The Importance of a Classroom Library
Reading is important. All teachers know that. Reading increases vocabulary, comprehension, and critical thinking skills. Students who read often can become more empathetic and understanding of others. As teachers, we do what we can to encourage reading, but sometimes, school libraries aren’t enough for our students.
Classroom libraries are critical in helping our students become lifelong readers. They have benefits that school libraries just can’t provide. Here are five reasons to build your own classroom library.
School libraries can be limited.
At the beginning of my career, I was teaching seventh grade in a high poverty area. I required my students to have silent reading time in class. It was a struggle to get my boys to read, especially the African American boys. I thought the solution to the problem was to help students choose books more wisely when we went to the library.
Looking through the stacks, I realized there was a bigger issue. Our school library had very few books with male African American characters. It was suddenly very clear why those boys weren’t reading. They couldn’t relate to the characters in any of the books available to them. That’s when I realized I needed to build a classroom library to fill in the gaps that existed in the school library. I later realized the library was also missing high interest low level books, and all of the nonfiction books were out of date. Take a serious look through your school library and find the gaps that exist for your students.
Students have easy access to books.
When books are in your classroom, there’s never an excuse not to read. Students don’t need to worry about the librarian sending them away without a book because they have a library fine. They don’t need to worry about coming to class empty handed when they leave their library book on their nightstand at home. Your classroom library has them covered.
Teachers know their students best.
At school, no one knows your students better than you. You know their interests, hobbies, and fears. Because of this, we can build our classroom libraries and book displays around our students. Book displays in school libraries are often seasonal or just show new arrivals. They don’t always match our students’ interests. The book displays you set up in your classroom can be customized for your students’ interests.
A library gives you teaching aids.
A classroom library can help with your daily instruction. When my students are struggling with punctuating dialogue while writing narratives, the first thing I do is grab some novels from my classroom library. I find pages with lots of dialogue, put them under the document camera, and review the punctuation rules. Students then have examples to refer back to.
You could also pull novels when teaching students about the different genres or break out the novels in verse when teaching poetic form. Novels with dual narrators are great when teaching students about voice. There are so many different ways your classroom library can aid your instruction.
A classroom library is more private.
The school library in my building is always busy. The library is a multipurpose space. Classes come in to get books, others use the computers, some just need the large library tables for projects, and others use it as a space to relax and work on puzzles. I never considered privacy for browsing until last school year, but I realize now how important it is.
I noticed that one of my students stayed after class multiple days in a row to browse my classroom library. I had just gotten new diverse books from a Donors Choose grant and created a few little displays for them. Each day after her classmates left, this student would start to browse the new LGBTQ+ section. As soon as students from the next class arrived, she would stop looking. It was clear that she didn’t want anyone to see that she was looking at the LGBTQ+ section. I let her know that she could come look at books during my lunch hour when no other students were around. That gave her the privacy to browse that she couldn’t get in the school library.
I hope this has encouraged you to create a classroom library of your own. If you haven’t started your own library, or you need free options to expand your library, read my blog post about building a classroom library on a budget.