Saturday, December 29, 2012

Build It and They Will Come

Reflections on Book Love by Penny Kittle
I'm participating in not one, but two online discussions about this book. I read it as soon as it came out, but these groups are giving me time to reflect and shape my thinking. 

I don't know what I was thinking when I left most of my first classroom library in the junior high where I taught.  Did I think high school students didn't need books? Did I think high school students only read classics? Did I think high school students didn't need easy reads?

I don't know. But I left most of that library on the shelves for the next reading teacher (bangs head on desk).

I moved into my new room at the high school, a room I shared with another teacher. She taught freshmen English in the mornings while I was in another room. I taught speech there in the afternoons. Roomie and I are very compatible, so the arrangement worked great.  At some point, we began bringing our books into the room.

And that is how the second classroom library began. A few books from home (high five).

Slowly, it grew.  We both taught a scripted reading program that we hated (poking eyes out with dull spoon). The only good thing about the program was 15-20 minutes a day of choice reading (Well, choice if you taught it with fidelity. Some who are teaching it now are bastardizing the choice component by assigning genres.) Because of that choice component, we began buying more books (I love Scholastic)  and the school bought many (woohoo!).

The library grew (cheers from the crowd).

It's hard to find good books for teenagers. Not what most adults think are good books. I wanted those books that high school students and their teachers thought were good books. Young Adult fiction.

This was about the time that I took Twitter seriously (@mrsday75). And do you know what I found?  People like Roomie and I. People that taught teenagers, respected teenagers, and, best of all, LIKED teenagers (It's amazing to me the number of educators who don't actually like kids.) And these Twitter people LIKED to read young adult fiction. And they wrote about it. They shared titles. They shared book trailers!

I began keeping a list. A long list. If all I did was read every day (I want that job) I might be able to keep up with the young adult fiction out there, but for now, I'll trust the opinions of others.

I started haunting garage sales and second hand stores. My husband knows that if we are in a town with a Goodwill, we have to stop. And I will be there awhile. My favorite finds have been a brand new hardcover copy of The Book Thief  (and it only cost me a buck). A copy of Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver (This resulted in my author crush on Maggie). An autographed copy of Dick Vitale's autobiography (My basketball players are SERIOUSLY impressed). 

The point is, you never know what you will find. You do your research. You keep your eyes and ears open.

And then you ask. When I taught seventh grade, I would ask parents to donate any books that they were going to get rid of (I can't imagine getting rid of books, but people do it!). I couldn't use all the books I received, so I took what I wanted and put the rest in the lounge of our K-8 building. They were scooped up. (It's about time I do this again!). Roomie and I have also had students donate books to the library when they are done with them.  We always write in the books "Generously donated by___" on the inside front cover so others can see where the books come from.

So, that's how it happens. One or two books at a time.

And now the books are nestled in their baskets on the shelves.

But, do they read them?

Roomie is now in her own room, teaching Spanish around the corner. She left her books with me because it was easier than moving them. She just comes down and grabs books for kids when they need them. Every once in awhile, a student will appear at my door during class.

"Schwade sent me to get a book."
"Do you need help?"
"No, she gave me a list."

Someone will show up between classes...
"Help, Mrs. Day. I need a book."

Or a staff member will say, "What have you read lately that's good?"

And that's how it happens. One or two books at a time.

Book Love.


  1. I especially love that you included a picture here! And I also (as always) appreciate the honesty in your voice. The line about actually liking teenagers makes me shake my head. It is a disappointed, but knowing shake. I can't wait to visit this library in person! I am determined to make that happen this school year.

  2. Your post made me smile, takes patience to build that classroom library....and book love, which comes from oneself and anyone else who is willing to lend a hand (or share on Twitter, which I have to do). Thanks for sharing the photograph, too....I love peeking into classrooms.