Saturday, July 18, 2015

Why I Became a Book Hoarder

Can I tell you a secret? I totally love when someone walks into my classroom for the very first time. Kiddo, parent, teacher, doesn't matter. I secretly love the first moment they take in our classroom library.  And each time, I hope they love it even just half as much as I do. This room, this library is truly one of my most happy places. Walking into my class soothes my soul; there is just something so blissful about all of those books, all of those amazing stories waiting to be told. There are books everywhere! In every nook and cranny I can fill, and I am always looking for ways to bring more in.

Our nonfiction library
I can tell you in one word exactly WHY I became the book hoarder that I am today: CHOICE! In my room it is all about choice. My first goal is to create a lifelong lover of reading. That is it! First and foremost before I do anything, I want my kiddos to LOVE reading. I do all that I can to create an environment in which it is super cool to be a reader, and to do must have an opportunity to choose what THEY want to read.

To do this, I have done all I can to create a library large enough to meet the needs of all of my kiddos. I can honestly say there are well over twelve thousand books in my classroom...and yes, I have counted them. With a library this large, I spend a few weeks each summer reorganizing, cleaning, and culling books, so usually I can quickly place my hands on any particular title when needed. This comes in handy when making book recommendations. 

Why do I add so many new titles each year? For me it is pretty simple...each and every class is so different in their reading preferences. The year before last, I could not bring in enough horror fiction; they flew off of the shelf as quick as I could get them, even with all the titles I already had. Three years before that, Geronimo Stilton was the biggest thing in the world guess who now has two big baskets of Geronimo Stilton books...this girl! 

Five years ago, I had a student that was an insatiable reader and so high in her abilities that I ended up stocking an entire bookshelf just for her. Two years ago, realistic fiction was the hot topic in my room, and the girlie girls couldn't read my Wendy Mass collection quickly enough. Just last year, I had a precious reader coming into her own, falling in love with I have the entire A to Z Mysteries collection; of course I had to fill in the gaps of this collection because I did not want her to ever want a book and not have it. 

Graphic Novel library
The last three or four years I have seen a huge spike in the number of quality graphic novels published for younger students. It had been that this was a boys market forever, and I was quite grateful at how spectacularly these titles transformed so many of my reluctant readers...just enough to open the door for me to show them many other amazing titles. But now with the publication of Smile and Sisters by Raina Telgemeier, my girls can't get enough of them either, and don't even get me started on that Raina has now started illustrating The Babysitter's Club as graphic novels. Oh goodness....I know there will be some great new titles to add this school year. 

So year by year, I buy titles to fill the gaps in the needs and desires of each class, and I guide them to what titles I already have by making book recommendations. When I see that a kiddo is just about to finish a cool series, I search to find him a new one. If I can't find what he is looking for already in my room, I will pull him over for a conference and pull up Amazon right then and there. It doesn't take much to find inexpensive used books, and that moment of buying a book just for him is such a motivator. Don't think that my other kiddos don't take notice of that moment either. 

More than once after reading and responding to readers' notebooks over the weekend, I have found myself in Books-a-Million to pick up a recommendation that I did not already have. As my library grows, that happens less often, but when my kiddos see that I am willing to invest in their reading success, they often invest in themselves.

So with all of these titles and a goal to make my kiddos fall in love with books...we start the year with a book frenzy and establish our "to read" piles. This crazy reading workshop launch is another reason that having so many titles is a must for our room.

We launch our reading workshop with a huge, and frankly quite messy, book frenzy! Stacks of books are given to each kiddo. Each stack contains books just below, comfortably within, and just above their expected reading levels and lots of their favorite genres, subjects, and authors. Watching students make their final selections and conferencing with them will clue me in to just how well each kiddo makes appropriate book choices. I have learned that this is sometimes a leap of faith... having enough faith in the kiddos to make the best reading choices until we can conference and learn together is sometimes challenging. I have often found that giving them that trust is simply one more way to invest in their reading and to invest in our relationship.

Garrett (last year's student)
checking out blurbs to create his
"to read" pile in his cubby

Stacks of "to read" piles in we conference and work
together on reading; adjustments will be made to help kiddos
continue growing and motivated in their independent reading

Of course, my ultimate goal is to get them reading and responding to the books they love as quickly as possible.... AND to do as much of that as possible WITHOUT unnecessary interruption from me.

Their "to read" stacks are fluid and always changing as their tastes in reading grow. This is merely our launching point, and as I get to know them more from their notebooks and our conferences, we find which books move them the most, which books they cannot wait to read next, or which books they cannot wait for their friends or me to read.

Our largest fiction library.

As my students begin to recognize just what moves them as readers, they can pull from most of the libraries in the room on their own to add to their to read pile. Books are grouped in a number of ways. There are baskets arranged by subject, genre, series, and author to help kiddos find what they are looking for quickly and efficiently. 

Baskets and books are numbered to help students return books to the correct basket.


Our nonfiction library.

Our mentor text library! These are the books I use for guided mini lessons...
Since each year each class has different needs, I choose books accordingly.
Although I do have some all time favorite go-to books. :)

Books are alphabetized by author...

This library is for multiple copies and teacher recommendation.

These books are simply organized by like subject/ author. Not sure of the rhyme or reason, but it works for me. I can usually find what I am looking for pretty quickly, and because each section and book is lettered, kiddos can usually return books to the right place just as easily. 


Being a book hoarder can be an overwhelming amount of work sometimes, but I don't think I could do it any other way now. 

It makes my heart happy to see a new book and instantly know which kiddo would choose that book if they could. All of this book buying and recommending is just one more way for me to give my kiddos choice.... to let them find what moves them, to let them find their own love of books. Watching kiddos make those choices and watching them fall in love with reading, makes all the book hoarding worth it.

Happy Reading, friends!

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  1. Wow! I thought I had a lot of books but mine doesn't come close to yours! I have about 1,000 books that I've purchased over the last 5 years. I try to add to it every year. I too want my kids to become readers and love to read. Thank you for your post - it was inspiring!
    Are We There Yet?

  2. Great job Tina! The look on this administrators face is of joy and inspiration. Your passion for reading and books inspires every student that crosses the treshold of your classroom. Thank you for your love of reading and hoarder of books! ❤️

  3. Wow, that is an amazing library, I'm super-duper impessed! I have 1,289 (just rearranged & cataloged this summer) and can comfortably fit up to about 1,500 I'd say in my shelves / room. I truly don't know where I'd fit any more than this though, I'd need much taller shelves!