Books: a need, a want, a wish

Did you know that experts say a classroom library should have at least 20 books per student? Even for just one class of juniors, that’s almost 600 books!


We all know that reading is vitally important. Kids need to read.  Reading creates empathy (and boy do we need that right now), reading helps us identify our own values and ideals, reading builds vocabulary, reading makes us better writers.  I could go on, but this infographic from Kelly Gallagher sums it up pretty nicely. Unfortunately, so many of our kids have lost their love of reading, and by the time they’re juniors, they’ve learned how to play the game and get away with “fake reading”. I know that no matter what our plans, we’ll still have kids like this.

But it’s my job to try to solve the problem.  In order to grow readers though, I have to get books in their hands.

And not just any old books.

Good books. Relevant books. Engaging books. Funny books. Scary books.

Books with characters who struggle, who face adversity, who look like my students.

All the books!

Unfortunately, I alone cannot find and purchase all the books needed to create this wonderland of words.


If you’ve been reading my blog or tweets this summer, you know I’ve been struggling with which books to teach. I know I want to teach what’s best for my kids, but the debate about what is best for them still rages in my head.  While I haven’t completely resolved this issue, I have finally narrowed my plans down a few ideas.

Thematic units: this year, rather than designing our curriculum chronologically, we are going to organize thematically. I am excited about the opportunities I think this will provide within each unit.

The Classics: students are reading Of Mice and Men this summer, and I still plan to teach The Great Gatsby and Streetcar Named Desire. I just plan to approach these quite differently than in the past (more on this when the time comes).

Book Clubs: at least twice this year I hope to have students read choice books in groups. Rather than forcing them to analyze the plot to death, I want them to talk bout their books, much like we do in a book club as adults (minus the wine!).  I’d like to start with memoirs, as they will fit perfectly in our first thematic unit dealing with the ideas of home and finding our identities.

Independent reading: throughout the year I plan to have kids reading independently any book of their choice. I have really struggled with this in the past, but I think I need to let it go and just see how it turns out. I’ve gotten a ton of good ideas from a question I posted in a Facebook group, so I think I can move forward with it.


I wish to have a literature-rich classroom. Again, the problem is this: despite teaching at a suburban high school in a thriving city outside of Birmingham, Alabama, I still have kids whose parents cannot afford to purchase books for their kids.  Having been a teacher for 11 years, you’d think I’d have a ton of books, but unfortunately, I’ve never been successful in building an impressive library. I have many books, but most of them are hand-me-down mysteries from my parents.  While I love these books, they often times do not catch the fancy of my students!

When it comes to the classics, I have enough old donated copies that I can cover the kids who need to borrow a book, but as far as all of the other reading, I have very little. We have a great library; however in a school with 3000 kids, it’s not always possible to get the book you want.

I plan to use some of my classroom money, but that doesn’t become available until mid-October, so it’s hard to get started. Plus, we never know how much we will be allotted, so I can’t plan for it either.

This is where you (and your friends, neighbors, family, colleagues) come in!

I am hoping to get book donations for my classroom.

These books can be new or used. I’ve been hitting thrift stores and 2nd & Charles for deals. You never know what might be on sale on Amazon, too! I’ve also got books lying around my house that I’ve taken in.  I kick box with a past student’s parent, and she brought me six or seven books for my classroom.

What genres or titles? Students love memoirs, dystopian lit, and most young adult lit. I’d also like to build my collection of multicultural literature (YA, memoirs, fiction, nonfiction representing all different cultures).  So, I guess it boils down to anything appropriate for high school students!

Thank you so much for taking time to read this and for any help you can give–donating or sharing!

I appreciate you, and my students are so lucky to have you in their corner!!

If you’re interested, able and ready to go, see the address in the infographic above.

Please share! Put this on Twitter or Facebook. Email it to a friend! Help me spread the word!

If you’re interested and able to help but have questions, please contact me through the form below or find me on twitter: @loudenclearblog



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