Making the Most of Classroom Libraries

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Being an English as a Second Language Learner myself, I have experienced the importance of promoting extensive reading in the classroom. This belief was later reinforced with my teaching experiences at all levels, and with my PhD work. Extensive reading should be a ‘must’ in any SL classroom, and it may be developed in many ways (see Day, 2002, to know his suggested top ten principles). In this article, I am dealing with one of my favourite resources: s, and how we can make the most of them in our classrooms. Let’s go!

Even if classroom libraries are more common now than 20 years ago, it is true that teachers still find it difficult to organise them appropriately, and they are sometimes reluctant to undertake the ‘apparently complex task’ of organising one. Let’s have a look at the reasons they often present to justify the absence of classroom libraries in their classrooms, and how we can help them find solutions to each of them.

Classroom libraries are expensive. 

How to make a classroom library with a short budget?

Here you have some ideas:

  • contact publishing houses. They may sometimes want to pilot reading materials and use your students as research participants. Also, they can give you advice about how you can better get discounts and offers.
  • get children bring their books. If each child takes one book to class, you will have a collection of different books to create a classroom library. This is not very expensive and may save the day.
  • find free books on the Internet. You may find free digital books or printable books. Some interesting websites are Reading A-Z (you can ask for a free trial and download some books for free) or the International Children’s Digital Library
  • exchange books with an English-speaking school. Many schools in Spain are assigned to a twin school in an English-speaking country. In some cases, they need Spanish books, and we need books in English. There are inexpensive shippings which may take longer to arrive but will bring a big box full of books to your school’s door 🙂

There’s no room for a library in my classroom.

The best classroom libraries I’ve ever seen were not big but small and cozy. It is just a question of imagination and creativity. You just need some:

  • plastic containers to organise and classify books
  • labels to categorize the books
  • a table to display the registration list and other materials needed
  • a carpet and some cushions, or soft chairs

See what you can do with some basic elements looking at these examples:

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In this class there is space for independent reading. Books have been displayed so that children can take them and explore them. There are posters to encourage reading and give them advice about reading strategies. Also, it is has good natural light coming through the windows 🙂

 

 

 

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In this second example we also have a bookshelf with books organised into different categories, and comfortable spaces for children to sit down and read.

 

 

 

 

I can’t be in charge of a classroom library

And you don’t need to! Reflect with your students about the roles needed to run a library successfully. Set times in class to assign roles to different students. Give everybody the chance to experience diverse roles in the library. Children feel comfortable and important when teachers trust them 🙂

I can’t control children’s readings

And you don’t have to! Don’t praise quantity but quality. You can provide students with spaces to share their opinions about books, use blogs to invite students to share their readings, have a short assembly to share reading experiences in class, etc. Try to see reading in class as a longitudinal experience. You may record progress at different times and ask students to reflect on the whole process at the end.

Also, it is always a good idea to gamify the lesson and recognise students’ progress with badges and certificates. You can also use a ‘narrative’, a learning trip to invite students to read different genres, for example 🙂

Classroom libraries are worth the effort! Do you have any doubts or questions? Have you ever used classroom libraries? Please share your experiences here or using Twitter #TTTeach #ClassroomLibraries

 

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