Building Classroom Libraries, One Booktalk at a Time

Classroom LibraryIn this first installment of a two-part series, LaQuita shares how you can help build classroom and personal libraries by simply gifting an administrator with one of your most loved books.

Disclaimer: I am a middle school principal who believes in the power of independent reading and the synergistic culture that is created by talking about books. I’ll admit, there’s still a lot of work to be done, but I am committed to putting a book in the hand of every child in my building. I also encourage staff to share their reading lives with our children and with each other.
Check out Todd Nesloney’s blog on adult readers. It is with this desired outcome in mind that I share thoughts with you on how to help your administrator to see the value of independent reading, and the importance of putting literacy at the forefront of improving student academic performance.
Classroom libraries are the heart and breath of the classroom. It’s where students can personalize their learning and make choices that speak to them. But yet, only about 1 in 10 teachers have enough books in their classroom or personal libraries for students to access. Studies show that children who have access to engaging books that they select experience higher academic success.

Classroom Library

We’ve all seen the huge grin that creeps over a child’s face when you place a new book in his/her hand. It doesn’t matter the age. From pre-K through adulthood, there’s something magical about receiving (and giving) a book. Doesn’t that sound familiar? Then I urge you to give it a try.

From your most reluctant reader to the teacher next door, all you have to do is select one of your favorite young adult and/or middle grade books, present it to the lucky recipient, and then simply share a little of what you love most about that piece of literature.

From the twinkle in the eye to the dance that begins at each corner of the mouth... you’ll leave the person with a book and a smile. Not only will you make someone’s day, you will build the person’s library too.

Classroom Library

This little magic works on administrators, too. You see, one way to garner support for independent reading and building a classroom library is by sharing your most loved books – physically and verbally. Your administrator will appreciate it and so will your students. Here’s how:

1. Select a book that your students and/or you have read that continues to be borrowed from your classroom library. This should be a book that you’d love an additional copy or two of, because you know more children will have access (not too many – absence increases curiosity). Not sure where to start? Try these favorites:

Middle Grade Books

  • The One and Only Ivan by K.A. Applegate
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio
  • One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
  • Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
  • The Crossover by Kwame Alexander 

Young Adult Books

  • Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt
  • Refugee by Alan Gratz
  • Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
  • Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon
  • Solo by Kwame Alexander

2. Craft a brief booktalk that you’ll share with the lucky recipient. Remember – you’re giving this book away – so it should be in great condition, and one that you could talk about all day if given a chance. Booktalks generate interest, and any book we 'bless,' gets read (Miller, 2014) 

3. Present the book with a smile. Feel free to add a bow or wrap the book in special paper to emphasize the wonderful gift being shared. 

4. Watch the smile grow and listen for the thank you's. Don’t forget to request feedback; let the person know that you’d love to know what he/she thinks about the book.

Reference: Miller, Donalyn. "Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer's Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits." San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, a Wiley brand, 2014.


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