One of the best things about reader’s workshop can also be seen as one of its biggest obstacles: you need a classroom library with a variety of books at a variety of reading levels, so your students can have lots of choice. Teachers envision themselves having to spend their own money to stock the shelves, but there are several other, less expensive, sources to access. Read on for five ways to stock your classroom library.
1. Ask your students to get their own books
First of all, you don’t always have to provide the books. Some students will prefer to buy their own, and they like to trade with each other once workshop gets rolling. You can also ask them to donate any books they have at home that they don’t want to keep any longer. Every year, I get amazing new titles added to my classroom library from students who want to tidy up their own shelves.
2. Ask parents for donations for your classroom library
I send a letter to parents at the beginning of the semester, explaining to them how reader’s workshop will work. I let them know that students will be selecting their own books and that they should ask them about what they are reading at home. (This covers you when it comes to students selecting books that parents may not be happy with; by asking parents to communicate with their children about their reading choices, you put the responsibility in their hands).
This letter is also an opportunity to ask for donations of any used books they might like to get rid of, ones you can use to stock your classroom library. Many are happy to have a good place to send their used books, and some will also choose to donate new titles too.
3. Ask your principal or department head to help stock your classroom library
Ask if there is any money for you to buy some books to stock your classroom librar. Most departments have some money for teachers to spend on classroom materials, and even if it’s a small amount, you can add one or two new titles each year.
4. Put a request out on social media
A few years ago, I put out a call on my personal Facebook page. I told my friends that I was looking for used books for my classroom library, and I got several tubs of great reads for my students. I even had a former student send me two boxes from Amazon, full of all the latest and greatest YA books! What a wonderful surprise that was!
5. Search used book stores
Whether you are spending money from your principal or your own, always buy used. You will get twice as many books than you will if you buy new.
Try the Book Love Foundation
Every year, Penny Kittle’s Book Love Foundation gives away piles of books to teachers. Click here to find out more.
I hope that gives you some ideas that can help you start stocking your shelves for independent reading in your classroom. And, if you need ideas for independent reading, check out these posts:
Reading Workshop in Middle and High School
Reading Workshop and the Full Class Novel
I've beefed up my library a lot in the past twelve months. A local used bookshop actually gives away $30 of books annually to any teacher who asks, which goes a long way at their prices. Library book sales are great. I applied for a grant from our district education association. I've even had authors' agents send me books when I've written inquiring about their speaking schedule. Professional conferences often include giveaways. Scholastic books can also be leveraged for free and cheap books.
Yard sales are a great resource as well. A lot of times there's great titles for under a dollar and the sellers are often willing to cut you a deal for classroom books.
I seek out the library used book sales in my area. Last year I snagged three grocery bags full of books for $6!!!