The Kindle Classroom Project is only as good as the quality of its books.
Sure, I love getting Kindles in the mail from generous donors. It’s crazy to think that at this time last year, there were 12 Kindles in the collection, and now there are 80. I’m very appreciative!
But without books that my students want to read, those Kindles would go unread. That’s why I’m putting in more effort and resources into building the Kindle library. Right now, the library stands at 289 titles, and I’d like to reach 350 by January.
Like any good librarian, though, I’m not just accumulating books willy-nilly. After all, it would be easy to download tons of free classics from Project Gutenberg. But a bursting library with thousands of titles may overwhelm students new to Kindles and unfamiliar with vast collections.
The correct approach to building the Kindle Library involves four steps:
1. Ask students to request books they want.
There’s something powerful when a student approaches me, requests a book, and then I get it for them quickly, sometimes even right then in the moment. It says, “I’m listening to you, and I care about your reading, and you should be able to read what you want to read as soon as possible.”
Because of generous donors, I have an Amazon gift card balance ready for student book requests. My rule is that students can’t request a new book until they complete at least one from the library. After that, though, I’m happy to buy books for students. I’ve found that students choose well, plus requested titles often get read by multiple students at the same time.
2. Scour bookstores and other classroom libraries for good titles.
Whenever I go to Barnes and Noble or another rare real-life bookstore, I head over to the Young Adult section to check out the new titles. Many of them don’t fit my students, but it’s good to see what’s out there.
I’ve also had a lot of success asking other ninth grade teachers and teacher librarians. If there’s a book that you know my students would love, and it’s not in the current Kindle library, please email me or leave suggestions in the comments.
3. Acquire books that mirror the physical classroom library.
I’m happy right now with the 289 titles in the Kindle library, but that’s no match for the 688 books in my physical classroom library, which is currently on loan in Berkeley. Want to see it? Here’s a picture from last month (there are more books now). Nancy Jo Turner is masterful.
The problem is, Many of those great books in the physical library aren’t mirrored on the Kindles. In fact, I just completed a detailed analysis that concluded that fewer than 100 titles in my physical library are part of the Kindle library.
I have to do better. Classroom library mirroring is important. No, not all physical books should be mirrored, but many should be. If you’d like to help out, visit my Amazon wishlist, where I’m adding titles that need mirroring. Just be sure to add your name in the optional message box so that I can thank you (unless you want to remain anonymous).
4. Get rid of titles that never get read.
Here’s the controversial one. All good librarians weed books that circulate poorly. It’s an important part of sound collection management. But people are weird about books. They think you’re doing something sacrilegious if you donate or recycle a tattered book that nobody has read since 1931.
The sentiment is even stronger with Kindle books. “Why would you get rid of an ebook?” Over the years, I’ve found that students are bored by libraries that seem overgrown. The quality of each title matters much more than the quantity of total books. It’s much better to have 200 great books than 1,000 not-so-great ones. So that’s why I weed.
But here’s the best part of a Kindle library: You can weed and still keep the books, just in case, for later. Because they take up no physical space, I can easily take ebooks off the Kindles and keep them, safe and sound, on my computer. They’re always ready in case a student requests the title or if I change my mind.
* * *
There you have it! Thanks for reading about my plans to build the Kindle library. If you’d like to help out, please do. Let me know your thoughts. Also, you can head over to the Contribute page for more details about the 7 ways you can support students and their reading lives.