being a teacher, being me, books, classroom setup, Literacy, Passion, Reading

If My Classroom Library Was For Me

image from icanread
image from icanread

If my classroom library was for me there would be no dog books.  Well, almost no dog books because Rain Reign deserves to be there.  There would be no sports books, except for maybe Stupid Fast.  There would be no books with mermaids, unicorns, or any kind of princess, except for the feisty ones.  If my classroom library was for me, I would have only books that I know would fit all of my readers, that no one would ever object to or question.  I would take the easy way, after all, who needs more worries in their life?

There would be shelves and shelves of dystopian science fiction mixed with a little bit of love.  There would be historical fiction but mostly the more recent stuff.  Realistic fiction would be a major section, but fantasy would be reserved for the stuff that makes sense, after all, who needs books about dragons?

But it is not.

Our classroom library is filled with dog books.  With books about kings and queens, footballs, and dragons.  It is filled with books about men who went to war and never came back, and women who conquered the world.  It is filled with science, with history, and even with joke books because who doesn’t need a good laugh now and then.

Our classroom library is not just for me.  It serves more than 120 students and some may have similar tastes as me, but  most of them don’t.  So when I choose whether a book deserves a spot in our library, I cannot just think of myself.  I cannot be afraid to place books in it that scare me.  I cannot be afraid of what others may think if I know that a book is needed.  I cannot use myself as a measuring stick.  If I did, our library would not be for the students.

So when we purchase books.  When we decide what to display.  What to book talk.  What to remove, keep this in mind; our classroom libraries are meant to be homes to all readers.  Not just the ones that are like ourselves.  Not just the ones who have seemingly quiet lives filled with normal things like family dinner and soccer.  Not just the ones who love to read.  Not just the ones who tell us which books to buy and raise their hand when we ask who wants to read it next.

Our classroom libraries are for all kids that enter our classroom.  Especially for the ones who are lost, who have not found that book, or that story that made them believe that they are a reader, that their life matters.  We must have books that allow all children to feel that way.  To feel like there is not something wrong with them.  It is no longer a matter of just having diverse book, it is about having the right books for all those kids that come to us and wonder whether they are ok and then displaying them.  Whether they are normal.  The books speak for us, so make sure they speak loudly.  Make sure that in your classroom children can find that book that will make the biggest difference.  Make sure you do not stand in the way.  Make sure fear of what others may think does not stop you from helping a child.

If you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.  The 2nd edition and actual book-book (not just e-book!) just came out!

5 thoughts on “If My Classroom Library Was For Me”

  1. First of all, I really appreciate the F.Scott Fitzgerald quote at the beginning of your post. I believe that all students should be encouraged to embody the sentiment stated. This leads me to agree with your thoughts about the books that should be available to students in classrooms. They definitely need to have a variety of topics and genres to choose from. Individuality must be encouraged and fostered. Providing a great variety of books is an excellent way to encourage this.

    1. Byron,
      Of course I completely agree that a variety of genres of books should be in a class library, but what concerns me is that although one may have every topic you can imagine, there is always some type of book that is missing. What I would do, when I taught middle school and had more money, is that I would ask the students on Fridays what type of books they like or if there are any new titles that they’ve seen that might interest them. Usually, someone or several students had many verbal contributions and it assisted me with choice of new reading material!

  2. Hi Pernille
    I would love a classroom library such as yours. The majority of my library books have been donated to me from other teachers and from librarians who decided to remove books to add more computer space. Personally, I feel that is a shame. Having your students help you determine what belongs in your library is a great idea but how did you go about equally deciding what would stay, what would go and what to purchase? Unfortunately, our classroom budget is so low that we don’t have the luxury of purchasing a large library so I have to be very certain what to get. I too feel that real-life and current situation books are the way to go with building a library but I still love the classics and am trying to encourage my students to expand their reading horizons. Thanks for giving me some ideas.

  3. And on a larger scale, the same holds true for the school library. I am a high school librarian and my goal is to feed my readers and have something for everyone–even those who don’t know they enjoy reading yet. It isn’t MY library, it is OUR library. I so enjoy reading your posts, and while I don’t often comment, please know you have made me think, laugh, cry, and shout PREACH very often! Thank you for your good work. Keep on keeping on.

  4. Another gasp-worthy post. I read “And Tango Makes Three” to my middle school students to launch banned books week, and it was a lot scarier than I’d anticipated. I also booktalked “George” a week or two ago, and one of my students took it and is reading it despite some teasing from others. “Why do you want to read that?!” someone asked her. “Because it’s a good book,” she calmly replied. I loathe horror and child abuse memoirs; my students love them; I am working hard to build up my selection of both. Yes, it would be easier to play it safe, but I know that not all of my kids have that option in their real lives, so I want to provide them with those mirrors in literature. “This is how you get through this; you are not alone; here are some good and bad consequences of different choices you could make; others have survived what you are going through”–this is what books can say.

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