Classroom Libraries: Part 1; The Power of a Classroom Library

A classroom library is a powerful thing.  It’s a noun and a verb and an adjective.  Maybe even an adverb (librarily?).  It’s a place of peace, an action of activism or vacationing or how-to-do-it-ness.  A library is a powerful thing.  

“This is how I show my students that I love them – by putting books in their hands, by noticing what they are about, and finding books that tell them, “I know. I know. I know how it is. I know who you are, and even though we may never speak of it, read this book, and know that I understand you.”

Donalyn Miller, The Book Whisperer

I’ll never forget the look the eyes of Anthony, a student in my first third grade classroom.  The scene: I am being silly and waxing eloquent about school rules, and fun, and inspiration.  It is part Fred Rogers, part Ted-talk, and part half-time coach speak.  Anthony raises his hand and I pause to call on him.  His eyes beam like lasers, looking at the 900 categorized books that line the walls of our room, he asks “Are we gonna have a chance to look at those books?”  Other students echoed “YEAH?!” I stopped my speech right there. The ensuing book-shopping spree was the epitome of classroom joy, with students calling out the books they loved! “Dinosaurs!” “Pop-up books!” “Dogman!” “Dork Diaries!” “Baseball!”  

“An adequate classroom library will have at least two hundred books, but an excellent library will have more than a thousand.”

Regie Routman, Reading Essentials

I’m so fortunate to teach in a school with a fantastic school library and an inspiring and caring librarian.  In my second year in the building, she approached me in the hall.

Is something going on with the Lunch Lady books in your classroom.  

Well, we recently got a bunch of them and a couple of students have been very excited in a contagious way in the room, yes.  Why?

Well, we’ve had them for a while in the library and they haven’t been checked out a lot recently.  But all of a sudden, the whole third grade, even the other 3 classrooms, are all checking out Lunch Lady!  I can’t keep them on the shelves.

Classroom libraries are contagious. They work hand-in-hand with other book spaces in the building.

We want to help students become better readers.  Yes.  Beyond that, we want to help students find a love for reading.  A classroom library is an important and powerful thing.

It’s a lot of work to set up the systems and maintenance of a classroom library.  I’m working now to keep it current and working on practices to keep things “just right” for each year’s students (because no two classes are ever the same). In my next post, I’ll explore the routines I use to care for the classroom library.

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