Incorporating independent reading into my classroom is one of the best things I’ve done as a teacher. Even before we officially started our 10 minutes of daily independent reading time, my students’ reactions just to the announcement that we would partake in this activity EVERY day solidified that I was doing something good. The smiles were encouraging, but hearing a more than one student blur out, “This is going to be the best part of class!” was even better. Am I insulted that some of my students (Ok, who am I kidding? MOST of my students) may enjoy their independent reading books more than the whole class novels I will teach, novels that I love; novels that are classics or contemporaries that will one day be classics; novels that have AP literary merit and thereby appropriate subject matter for an AP essay? No way, people. I am geeked that my students are geeked about reading. That’s all that matters because a reader who loves to read is going to be a better reader, even if said reader is not gaga over Darl Bundren’s intuition or Elizabeth Bennet’s sharp-tongued wit.
It took me a few years (and I unfortunately use the word few loosely) to incorporate the benefits of daily independent reading into my curriculum, but as soon as I did, I immediately wanted to supplement that aspect of my classroom by sharing YA books I loved with my students. I started by bringing in stacks of books and book-talking them to see if I could generate interest. I even threw in some read-alouds to really hook them (like, the first 100 pages of Divergent and then left them hanging!). It worked. Students were borrowing my books! They were loving my books! And I, I was loosing track of my books! Copying down who had what book on the back of a pass really wasn’t working for me. Carting bags of books back and forth between school and home wasn’t doing it either. I knew what I had to do–start a classroom library.
Here it is. Cute, right? It’s new, so it’s small (95 books), but it’s slowly growing. The best part, though, is that it’s getting used. Students are reading books. For fun. And I’m pretty sure they are liking it. The challenge–I am in more than one classroom, and a traveling library in a crowded high school is less than practical. That’s why I am in love with Classroom Organizer from Booksource. It’s a free organizational tool for organizing your classroom library and keeping track of who has your books. It also makes my collection available for perusal to my students who aren’t physically in the classroom where my library is.
We are only a couple weeks into the school year, and books are leaving my shelf daily. Every book I have on my shelf is also available in our school library, but if the school library is out of a particular title, I know 76 lucky seniors who now have plan B.