It was great that you wrote an article about the classroom library. This year I am revamping my classroom library.
I have all my books with a colored sticker. The color of the sticker shows the books genre (red is science fiction etc.). I also put the Lexile number on the sticker, so students have a general idea about the reading level and since the lexile levels "cross grades" and since the number is so small (it's on the sticker)...the students won't be embarassed about their reading level. (I had my sixth graders volunteer their lunch time to label all my books using the Scholastic Wizard...which is a GREAT resource.)
This year I assigned a class librarian and she is the ONLY person that is allowed to take a book off the shelf and sign it out. (I lost TOO many books last year!) Some may believe this is a little extreme, but I require students to RESEARCH the books they want to read. I don't allow students to just grab a book off a shelf...I find most times the student just returns the book because they don't like it.
So I show students how to research books via awards (especially children choice awards), genre, or best seller lists (NY Times, BN.com and teacher lists like yours). During the first week of school, I model how to research interesting books and then I provide ample computer time for them to create a list of 3 books that they WANT to read. Then, if I have the book, it can get signed out. The students consistently update and add to their "I Want to Read Book List", so the students always have a list of books they WANT to read.
The Scholastic Book Wizard and Book Alike, which my students use, is awesome.
In terms of cheap books, I buy used copies at Amazon.com. I pay a fraction of the price for a book that has been read only once! (I also do Scholastic.)
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