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Building a Classroom Library

Updated on April 19, 2013

Tactics for Teachers in the English Language Arts Classroom

It is the sole duty of the English teacher to get kids reading. Ok, maybe not the sole duty, but it’s definitely one of the big ones (along with writing!). There are a lot of things lower grade English Language Arts teachers use that are usually passed up on or forgotten as teachers get more specialized (read: middle grades to secondary). I wanted to find a practical way to build a classroom library of young adult literature, how to get students excited for those books, and how to use literature circles and self-selected reading in the high school setting.

Building a Classroom Library: A Practical Guide

I kept trying to figure out how teachers are supposed to get books for their classrooms. In lieu of using money given by your school, which in most cases probably won’t happen to build your own class library, you can follow these tips for getting books for your classroom.

Ask for Help

Exhaust all free resources you can before buying books you absolutely need. Ask your local library if they have any books they are planning on getting rid of. Also ask your school library to see what they move in and out to keep tabs on what they have. You will know better than anyone else what students may be interested in and even if a book isn’t in your personal classroom library, it’s good to know what the library has as well.

Another option is to ask the students for help. At the beginning of the year if you send out any notices to parents (agreements, contact info, etc.) ask for any young adult book donations that you might use in your library. There are even nifty “This Book Donated By:” templates and stickers all over the internet that you can put in the front of each book for students to recognize who has donated (and even maybe get some of them to donate to see their own names).

One thing to avoid however is putting books in your library that you haven't read or know nothing about. You want to make sure you don’t put books on your shelf you know nothing about. Always research books and thumb through them before putting them on your shelf to avoid running into problems with controversial stuff.

Look for Deals

Always be searching for deals through thrift shops, garage sales, craigslist, ebay, and local swap websites. These can be a goldmine of good literature that people don’t know about or don’t want. I regularly check out my hometown thrift store for books and can often come home with a stack of books for a quarter. Teachers tend get discounts on a lot of things just for being teachers and using stuff in your classroom, so it also doesn't hurt to mention you are a teacher buying them for your classroom.


There are a few tools libraries use that just can’t be included in the classroom (expensive scanners/software systems) however there are free alternatives. The website Booksource's Classroom Organizer offers a free system that allows you to make a list of books that are in your classroom library and even an app to let your students check out books by scanning the ISBN bar code on the back.

This, and other similar tools, can be helpful for you to keep track of what books you have and what books are checked out and by whom. Even if you just keep a pen and paper list of who checked out what, that can help you keep track so you can better offer books and see which books are being read and which aren't.


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