Thursday, May 31, 2018

M205 Classroom Library: The Shelf Project

Book donations
My DIY bookshelf project is nearing completion!

When my teacher-neighbor donated a bookshelf to my classroom library project a couple of weeks ago I was pretty pumped because the shelf is awesome and it fits perfectly under my windows, but I really wanted to personalize the shelves and make them my own.  So, I stole an idea from another teacher who had repurposed some tables in her classroom by covering the tops with pages from a favorite book and then sealing them with polyurethane.  They are fabulous tables!

So this is what I've been working on.  I've spent a couple of hours at school each day since school was out last week and I've been slathering Mod Podge on this shelf and sticking pages from To Kill a Mockingbird on it.  It looks great!

Today I finished covering the shelves and my next step is to go back over the entire thing with another Mod Podge coat, which I will do tomorrow. I'll let it harden over the weekend and then Monday I'll apply the first coat of polyurethane.  The shelves will be finished next week!  I can't wait to post pictures of the finished thing, but this is what the work in progress looks like:

It's going to be fabulous when it's finished!

Now what I need to do is to get enough books for my Classroom Library to fill these shelves!

It's summer, and people aren't thinking about school right now, so donations have stalled.  In the last week I've gotten three books.

I'm planning on writing a couple of grants and perhaps solicit a business or two and see if I can get some donations that way.  I'm combing thrift stores and garage sales, too.

One of my favorite professional blogs is Cult of Pedagogy and last week I came across this article about classroom libraries from 2016 which completely solidified my commitment to this project.  The author writes about the benefits of a classroom library from the standpoint of student/teacher relationships.

Building relationships is key in my mind to student success.

The author, Shelby Denhof, writes of her first year teaching and about her own classroom library:

I had [the books] out and ready on the first day of school. By the second day, some of my students approached me about them: “Would it be okay if I looked at these?” each one of them asked timidly, gesturing to the shelves. Of course I said yes. As a few students got up, others followed. I couldn’t have been more excited.  
Since then, books have circulated between the shelves and my students. There are a handful of books that are so sought after, my students created their own waiting list for them. It’s taped to the wall by the graphic novel section.

At the time of this article Denhoff had about five hundred books in her classroom library.

She explains the books have created a point of conversation between her and her students:
Talking about and sharing books has become such an integral part of my daily interactions with students, it’s difficult to pin down the magic it’s created...
I know what she means.  I've seen that magic and had those conversations with my students who already love to read. They get really excited when they talk about a book they're reading and they really want to share that experience. I've had students bring me favorite books and ask me to read them.

What I want to do with my classroom library is to get all of my students to feel that magic.  I want those struggling readers and those reluctant readers to be able to find something on my shelves that pull them into the pages and ignite their imagination.

Since I committed to this project about four weeks ago I've received about a hundred books strictly through donations and I've bought about a dozen books myself.  I'm confident that by the time school resumes on August 6, I will have reached and perhaps exceeded my goal of five hundred books!

I'm redoing my entire classroom around this project.  I now have three bookshelves in my room as opposed to one, and I'm redoing my bulletin boards to incite interest in our books.  When August gets here we will be ready!  I know that if I can get my students to read, and to read often, I will not only be building relationships with them and establishing points of conversation, but I'll also be giving them a life long skill that will stay with them long after the end of the school year. 

Here's the list if you want to send us a book!  And please share this project or post on your social media.  The more people that see it the better my odds of reaching my goal!

Further reading:
Building Relationships with Students through Books
There's a Sad, Empty Bookshelf in M205
M205 Library Update: You Guys Rock!
Building a Classroom Library: Help!
NCTE Statement on Classroom Libraries

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