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Best practice for classroom libraries: Multiple copies of fewer titles

favicon Here’s one that used to escape me.

Let’s say you’re a teacher, and you care about reading, and you want to start building a classroom library. Let’s say you raise $1,000. How do you spend your money?

Choice #1: Buy 100 different books.
This way, there is a lot of selection, and students will be impressed that you have tons of different books to choose from.

Choice #2: Buy 20 different books 5 times each.
This way, there is way less selection, but you encourage students to read books together and talk about them.

What do you think?

When I was a teacher, I thought that Choice #1 was the answer. In my mind, the more titles, the better. I never really considered buying multiple copies of the same book. After all, wasn’t that wasting money?

But then, over a few years, I began to change my mind. Erica Beaton’s beautiful classroom library was the first thing that got me thinking.

Classroom Library - Erica Beaton

Great library, right?

But that wasn’t enough. I was still stubborn and ignorant. Then came Tess Lantos, excellent ninth grade English teacher at Impact Academy in Hayward. (You will likely hear more about her in upcoming months!)

Tess helped me come to my senses. She has always built her classroom library through multiple copies of high-interest books. “Is there another way?” she asks kindly, so I can save face.

Because of Tess, now the trend is everywhere. Take a look!

It makes total sense. Single copies of tons of titles are overwhelming. The bookshelves look too much like the public library, which is scary for some students. You don’t know where to look, how to browse, which book to pick up and try. This is particularly true if you’re a struggling reader or your teacher expects you to read 18 books this year even though you haven’t finished a book since you were in the third grade.

Multiple copies of fewer titles, on the other hand, make a classroom library resemble a Barnes and Noble bookstore. Books pop, whether you stack them spine-out or cover-out. The bookshelves are beautiful, and if you’re a student, you’re lured to check out all that color and pick up a book.

The only concern with the multiple copies approach, of course, is that there is a greater risk if the teacher chooses poorly. Spending $10 on one book that no student reads isn’t a problem, but spending $50 is another story. I totally relate and understand the anxiety teachers feel when purchasing books.

That’s why I think it’s so crucial to ask your colleagues, public librarians, and students to determine which books will “sell.” It’s true that if you have 150 ninth graders, not all of them will like the same 20 books. On the other hand, I can assure you that 80-90% will like Tyrell. And away you go to your list of Top 20 Books.

What do you think of this approach? Would you modify anything? Please leave your thoughts. Also, if you have a book that you believe 80-90% of ninth graders will love, share it, please, and say why! favicon

Please share your brilliant insights!