Classroom Libraries… My Must Have!

I’ve been in the teaching professional a relatively short period of time.  A little over five years ago, I completed my Master’s of Teaching degree.  The three year prior to that, I was completing my coursework and completing a series of long-term substitute positions in a number of different grade levels.  Almost every classroom  I was in had a classroom library.


I became enamored with the classroom library.  How did these teachers get all these books?  Who paid for them?  How did they manage to keep them organized?  The one thing I did know, I needed to have books for my classroom once that was a reality.  It wasn’t too hard for me as I have two daughters who love to read.  The true challenge came as I was moved from Middle School to Elementary and now back to Middle/High School.  Can one teacher have that many books at that many levels?  (You’d be surprised!)


While getting the books became a quest, the organization part of the library was difficult to deal with.  How was I going to organize them?  How was I going to keep track of them?  As Sarah Andersen states in her blog post, “Creating and Managing a Classroom Library,”  I try to “keep it simple.”  I use a similar system to Ms. Andersen.  I have a notepad by the books and have students sign out the books.  When they bring them back, they cross off the book on the list.  I work on the honor system mostly.  I realize there will be books each year that I won’t get back.  Amazingly enough, this year I was surprised with four books that apparently  I had been missing since last year. (That was a pleasant surprise!)  The most important part of my checkout system is similar to Ms. Andersen’s checkout system in that I make sure each book has my name on it.  Most times I put the name on the inside front cover, but am tempted to put them along the outside of the book like Ms. Andersen because then people would know if they found a stray book around where it needed to be.


In the blog, “Is “Getting Along Fine” Good Enough,”  I was incredibly concerned to see a teaching candidate saying “… I’m just not sure whether it’s worth the time it would take to keep and maintain.”  Do you want your students reading more?  Then you NEED to surround them with books.  You need to let them know what you are reading.  You need to encourage them to read more books and try different types of books.  Reading is the key to success, in my “not-so-humble” opinion.  


In Book Love by Penny Kittle, she talks about a letter she sends to parents about her independent reading program.  In it she explains that she can’t read everything the students choose to read and asks them to let her know if there is content in the books their child has chosen that is of concern so they can work together on the choices.  I love this approach as it creates a team to help students choose wisely.  At the same time, she is bowing to potential censorship by saying she will remove books from her shelf.  This is a great, proactive approach to potential issues with parents.
Ultimately, it’s essential to surround students with books if you want them to read.  It’s important to have an open dialogue with students to get them reading and to help them develop their stamina was readers.  In Book Love, I also really embraced the concept of establishing weekly reading goals (achievable goals) for each student.  In addition, I agree we need to increase the complexity over time.  I was concerned, however, with a statement by a high school teacher that said, “They can’t be reading those easy books as seniors!”  Well, they weren’t reading ANY books as freshmen, sophomores, or juniors, so you know what???  Let them read easier books until they get comfortable enough that you can help push them out of their comfort zone!  Any book read is better than no book read!



10 thoughts on “Classroom Libraries… My Must Have!

  1. It sounds like you have your classroom library about figured out! I agree that if you want your students to read that they must be surrounded by books. I think the pros of this outweigh the cons. I found a good tip from Andersen was to ask fellow teachers and students to help donate books to your classroom library. We all have those books we read once and then they sit on a shelf in our house, so why not do something good with them and share them with others? I believe a lot of students and teachers would help donate to a classroom library. How often do you receive your books back if you mostly go off the honor system? Great blog post!


    1. I have a home library I just realized my friends and family members come by to specifically get a book. It wasn’t until this week that I realized my daughters and my friends probably would not share my enthusiasm if it were not for my home library even my oldest granddaughter borrowed a book last weekend. I just might have to set up a better system now that I think about it.


  2. You brought up a very good point about how students need to see what their teacher is reading. I have heard too many teachers push reading on their students but are clearly not reading anything themselves. Students loath the “do as I say, not as I do” mentality, so a great motivator is definitely to do the work alongside them to give them a feeling of solidarity. Great post!


  3. I agree with what you said about students needing to read easy books especially if they haven’t been reading at all. We need to build that reading schema before we ask them to read War and Peace (I’m not sure if I really would ask a student to read that book). Every student needs to start somewhere, we cannot expect to start them off on really hard books and learn to love reading. We need to start small and grow.


    1. I agree 100%! My daughter, who is a strong reader, started small and has built her stamina. She currently grabbed Uncle Tom’s Cabin to read(she is in the 6th grade). So, what I am saying is, I know it can work to get them hooked on shorter books, book talk and encourage their reading, and have them develop into readers that want to devour bigger, more challenging books.


  4. I agree, I was caught off guard when I read the quote from the student teacher. I actually encountered a teacher who fully believed in not having a classroom library. I was student teaching and asked why he didn’t have a classroom library. He said the idea is becoming obsolete, so why invest in one. Even if things are changing and digital books are becoming more and more popular, I still want to have physical books available for my students. Great post.


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