When I was a student at Edmonds Elementary School in Philadelphia, we visited the school library once a week. More important to me, my mom took us to the public library on Wadsworth Ave every Saturday morning. My mom was an avid reader – she consumed books, often finishing a book every two to three days. Of course, books were a big gift for birthdays and holidays, and we looked forward to each new acquisition. Our bedrooms had bookshelves to store these books. Magazines such as Life, Look, Reader’s Digest, and the Saturday Evening Post could be found on the coffee table and end tables in our living room.
Today, many of our students depend on our classroom library collection throughout the school year and even during summer months. Research has shown that the time students spend in classrooms reading actually accelerates their growth in reading skills. Our classroom libraries play an important role in developing students who are ready to take the lead in a global society. So it is important to examine our classroom collection a few times each year to do some weeding and determine what our students need in our collection that may not be there. If it is possible, perhaps students could check out three to six books before they leave for vacation and return them to you at the beginning of the new school year.
Try to provide all kinds of reading including genres that are appropriate for your grade level such as graphic novels, fantasies, and historical fiction and lighter reading such as comic books or magazines such as Ranger Rick, Stone Soup, Ladybug, Cricket, and Highlights for Children. Quality nonfiction selections are also important – both narrative and nonnarrative nonfiction. It is also essential to include a wide variety of books that span a wide range of reading levels as well. Sometimes, a shelf or tub will be dedicated to books that are available during certain months based on holidays, historical events, or themes in content areas as well as the ELA classroom.
Fountas and Pinnell recommend a collection of 300 – 600 books. Regie Routman tells us that an adequate classroom library will have at least two hundred books, but an excellent library will have more than a thousand (Reading Essentials, 2003, p.67) . She explains that the more books a teacher has in her in the collection, the less depleted the library becomes as the volume of books students are reading increases. She suggests that teachers should probably have several copies of popular titles. Multiple copies also encourage reading with a partner or can be a choice for a book club , a great practice since reading is a social act!
Reading Essentials by Regie Routman (Heinemann: Portsmouth, NH, 2003)
Literacy Essentials: Engagement, Excellence, and Equity for All Learners by Regie Routman (Stenhouse Publishers, Portland, ME, 2018)