Goodbye To My Classroom Library

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I don’t remember when I stopped reading children’s book.  When those young adult novels that had enticed me for years just seemed to slip out of my selections to be replaced by serious sounding titles that definitely did not have stories that centered around children.  I do not remember making the decision or even doing it, it just happened like so many other adult things in life.

So when I started teaching and I inherited an already stock full classroom library I flipped through the books, got rid of the most forlorn looking ones, weeded out a few titles that would be too mature for my 4th graders and let it sit.  I organized it and labeled it, went to thrift stores to get even more books, grabbing whatever sounded like it belonged in 4th grade; Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, a stray Harry Potter (that series I had at least read).  I placed them in my library and waited for the children to eagerly pick their books.  Except they didn’t, and I shrugged, and I sent them to the school library.

Sure, I ordered more books; whatever seemed to entice me in the shiny Scholastic catalogue.  I read a few; Twilight  Hunger Games, Coraline, The Lightning Thief series.  When parents asked me for recommendations, I rattled off those old stalwarts hoping that one of them would entice.  Usually they didn’t.  I didn’t weed out, I didn’t examine, I didn’t judge the books I already had and every year kids would pick through my library with upturned noses and then head out the door.  Gems were hidden behind books no one had heard of.  Covers were cracked and falling off.  I thought it didn’t matter.  I thought kids would figure out that there were indeed great books hidden in there if they just took the time.  I thought if I just kept ordering more books and showing them to the kids they would read them eagerly.

This summer, I came across The Nerdy Book Club.  This blog and its love of reading all things children shocked me.  After all, these people had read all of these books and threw titles around as if I should know what these books were, but I didn’t.  Those books they spoke of and the way they presented them reignited that spark in me and urged me to pick up the books.  So I did and I fell in love with the power of children’s books and young adults ones again.

So this summer, insanely pregnant with twins and very tired, I hid with Jen and Luke and the other third children.  I shuddered when Hansel & Gretel got their heads chopped off and delighted in the wonder of Auggie and his love of life.  I cried not once but twice with Ivan and cared deeply about Melody and her quiz tournament.  And I knew I had to share these books.  I had to highlight them, show them off, make my kids read them and make them want to read more.  I had to want them to read those books in my library hidden among the rest.  I had to get them to explore books and the best way to do that was for me to read them and love them first.

At the moment there are 4 books waiting for me on my nightstand.  Going back to school means falling asleep at 8 PM but there they sit and I yearn to crack their pages so that I can share them with my students.

And my library waits for me tomorrow when I will do something I never thought would make any sense; get rid of books.  I will clear the shelves and start over, I will ask the kids to help me, get them to see and feel and touch the books we want to keep and bid farewell to those we don’t.  I want my library to be the first place they come to for books.  So we say goodbye to let others in; I cannot wait.


8 thoughts on “Goodbye To My Classroom Library

  1. Pernille..Isn't Nerdy amazing? We presented a session about building reading communities yesterday at NCTE to a packed house, and the energy in the room was so positive that I left the session ready to head home and lose myself in more books.What you're doing is great work…. getting a classroom library built and organized is a huge task, and bravo to you for letting your students help you with the process. I promise you you won't regret it.

  2. Thoughtful and inspiring! Thank you! Make sure to also follow on Twitter @MrSchureads and @ColbySharp (I think), and most definitely @donalynbooks. If you haven't read The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, it should be your very next read.

  3. When I read this post's title, I was confused. "Am I finally going to disagree with Pernille on something?" I thought. But, of course, I'm right with you on this. This sounds like a phenomenal idea! I look forward to the inevitable follow-up post.

  4. I inherited some of those classroom libraries too! Sometimes it's definitely easier to just start over – and how smart to bring your students into the decision-making! Can't think of a better way to build community. I love #nerdybookclub too – great way to connect with all lovers of books

  5. Pingback: Get Real – Get Rid of Books!

  6. Pingback: Checking out my first teacher blogs | SLM508AEB

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