Classroom Libraries

My husband has to put up with a lot from me. One thing is my mania for classroom books. Even in grad school fourteen years ago, I was madly buying up all the YA lit I could get my hands on. And I didn’t even have a classroom to put them in – I just had tottering piles of boxes in the basement of our 768-square-foot house!

I’ve always been an avid classroom librarian, in English Language Arts, Social Studies, and World Language too. It’s because I’ve always run my classroom as a reading workshop, with a free choice reading program. For a choice reading program to thrive, students need access to a variety of interesting, comprehensible texts and time to read them.

How do we assemble a collection of texts when we’re just getting started and have limited budgets and time? Here are some tips that might help.

1. Create reading material with your students’ assistance. Mike Peto posted a genius idea last year to have students illustrate one-page comics of class discussions, characters, and stories. You can download his template here. I started this with my students this week. On a late-start Wednesday, we spent the whole period illustrating comics I had written from papers we had done together as Write and Discuss activities. I wrote the comics during prep time. But now that I see how cool it is to have them, I’m just going to write directly on the templates during Write and Discuss. That way, we will build up a nice collection for the next time we draw in class. I will also start having the students take already-filled-out templates home over the weekend for homework. I’ll have them read the stories to their folks and have their folks send back a sentence describing their child’s ability and illustrating them will be optional. I think I’ll give a class point for each comic we get back that’s good-looking enough to make it into the class library and give them a class reward (probably choice seating and video/snack time) when we get fifty points.

Last year, I had my classes create children’s storybooks for the class library. This culminating project took about four weeks in May and June. The instructions are here. The books are not as comprehensible as the classes’ own stories, but they do have glossaries and are cute.

You can also type up stories from class and insert photos of the artists’ work as illustrations.

2. Use Reading A to Z. They have leveled readers that you print out and assemble. I had students and families volunteer to assemble them for me last year. A year subscription is $100. You can get a good number of texts for that price.

3. Scholastic magazines are popular with my kids. I get ten or so subscriptions.

4. TPRS books (novels) are popular with my students. And they’re fully glossed so motivated beginners can look up words they need. The books generally run $6-8 each. I use my school funds for them. I’ve also gotten grants through Donors Choose.

I’ve also shamelessly sent home requests for $$ for books, asking each family for a 5, 10, or 20 dollar contribution.

5. Subscribe to Martina Bex’s Mundo en Tus Manos or Cécile Lainé’s Petit Journal francophone. These current events readers are interesting, timely, comprehensible, and affordable. My students enjoy them!

Have another great idea for building a class library? Please add it in the comments.

Happy reading!!

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