I spent today exploring the practice of literature circles with a group of English Language Arts teachers from across our region. It’s always interesting when public and nonpublic school teachers come together to collaborate around any one best practice, but the disparity between these two factions of our education system with regard to resources is fairly outrageous.

A good amount of time was spent discussing the beauty of the classroom library and the grief that some teachers feel over their inability to put a decent one together for their students. I can remember scrounging garage sales and hoarding book order points in order to find books for my own classroom library. It tooks years and quite a few of my own dollars to establish mine, and after twelve years in the classroom, I left it behind for the teacher who would replace me. I know she appreciated this, as I would have.

It’s hard not to love books.

I was fortunate enough, back in the day, to have a principal who was willing to support a number of unconventional ideas. One of schemes involved allowing teachers to dress down every friday in exchange for a donation that would be used to buy paperbacks for our school. We raised a substantial amount of money the first year of this initiative, and I’m fairly certain this practice is still in place there today. If you’re interested in doing something similar, it might be worth your trouble to approach your own administrators about doing something similar.

I’ve also been blown away by the amount of money my own eleven year old has raised for charity this year, simply by returning bottles. Laura let our friends and relatives know that she was interested in their bottle donations early this year. People call or stop by to drop bottles off on our porch once in a while, and every month, we work with Consumer Beverages to return them with remarkable ease. When she first came up with this idea, I envisioned myself at the grocery store, dripping in stale beer and cola. Instead, Consumers Beverages provides us with bags that we fill to capacity. Returning them is as easy as lifting them out of our car and handing the bags to the folks behind the counter. We invest about twenty minutes of time in this adventure each month, and Laura’s charities profit nicely from her efforts. A bottle drive could buy a good number of books.

Other teachers ask parents to donate at Go to School nights or during the holidays, in lieu of gifts. You can also write to publishing houses to request copies of their overstocks. I know a number of teachers who filled up their bookshelves this way. You could also challenge your students to write these letters themselves, as part of a larger classroom task.

I always enjoy a day of discussion around reading and how to promote this practice for kids. Sometimes, funding a classroom library is a larger adventure than we want it to be. I think it’s possible to get the job done inexpensively if we’re creative about it, though. Speaking of adventures, have you visited this site recently? It’s a family favorite that fits with the theme of the day, so I thought I would share. Enjoy, and tell me…what do you do to fill up your own classroom library?


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