Savvy Strategy: Building a Classroom Library

Photo from Scholastic

As a first year teacher, building a library can be a daunting yet worthwhile task.  When all else fails, a library gives you the power to direct students into a “DEAR” period when needed.  It also allows you to employ independent reading  when students finish tasks ahead of the class.  In my case, students do not always have a book of their own, so I keep my library stocked with a wide array of books.  How to stock your library:

Find a “good” Goodwill.  Many gently used books can be found for under a $1.  I also find board games in almost-perfect condition to build a decent collection for rainy day recess.

Visit your public library’s discard sale.  They usually hold these once or twice a year and books can be found at a deep discount.

Utilize your school & public library.  I know this sounds obvious, but I can’t tell you how little I see text sett, book bundles, or whatever you want to call them, in middle school classrooms (especially in history classrooms).  It is one of the easiest ways to build literacy in your classroom.  Every unit I visit the school and public library and check out about 30-40 books (historical fiction, picture books, nonfiction, etc.)  Make sure to keep them in a separate place from your personal collection (I use my back chalkboard tray) so that the library books get returned at the end.  Many teachers question this practice because they are afraid books will get lost.  In five years after borrowing hundreds of books, I’ve had to replace one library book.  Well worth it.

Take advantage of your networks.  I have tapped into my church and a young professionals organization to collect books for my classroom.  People have graciously given me upwards of 100 books.  Ask your family, friends, and neighbors for any gently used books they may be willing to recycle.

Visit discount stores.  Although the selection may be limited, I don’t turn up my nose to the Dollar Store or other discount stores.  I can usually find content books, how-to books, or other books of interest at a very cheap price.  These are usually the books that I identify as “keepers”, meaning the students are welcome to take those books to add to their collection without asking, checking out, etc.


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