Monday, September 8, 2014

How to Rock Your Classroom Library!

Do you know that teacher who has a great book for EVERYTHING? Nice long interesting ones for a substitute teacher? Fabulous artwork/illustrations? So funny you LOVE to read it 100 times? So informative the whole class scatters to look up more material for a report? Where does she get them, and, more importantly, how does she afford them?

If you are a new teacher you are just started on the grand process known as accumulation. It is intriguing to watch it happen, kind of like growing a collection of spoons or baseball cards only it takes up a whole lot more room. When we used a moving van company to get all of our worldly goods from Florida to New Hampshire this summer, I would say 90% of the boxes contained school materials, most of those, my library books. I don't call it hoarding. I call it investing, because these are the books that I allow my students to take home with them to read at night and on the weekends. This is an unbelievable thrill!

But wait. How can I allow careless children to take my books away, without knowing if they will ever come back? Step back a moment.

First, I buy books as part of my Saturday morning thrift store/yard sale treasure hunting. (At my house, we call this entertainment.) Rules apply: never pay more than 25 cents per paperback. If it is a whole set of Junie B. Jones, then maybe I would break down and spend $5.00. But it would have to be in mint condition.

Know the Signs of a Mother Lode: I always write my name very prominently on the front outside cover of all of my books with a black Sharpie marker. This ensures that moms recognize that the book belongs to me, and it is way more likely to come back. So, if you are at a thrift store and start to see a large number of books with a last name written on the front, and it is the same last name over and over, you are looking at a retired teacher's personal hoard! Sit right down and start checking them. You may very well stumble across some rare and wonderful classic books that you have not been introduced to yet.

Go to School and Church Rummage Sales: You can offer to take a whole box for $3-$5. You would be surprised how happy they are to see you cart them away. You will develop some upper arm muscles.

How do you know which books to buy? I have a few rules. One, never buy any of those hard-cover Disney books. The kids do not read them, and they take up space. Do not buy books that are versions of cartoon shows because they are usually too hard and they just look at the pictures. The only exception I have found here is Sponge-Bob Squarepants. The popularity of these never seen to die. If it is published by Scholastic, you are halfway there. Think about your students' interests. One year I had a little girl who was into dressage, and rode her horse all of the time. So when I ran across some books that showed names of different horses, or had a story line about riding, I picked them up. Now I have a little reference set about horses/riding for the rest of the children who may come through my room Voila! Accumulation occurs!

Of course you will pick up books that will relate to your teaching themes and lesson plans, because you will use those forever. By following blogs like this one you will soon recognize great authors by name and will know instantly when you have your hands on a keeper.

Before you actually add them to your library, you must do two more things. Tedious but necessary. Invest in a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Maybe two. Pile your books up near the kitchen sink. Dampen (do not soak) your Magic Eraser, and wipe the grime off of them (front and back.) Then dry them off (front and back) with a towel. This is the tedious part. Then write your name on each one in permanent marker. You will be shocked at the difference wiping the dirt off makes. They sparkle! They look new! They look inviting! They look better than your bathroom sink does probably!

Whenever you bring in new-to-you additions to your classroom library, make a big deal about it! Introduce the books one by one and affirm how much you personally LOVE each and every one! Because you are not going to bring in any books that you do not love for one reason or another. If YOU love it, your kids will love it!

I never used library cards or anything like that, and I may have lost a book or two over the past 12 years, but when a child asked "Can I take this home tonight?" I always said yes, with the exception of any book that I actually paid retail for at a bookstore or any book that had moveable parts, was very old, or somehow otherwise irreplaceable. I always ask my children to please take care of my books, and they are so proud to take them home! In the morning they will march up to you and show you that they brought it back. Can you say "happy?"

Happy Reading!

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