When someone comes into my classroom I want them to recognise how important reading is and I believe this starts from having a great class library. By giving students access anytime to high-quality, high-interest books that are at their levels breeds a culture of reading in the room. I started my class library a few years ago, raiding both mine and my children’s book shelves. I started small loading books in boxes and I even had a checkout system to make sure I knew where my books were at all times. As my library has grown so has my laxity towards the location of my books. I now have a library of around 1000 books and I have no checkout system or way to know who has what book. What I have found is when kids can just grab a book because they want too then they are more likely to read them. Sometimes books don’t come back but I figure that if the student likes a book that much then that must be a good thing.
This year I even got rid of the book boxes and instead took all the doors off my cupboards and made them all bookshelves. There is no way of mistaking how important reading is when you enter my room. I have tried leveling books so kids knew where to look for the perfect book but in the end, I have found kids just like to browse. I have the books in genres but they are of mixed levels as I believe it is an important part of the reading process that the kids are able to find and choose their own appropriate books.
My number one place to get great books from are the charity stores such as the Salvation Army and Lifeline. I never walk past one without walking out with a handful of books and all are usually around 50 cents each. Another great source of books are the students themselves. Students are very happy to share great books they have finished with their classmates and when you make parents aware you are looking for books you will be surprised how often they will come trickling into your room.
Maintaining Your Library
I am a hoarder of books and I hate throwing out any book but last year after reading a blog post by Pernille Ripp on the importance of removing books that don’t get read I did a cull. I ended up donating a couple of hundred books back to charity stores but what a huge difference it made.Those books you have on the shelves just filling up space or maybe they were cool when we were kids are actually hiding the books the kids really want to read. I now ask the kids what sort of books or which authors they want to read and I now only add books in that fit those categories. I even have the people at the charity stores keeping an eye out for authors for me and putting them aside. When you are starting out I believe quality is far more important than quantity. Observe the kids reading habits, which authors are popular, what genres do they prefer and then provide them the opportunity to explore books and authors that can expand on their choices.
Both ends of my classroom look like this.