Today I share twelve ideas don’t cost a single penny and can help you grow your classroom book collection immediately. These ideas will help you stretch your thinking before you stretch your resources.
1. Go on a book hunt in your own classroom. Check out the cupboards, closets, shelves, and dark corners of your classroom. If you find books hidden away there, consider bringing them out to become part of your classroom collection. For every book you consider leaving behind in that “safe place” ask yourself this question, “When will this book next be read if it stays here?” Then ask yourself, “How much more could it be read if kids could see it and get their hands on it?
2. Break up whole class book sets. Yes, there, I said it. Break up whole class book sets. Whole class teaching of an assigned book or novel is contrary to the strong research base for what motivates and engages your readers. Everyone isn’t ever going to be ready for and interested in that set at the same time. So, instead of keeping the set together, break it up into smaller sets and individual books that can be shared with other classrooms. When everyone in the school decides to do this, you will be amazed at how many books you can share with each other. If everyone else in the school isn’t ready, be a trendsetter and pay it forward. Tell them you are working on increasing books selection for independent reading in your classroom and thought of them. Ask them to keep you in mind if they ever consider doing the same.
3. Tell families what you are doing and ask for their help. When you tell families about your efforts to build strong and diverse book collections in every classroom, you will be amazed at the support they give you. The first thing you can ask them to do is to scour their own bookshelves at home for any books that their children have outgrown or are no longer reading. You can also ask parents to consider supporting your efforts with book cards to the local bookstore, or books purchased from monthly book orders.
4. Ask for the gift that keeps on giving. Instead of holiday gifts to each other or the teacher, ask families to consider giving “the gift that keeps on giving” by contributing one or more books to the classroom collection at holiday time. You’ll put a special book plate in the front cover of each of these books, commemorating the name of the child and the date of the donation for all time. Some classrooms ask families to consider commemorating birthdays or other special days by contributing a book the child loves to the classroom collection. On their birthday, the book is read aloud, and everyone in the class creates a special card for the child, somehow incorporating an element of the book.
5. Ask grandparents to sponsor a magazine subscription. Many grandparents are anxious to support learning in whatever way they can. Make a special invitation to grandparents or other special people in a child’s life to sponsor a magazine subscription for your classroom. When the magazines start rolling in, they become a great and lasting compliment to your non-fiction library.
6. Set up a book exchange area in your staff room. Let’s face it, sometimes teachers can be packrats and have a hard time throwing anything away, especially books. We’re frugal human beings because resources are always so short in schools. So, to capitalize on this, you can set up an area in your school for books no longer being used by one teacher to be potentially adopted by another classroom. You may be asking yourself, “If my colleague no longer wants the book, why would I?” However, once you start this process, you will be certainly experience the old adage, “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.”
7. Organize an annual book fair at your school. Book fairs are fundraisers with a reading twist. Although you probably won’t make tons of money, you can earn lots of books. You will also get more books into your students homes, which is another important way to support reading growth. A by-product of more books in the home may also turn out to be more outgrown books coming back to school to be donated. When you do a book fair, be sure to have every classroom design a wish list for families to see when they come to shop. Many families are happy to purchase an extra book or two to be donated to the classroom collection, especially if it has a bookplate bearing their child’s name and the date of the donation.
8. Make the most of book order promotions. Be sure to keep a constant eye on the book order points and promotions that you receive as a way to keep a steady stream of new books coming into your classroom. Also, rather, than just hand out the book order to your students, take time to promote some of the best books in it each time. This will potentially increase the number of quality books (versus other junk) that your students order each time. You can also use the book orders to learn about what’s new, what’s popular, and what your kids are interested in.
9. Visit service organizations. Service organizations love to support a good cause. Increasing reading by increasing access to great choices within the classroom is a great cause to pitch to your local Lions, Rotary, Jaycees, Kiwanis, Sertoma club, etc. If you really want to make an impact, consider taking a few students with your to the meeting when you make your pitch. Alternatively, you could make a video of your students to take along with you.
10. Give your kids as much access to the school library as possible – Your kids need more access to books starting immediately. So, if your classroom library is currently pretty lean, start to do whatever you can to get your kids more access to the library in their school right now. This might mean pushing for the checkout limit to be extended (maybe five books at a time instead of one or two), or it might mean you push for more access (unlimited visits each week before and after school or during recess) rather than just one scheduled visit per week with the class, or you may push for more opportunities to take your whole class to the library each week as a group.
11. Visit the public library – If you can get your students to the public library, great. But even if you can’t, get there yourself and check out as many books as you are able to supplement your classroom collection. Although you may not be able to let these books go home with your students, you are sure to brighten their school day independent reading options with help from the public library.
12. Ask for library discards – Be sure to let both your school and your public library know that you are open to receiving any and all discards of children’s books that they have. Libraries discard books for a variety of reasons. Many of them are just beaten up. Some are NOT worth putting out for children, however, and you will have to be discerning. You may be pleasantly surprised, though, at what some libraries pull from circulation for replacement.