A love of libraries: 9 steps towards building your classroom library

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Library in the e-reader The Sound of Silence by Martyn Hobbs.
Illustrated by Gabriella Giandelli. © Helbling Languages

Building a library is no small enterprise, but it is definitely one worthy of investment. Similarly to your home or town library, a classroom library is there for generations to take care of, build and enjoy. What are the characteristics of a good library? And how can you create one from scratch? In our series about libraries (with a special focus on classroom libraries), we now take a look at the practicalities of stocking your library.

What I love about libraries is that they make the unimaginable real by providing resources in a wide range of subjects. Also, good libraries host a diverse selection of media: print, audio, video publications. I remember listening to old records in the music room, reading rare magazines and journals in the reading room, browsing albums, reading all sorts of dictionaries and borrowing DVD films from our town library. Although our very first thought is a huge bookcase packed with novels, a good library, no matter how small or large, should offer a great variety of books and places where you can sit and read them.

Here are our tips for a classroom library.

1 Ask for book donations.

Make a list and put it on the school message board.

Asking for book donations is the very first and cheapest step. Design a poster with your students asking for book donations from parents, relatives and students. They should see it as an investment in their children’s and their own future. You can also create a sheet with all the names of the people who have contributed to the library.

Help the donors by providing a list of items you need.

  • Make sure they understand the quality should be good enough.
  • All donations should be publications in English (ooks, newspapers, magazines, journals, dictionaries, albums, comic books and graphic novels).
  • CDs, videos/dvds, posters are also welcome but the emphasis should be on print.
  • Language-learning books are also a good idea, but really old ones might not be useful.
  • Graded readers and student editions of novels are the books which might be most beneficial for language learning.

2 Check out your local library.

Libraries often need to inventory their collections, and a lot of books need to be recycled. These books are often given away and you might be able to find some treasures.

You can also contact your national library centre and ask them if they have information about such events.

3 Look out for sales at bookstores and publishers.

Some bookstores and publishers often clear their stock and sell books with huge discounts (often 70-80% off). See if your school will give you funds OR have a fund-raising event such as a cake sale or reading event.

4 Ask the parents.

At the next teacher-parent meeting, share your idea of a classroom library with the parents of your students. Talk about the benefits of reading, and tell them you would like to build a library for your classes asking them if they would like to make a small financial contribution. (Obviously you, as the class teacher, will know if this is appropriate or not).

5 Talk to your headmaster and apply for funding.

Your school might be eligible for some funding to buy resources. Talk to your headmaster and ask if they know about any opportunity to support an English-language library.

6 Visit garage sales and second-hand bookshops.

Visit garage sales and talk to the owners of second-hand bookshops. When people hear that you’re dedicating your time to stocking your classroom library, they might offer you a good price on booksets.

7 Collaborate with other teachers.

Talk to other language teachers and see if you can order books from publishers or distributors at a good price. Big book orders are often easier to manage and you can get great deals.

8 Engage with a reading agency.

Are there any initiatives in your country which support language learning and reading? Approach them and they might be able to help you with your library project!

9 Contact publishers.

Publishers may be willing to donate books (especially old stock) to your library. Contact and ask.

How did you manage to build a library? Share you own ways of getting books for your classroom library!

In our new series, we address various aspects of building and managing a classroom library by discussing the following topics:

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