Last spring I was able to attend the School Library Journal’s Day of Dialogue. The book nerd inside of me jumped for joy when I was approved to go to the conference with my librarian friend. It was a day spent listening to authors, filling my bags with their latest ARCs, and having a chance to meet and chat with some of them. Many of these books have found their way to my classroom library bookshelves, including the book Giant Squid. Written by Candace Fleming, or better known as “The Muncha! Muncha! lady in our house, Giant Squid is a wonderful narrative non-fiction text. My students love reading about “gross” things, and this book presents the facts in an engaging, accessible picture book with dark, realistic pictures by Eric Rohmann, which only add to the mysterious feel of the giant squid. Books like this should be on the shelves of classroom libraries in every school.
And lucky for me, I work in an amazing school district that values the importance of rich literature in the classroom. While finishing up the tail end of my maternity leave, I noticed a small blurb at the end of an email about book purchases, make a list, get a P.O., etc., etc., etc. I found myself rereading the email…money for books? Sign me up! As it turns out, each teacher was given a generous amount of money that we can spend as we choose to purchase books for our classroom libraries. I love shopping for books and have been scouring websites over the past few weeks and have found some amazing titles to add to my already plentiful library.
Building up and maintaining a classroom library is a labor of love, and can easily put you in some serious debt. However, over the course of my fourteen years of teaching, I’ve found that having a well-stocked, relevant library makes a world of difference. In some areas that I taught, the books taken home from my library were the only books in that child’s household. I had one student that would bring home picture books so his younger, non-school aged sibling could have books to read. I also spend a lot of my free time reading the books that I have in my collection so I can talk the books up to students, make appropriate recommendations, and have meaningful conversations about books. I recently turned a student onto a series that was screaming his name and by doing so, I helped a reluctant reader become a child that couldn’t put his book down.
I’m proud of my library. Just this year, another staff member walked into my room and commented on what an impressive classroom library I have. Another teacher used to send one of her students over to borrow a book. If I expect my students to become voracious readers, then I have to provide them with the means to get there. As my newest selections arrive in the mail, I plan on reading as many as I can so I can recommend them to my students with confidence. And so I can enjoy them, too.
Need help building your library up without spending your entire paycheck? Here’s some frugal tips.
1. Your local library. Most public libraries have a section where donated books are for sale, and in most cases, you can buy them used for a quarter. We typically go to the library every week, and it’s become our routine to look for books for “mommy’s classroom”. Just today I found a Minecraft book. A quarter well spent.
2. Annual public library book sales. My library has a huge fundraiser every year where they have a book sale for a couple of days. Same great 25 cent price, just a much bigger selection. I’ve checked out ones in neighboring towns, as well, and found one that would probably rival any other sale. My very pregnant self waddled out of there this past fall with as much as I could carry. I’ll have a better plan of attack this coming year.
3. Garage sales. I scour garage sales over the summer. Most books are inexpensive and they are in great shape because, chances are, their kid read them only once. I also look on a lot of the Facebook virtual yard sale sites. Almost every town has them. I look at what people have posted, and I also specifically ask for books that I’m looking for. Last year I scored about ten “Who Was…” books for less than a dollar per book.
4. Scholastic warehouse sales. Twice a year, typically around the winter holidays and as school is getting out in June, Scholastic will have its warehouse sale. All books are on sale for 50% off, minus a handful of exceptions. If that’s not enough, there are coupons, and perks if you sign up to volunteer. A $10 gift certificate for each hour you volunteer can really help.
Building up a classroom library doesn’t have to happen overnight and it doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. If you have any other tips on how your have filled your shelves with books, I’d love to hear!