Experts claim a classroom library should have at least 20 books per student, so a typical class of 28 students would have a classroom library of close to 600 books. In fact, I believe teachers really need more than 20 books per students to match books to the many different readers in their classrooms.
According to experts, even very young students can read for extended periods of time when they are matched with books that they can read with 95% or higher word accuracy rate, and they are more successful when reading books that interest them. This means your classroom library should have books at many different levels, and the books should represent many different genres, topics, and series.
With funds for education continuing to decline, many teachers find that they must spend money out of pocket to add more books to their classroom libraries. Here are some inexpensive ways to get more books for your library:
1. Purchase books from Scholastic Book Clubs. The book clubs offer inexpensive and popular books that your students will want to read. I especially stock up on the paperback sale books for guided reading groups. I also send home book orders regularly so that I can get more bonus points to use toward books for my classroom library.
2. Library book sales are a great way to get books. I have collected hundreds of gently used books that have been donated to libraries in my area for public sale. Parents often donate books that their children have only read once to libraries, so the books can be in great shape. Even better, most are sold for less than a dollar. Use Book Sale Finder to find used books sales in your area.
3. Garage sales can be another way to find used books if you are patient enough to browse through the many books. I have been especially lucky to hit garage sales held by retired teachers who no longer have use for the hundreds of books they collected over their many years of teaching.
4. Share a Scholastic Book Fairs Classroom Wish List with parents. When your school hosts a Scholastic Book Fair, provide a short list of books you'd like for your classroom library. Send the list home with your Book Fair Reminder or post the list near the fair itself. Not all parents will be able to purchase an extra book, but one or two generous parents means a few more books for your classroom collection. Make sure to thank the parents in person, and consider adding a "Donated by" book plate in the inside of the donated books.
5. Solicit donations of old books. At the end of the year, ask students to donate books or magazines they've outgrown, as long as they are still in good shape.
6. Ask students to donate "legacy books" in the name of friends, parents, or other relatives. Also, encourage parents and grandparents to donate books in a child's name. You can invite parents to a special recognition ceremony where personalized nameplates are inserted into the donated books. This is also great to do at the end of the year. Students who donate a book to the library get their own nameplate and will be a part of the classroom library long after they leave my classroom!