Heather Wolpert-Gawron

How to Start and Finance Your Classroom Library

By on March 14, 2009

With budget cuts tightening everybody’s belt, we can’t forget that the voracious appetites of teen readers are also affected by this economic downturn.

Parents can’t go to bookstores.  Scholastic Book Fairs have become mythical mirages on the horizon that, when the date approaches, disappears with waves rising off of the pavement.

But our job of turning kids onto readers still continues.  That’s where the classroom library comes in.  (See my previous post here.) In fact, I consider it so important for every teacher to have one that I added it as an entire step in my Top Secret New Teacher Handbook.

Teachers, proverbial swords in hand, must carry the standard of literacy despite our own empty pockets.

So How Do You Start and Fund a Classroom Library?  Here are just some of the ways in which I’ve created a rich, enticing environment of literacy in my own classroom:In the beginning of my career, I realized that providing a classroom library rich in levels and genres was necessary.  It stunned me that more funds weren’t provided by schools and districts for teachers of every discipline to develop their stacks.  So I turned to my own childhood books that I had kept in boxes under my parents’ house to begin my first classroom library.  

You know, those boxes that about 5 years after you moved out, you got THAT call from Dad about?  “It’s time.  Come get your boxes,” he had said, even though you still lived in a one-bedroom, a futon in one room, a desk in the other.  Anyway, you know those boxes of old books?  Well, I used them to jump-start my classroom library.

Sure they were dusty.  Sure some had water damage.  But they had pages, they reflected the books I had been able to read when I had been a tween, and I had read them all, which meant I could talk about them…and pitch them.

I slowly added to my ancient collection by going to flea markets, estate sales, bargain book bins in the back of the local bookstores, local library sales, etc…

I also developed a very charming begging letter, seeking out books from friends and family.  (See attached letter at the bottom of this post.)  I never asked for money, but I did ask for books.  Word of warning, when you ask friends and family if they have books, you’re bound to get more than you could ever pick up in your CR-V.  

To review, you can fund you library in some of the following ways:

1. Your own Stuff

2. Flea Markets

3. Bargain Basement sales at your local bookstore

4. Library Sales

5. School PTA

6. Beg

Throw in some realia as well to entice those reluctant readers in.  On my shelves, I have an old Viewmaster, some action figures, a deck of cards called “Old English Insults,” and tons of other nic-nacs gathered through the years.  They all live on the shelves in my classroom library. 

In the end, you’ll create a corner of your room that teaches literacy through sheer osmosis.  The environment of the classroom is vital in its success.  It is “Think Aloud” without speaking.  It tells the students who you are and what you’re about as a teacher.  It’s “Show, Not Tell.”  It says, books are important here, and literacy is a priority.

And they’ll love you for it.


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Posted in: Educational Policy