two years ago, I decided to pull that stack out and put them on a small bookshelf. I also made the decision with my portion of my instructional budget not to order any office supplies. I would make do with the paper clips and staples that I already had. Instead, I would order books. Thus, began my journey toward building my library and Reaching Reluctant Readers.
Sharing the love of reading
In addition to my bookshelf, I kept new books propped on the chalk tray often with a quick blurb scribbled above them. I also really wanted to display the books I was currently reading for my students, but I had not been successful in the past with printing out book covers. I chose two methods: one low tech and one through an app.
The low tech method was the most effective. I kept a list on the left-hand side of my board that said “What’s Mrs. Nester reading?” I would jot down the title and the format, and once I finished reading, I would put a quick review beside the book. I saw this influence my students over and over again. Books that I never mentioned aloud would start showing up in their hands during our independent reading time. I also made a commitment to use Goodreads on a regular basis where many of my former and current students as well as some parents follow me. For each book I read, I write a quick review with future student readers in mind. The ease of the Goodreads app makes this very easy to do.
Sarah Soper is my classroom library hero, especially in the area of young adult fiction. Sarah’s bookshelf (pictured above) would make any kid curious about the books on her massive shelves. She credits her classroom library with building classroom culture at the same time. “Not only did I start to buy books that students enjoyed, I started to read them myself. This allowed me to have discussions about them and to also figure out what types of books to buy,” Soper said.
Soper organizes her books by theme rather than genre or reading level. Students are better able to figure out which books to read this way and do not feel limited.
In order to keep up with the books I have coming in and out, I am using a free program called Classroom Booksource. I am still exploring everything this library system has to offer, but so far it has been very easy to add books to the library and students to the checkout system.
The Bottom Line
If I want my students of all ability levels to read and enjoy the process, I need them to be surrounded by books. I need to read widely myself and share that reading with my students. I will continue to build my classroom library through Thriftbooks purchases, Goodwill finds, and donations from friends and family.
How do you share your love of reading with your students? What are your favorite tips for managing a classroom library?