Friday, July 31, 2015

Beefing Up my Classroom Library

I don't normally do "book haul" posts, because I don't normally buy books.  I read too much, too fast, for that to be a financially viable way to get them.  Also, my house is not that big.  I am lucky enough to have a terrific library system in the area, and I can get books sent to me if they aren't housed at my favorite branches.

However, in the past year, I've really started trying to improve my classroom library.  Having a good school library is important, of course, and ours isn't bad. (Well, the fiction section isn't bad.  The nonfiction section was apparently last updated during the Cold War.)  But having books in the classroom does a number of things--it creates a tone and setting that says, "We read."  It lets kids get books when THEY are ready for a new book, not when I've signed the class up for a visit.  It lets me hand a stack of possibilities to a specific kid, based on what I know about them, so they aren't so overwhelmed at the thought of making a choice.  It lets me be responsive to the needs, interests, and enthusiasm of my particular students in any given year.

Or that's what I tell myself, anyway, when I whip out the charge card.

Over the course of this summer, I've added dozens of books to my collection, and I thought I'd share what they are and where I got them.


For $1-4 bucks, I can pick up older hardbacks or newish paperbacks.  I got some personal favorites (The Knife of Never Letting Go, Tangerine), some I know my students are into (Insurgent, Looking for Alaska), and some I just figure I can try out for that price (a Sailor Moon book, some Stephen King novella dealing with baseball).

And yes, I took these photos looking down on my unmade bed.  Sorry.  My dad was the photographer; I have other skills.

$1 for paperbacks, $3 for hardbacks, and I'd rather give them my money than Goodwill.  The downside is about half of them were in the library collection, so they have a crossed out bar code and the library stamp on them, which is both messy and potentially confusing.  I love Cloaked in Red, and plan to booktalk it this fall, so I was excited to find a hardback to keep my paperback copy company.  It's nice to have a couple copies on hand when you plan to drive up demand.  I picked up Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, which contains wonderfully honest yet sympathetic descriptions of how ADHD affect kids (and their teachers), Poison and Jasper Jones, both of which I've been wnting to read, and one that looked scary.  I hate horror, but my students always ask me for "something creepy."  I have to give it to them un-previewed, but I do ask for recommendations I can share with other students who have similar tastes.

Back in my younger days, I loved to visit the downtown Powell's, because by buying only used books, I could really stretch a dollar.  Lately, it's been harder and harder to find used copies.  Yes, I know I'm not going to get used copies of books published in the past couple of years, but even older books seem to always be only available new.  I do get a small teacher discount.  When a friend gave me a generous gift card as a birthday present, I decided to spend it on books I could add to the classroom library, but that I would choose which books based solely on my own interest in reading them.  Having just read and adored The Scorpio Races, I went all out and got the entire Raven Boys series, plus first novels in two series I've heard a lot about.  The other two books were on sale.  I gotta say, any anthology that includes Sherman Alexie and Lois Lowry is worth a look.

I way overspent my gift card, however,  Also, I've been there two other times this summer, once with each kid.  I am trying to beef up my graphic novel collection, given the huge demand for Raina Telegemeier's books this past year.  I was missing Breaking Through, the second book in Francisco Jimenez's autobiographical trilogy, Libby Bray and Rae Carson were both on sale, and I fell for the title and cover of Dorothy Must Die, only to be disappointed in the reading.  Maybe some student will like it though!

I've been going to this bookstore since it opened in 1978, across the street from where it's been for decades now.  I used to ride my bike there, combining a browsing session with a summer class at the Multnomah Art Center, or perhaps splitting a hot fudge brownie delight with my best friend at Fat City Cafe, arguing over whether or not we, as kids, were expected to leave a tip.  (I'm embarrassed to admit that I was on the stingy side of this argument.)

I digress.

 I had a mom-son date with my kid last week, and this was one of our stops.  I just had to get the graphic version of The Hobbit, and the Unicorns vs. Zombies collection.  I've also been hoping to do a daily read-aloud next year, largely, but not exclusively picture books (there's another blog post in my rationale for that), and they had several that will make wonderful mentor texts.

I am feeling all the feels about my purchases, as the young'uns say.  I am thrilled to have so many books at my greedy little fingertips.  I am excited to think of my students' reaction when I start unveiling all the new additions in six short weeks.  I am chagrined to realize how much I've run up my credit card bill.  Is it going to make or break us?  No, but it's a bad habit to get into, and with only my salary currently supporting our family, I need to make good fiscal decisions.  I am a little bit bitter that I can't just buy all the books I want for my classroom, and a little bit grateful that I can buy at least this many.  I am deeply satisfied to have such scope for planning how to set up my library, displays, booktalks, and other ways of making it easy for students to start connecting to these titles.

(Also, I have justified buying books for my personal children several times this summer, but I don't have pictures because those books have disappeared into their black holes bedrooms.  Besides, while I want them to have their own bookshelves to fall back on, I also want to build up good library habits with them.  My daughter spent most of today listening to Princess Academy on a Playaway we checked out yesterday, and I couldn't be happier.  Such a great solution for kids who can't read at their interest level yet.  But that's yet another blog post...)

You might notice that I don't buy books online.  I have a short but compelling list of reasons.

  1. I love walking around bookstores (or libraries) and looking at books.  Online resources just aren't the same. 
  2.  I am deeply afraid that if I started shopping online, that credit card thing would quickly get out of control.  Being a busy mom and teacher limits the amount of time I can spend physically shopping, which limits the amount I can spend on impulse.  Online shopping would not be as safe for me.  

I have decided I absolutely cannot buy any more new books this summer.  Well, except for Separate is Never Equal and Brown Girl Dreaming, both of which I really need in my classroom, but both of which are far past my $12 comfort level.  (It's kind of like buying wine--we all have different price points that seem "cheap," "reasonable" or "expensive," right?  A $30 bottle could be in any of those categories, depending on whom you're talking to.)  I'm soliciting donations from family and friends--last year my library got a huge boost when one student's family and my older sister both brought in boxes of books their kids had finished or outgrown.  During the school year, what I buy will be determined by the kids I'm teaching.

There you have it.  Where do you like to buy books?  How do you decide which books to spend your hard-earned money on? If you teach, how do you add to your library?   What do you consider a good price for a bottle of wine?

1 comment:

  1. This would be so hard - I would be so tempted to buy books for my classroom constantly. The Book Outlet is a great resource!!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction


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