October 19, 2012

Why I Buy Books For My Classroom

Every few months I spend between $200-$300 on books for my classroom.

And I'm not talking about textbooks either. I am very fortunate to teach in a district that provides more than enough resources for my classroom. I have curriculum textbooks, supplemental textbooks. digital textbooks, dictionaries, atlases. I have never wanted for a subject-area book (and if I did all I need to do is ask for it).

What my classroom lacked when I arrived here last year were engaging, for-fun, reading books. I never gave it much thought because hey, I teach social studies and I've got textbooks in every corner. The high school English classroom down the hall is stacked to the ceiling with novels and we have a library downstairs. I really wasn't concerned... until I noticed that my students never had a book in their hands.

Maybe it concerned me because I'm an avid reader, but I took notice. There was no reading for fun going on at all. All of my students were wasting and suppressing their starved teenage imaginations on television and school work. They never let their minds roam free to Olympus, Hogwarts, Narnia, or Middle Earth. There were no tears for characters they had connected with, no outrage that a book ended a way they didn't like, no anticipation to get the next book in the series.


And on the academic side, there was no familiarization with acceptable patterns of language. You see, when a child reads they are not only stretching their imaginations, they're also secretly getting familiar with how written language should sound in their heads. An important skill for all students, but especially those with limited English proficiency who struggle with grammar, sentence structure, and punctuation.

So I took a tentative step and used some scholastic book order points to order some classroom books: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Hoot, The Guardians of Ga'Hoole 1-4, Warriors, and The Hunger Games. The books arrived two weeks later and we established some ground rules:
  1. Books must be treated with respect
  2. Books must be checked out
  3. Books must be returned quickly so other students can enjoy them 
  4. If you find one of our books in the school, bring it back to the bookshelf. 

By the end of the day they were all checked out and I had a waiting list posted for each book.

I was sold, and decided that high interest reading books were something I wanted in my classroom. I jumped on Scholastic and started searching. Three weeks later I had over 40 new books sitting on my shelves and a board full of book check-outs. (Thank you scholastic for free shipping and book club points!)

Tuesday was our book arrival day. I labeled all of the books with my name and put them on the shelf (some of them were checked out before I could even take them off my desk):

Inspecting the new arrivals

Now my classroom looks like this after school:

Books and Music. 
Calvin and Hobbes Action
And my front white board looks like this:

Sure, some of my books never come back. Over the course of time I've lost four books to sticky fingers and forgetful minds. Other books are so well loved by the students that they are falling apart from over-use and have been lovingly taped back together (Percy Jackson).

Seeing this change in my students taught me that no child truly hates to read. They just haven't found their perfect book yet. Even my most reluctant readers are in love with some of the graphic novels series that I have ( Bone, Amulet, Maus) and almost all of my kids go crazy for an engaging scary story/ thriller.

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