Friday, August 1, 2014

Love Your Library - Part 2 - Getting Started

Hello all! Happy Friday! I am back with Part 2 of my "Love Your Library" series. In my last post, I talked about Getting Inspired and the importance of your classroom library. I challenged you to really think about how you present and teach reading in your classroom and how your library reflects that. So...did you think? I hope so :)

Today I want to share with you about getting started with your classroom library. I will be starting my second year of teaching this August, so I am very familiar with the ins and outs of starting a library collection. Some questions I will answer: Where do I get books? How many should I get? Which books should I get?

These are all great questions for you newbie teachers out there! But if you are already a teacher and you already have books, maybe you can get inspired to grow your library or change your thinking :)

Let's start by taking a look at my library...

Okay first of all, my apologies for these pictures. I am clearly not a photographer!! What I wanted you to see is that I have A LOT of books.Your first question is probably... Where did those all come from?! And I don't blame you.

Let's talk book hunting. Now, I will say, I was blessed to come into a classroom that already had a small collection of books. That first shelf on the left, for example, might be the amount I was happy to find in my classroom. The rest? All me! And guess what else? I didn't pay full price for a single book.

So listen up, new teachers, teachers wanting to grow their collections, student teachers, want-to-be-teachers, and anybody else! Here are some great ways to get books:
  • Garage sales (both online and in person)
  • Flea markets and thrift stores
  • Half-priced or used bookstores
  • Relatives/family members/friends
  • Teachers that are retiring/moving grades
  • Scholastic Bonus Points 
(Know of some other great places? Leave a comment below)

As soon as possible, begin collecting books. I started my collection in college, and actually found that having my own books made some of my assignments easier! (No late-night library trips) Don't be afraid to Facebook post about what you need. Chances are, someone has a whole box they are needing to get rid of. Scrounge around in flea markets and at garage sales. I bought a stack a couple of weeks ago of chapter books that were all 50 cents or a dollar. And you really hit the jackpot when another teacher retires or moves.
Did you notice, though, that my list didn't include big-name stores like Walmart, Booksamilion, or Barnes & Noble? That's because (unless I have an incredible major coupon or they're having a fantastic sale) I never buy books there. If I want a brand new book, I use my Scholastic Bonus Points to buy it or wait until I find it at a half-price store. (Now I know that newbie teachers won't have any bonus points stored up, but it's definitely something you want to keep in mind for the future.)
But Know This: You can't find what you're not looking for. If are not looking for books - if that is not your priority - I promise you will pass right by them. Change your mindset. Remind yourself that "Libraries can change lives for the better" (Sidney Sheldon). 
So there you go! That's where you get books. Although I will tell you, invest in some good tape or clear contact paper to keep your used books looking good for as long as possible.
How many books are enough? And though my husband and my wallet might disagree with me, my answer is you can never have too many. Which books should you buy? As many as you can, in a wide range of topics and interests. You never know what book a kid is going to pick up. You never know which one they will connect with. I, for example, have always hated disliked Goosebumps books. I cannot get past how creepy the covers are. But some kids LOVE them. Look for them, ask for them, share them with their friends. So I buy them anyway. Because you know what? What's most important is that they are reading. And that they are enjoying reading. So it's important to buy books from a diverse collection of genres, particularly those that are high-quality (really good authors with really good writing) and high-interest (sports, monsters, celebrities, etc). 
Furthermore, your library needs books that are on, above, and below grade level for your students. Not every child reads on the same level, so our library should reflect that. Think about it this way...what if you walked into a bookstore that had only huge, scientific textbooks in it. You could pick out some of the words in them, but you ended up leaving empty-handed because this library wasn't made for you. There was no way you could enjoy that. If we only include books that are on-grade level, that's how our low students will feel- discouraged and empty-handed. Because they know that library wasn't designed for them. And this is true for students at the other end of the spectrum as well.
 I am a fourth grade teacher that has Clifford and Harry Potter. I have Junie B. Jones and I have Hunger Games. And all kinds in between. The point is, there should be something for every reader in your library. And while I'm at it, don't think if you are an upper elementary teacher that your library doesn't need picture books. I made this mistake early on, and now I find myself searching for more picture books than chapter books. Why? Because picture books are incredible mentor texts. They are wonderful classroom read-alouds. And if you Lexile level them, you'll find that many of them are in a very high range! In your picture books, you can find some really quality writing. So keep that in mind as well.
This is how I show my students that I love them - by putting books in their hands, by noticing what they are about, and finding books that tell them, "I know. I know. I know how it is. I know who you are, and even though we may never speak of it, read this book, and know that I understand you.” - Donalyn Miller, The Book Whisperer
In order to find "that book" for each of our students, we need a wide variety of choices. We need to be willing to go the extra mile to find what will help them enjoy reading- whether it is in our own library or someone else's. Let your library grow. Ignore the voice in your head that says "I don't need any more books. What I have is fine". Don't settle for fine.
Thank you so much for reading. My challenge for you today is to go beyond "fine". Go beyond "the basics". How you approach reading is how your students will approach it- whether it is with dread or with enthusiasm is up to you.
Check back tomorrow for Love Your Library Part 3 - Organization.

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