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Tools of the Trade: Using the Classroom Library as a Tool to Move Students Forward as Independent Readers

By Kelly Virgin

My first year teaching I half filled a little book shelf in the back corner of my classroom with all the YA novels I’d collected throughout college.  A part of me was excited to share these books with my students, but most of me was just happy to clear the totes out of my closet at home.  However, as the year progressed, I soon realized the books were getting about as much use on the shelves as they had received the previous year living under my winter coats. I attributed this to the unimpressive size and slightly outdated contents and vowed to do better.

As years passed, my library grew to include the latest hits and began to take over a larger part of my classroom. I naturally expected my students interactions with it to increase accordingly.  I thought I was doing everything right.  I added bookshelf after bookshelf.  I organized by genre into colorful bins. I tagged the spines of books with color-coded labels.  I created display shelves and rotated best sellers in and out of position.  I dedicated an entire bulletin board to the library and I posted book news, and reviews, and suggestions. I added a magazine section and a children’s book section. I moved in an old comfortable papasan.

Besides increased bickering over who got to sit in the “comfy chair,” I noticed only a little increased interest in my classroom library. Year after year, I amped up my efforts but continued to lament over what I was doing wrong. Then it hit me.   Read more