Reflecting on the Past, Present, and Future of My Classroom Library
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12
According to my last two beginning-of-the-year surveys, my students’ interest in reading has declined due to a lack of material that interests them. To address this problem, I created my first classroom library last year. Because of funding issues, our school library can't afford to update its collection, but a classroom library gives students the option to find the kind of books they want to read. To keep my classroom library within budget, I purchased several titles at garage sales and have received donations from a variety of sources. Adding modern titles that students can easily relate to has improved my reluctant readers' attitudes and made the classroom library a popular place to go. Even students who are not in my class now frequently stop by my room to check out books.
For more on the classroom library, "Staff Workshop/Teacher's Handout: The Importance of the Classroom Library" by Susan B. Neuman, PhD, provides great information on why the classroom library is needed as well as useful tips on how to set one up. The article is written for Scholastic's Early Childhood Today magazine, but addresses the importance of reading at any age. To see how my own classroom library evolved, read on.
My Past Classroom Library
Last year, I only had about 100 books, so organization was not difficult. I kept fiction books on one shelf and nonfiction books on another. Each book was and still is marked on the inside with a handwritten label indicating the title, book number, and the date when the book was added to the library. For the checkout system, I created a simple Classroom Library Log for students to fill out, with a place for their name, the book title and number, date checked in and out, and my initials. This allows me to see what books students are reading so I can suggest other books that they are interested in. It also adds another level of accountability to prevent theft.
There are many ways to organize your classroom library. Be sure to check out these links for helpful tips and strategies:
- "Organizing My Classroom Library: The Never-Ending Story" by Alycia Zimmerman
- "Organizing the Classroom Library" by Michelle Sullenberger
- "Teacher Tips for Classroom Libraries" from Scholastic Instructor.
For a multitude of links to other worthwhile articles, you might also try this article: "Build and Organize a Classroom Library."
My Present Classroom Library
My present library is very similar to my past one, except for one new feature: the Book Swap shelf. Students are allowed to bring in a book and swap it for another one. Because I had some issues with students bringing in older books that other students were not interested in reading, I now have students complete a Book Swap Approval Form so I can approve the swap. After all, the goal of the book swap shelf is to increase the amount of reading my students do.
My Future Classroom Library
My future classroom library will include elements of my past and present libraries, but will mainly focus on e-books. I have begun the transition, but it will take a little time. There are a multitude of free or reasonably priced e-books on the market. This year I’m experimenting with the Amazon Kindle and creating a digital library based on student suggestions. A student will be able to request a title and within a minute or two be reading it. Last week, Amazon announced a price drop on the Kindle making it an even more affordable option. I’m excited to see what this could mean for my students as we look at how e-readers can replace textbooks.
In addition to the Kindle, I am putting together a page for my Web site that will provide links to free e-books as well as to sites that sell e-books. Through the use of Overdrive, libraries can now loan e-books to patrons. This is something I am looking into for both our school library and my classroom library. In his blog post, "The Three Keys to Kindle Book Borrowing Through Your Public Library," Will DeLamater discusses the borrowing of e-books with the Kindle. DeLamater’s blog EduKindle provides a variety of resources that support the use of e-readers in education.