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First starter classroom library complete!

favicon Let me make a plain statement. If you want your students to read, you need books. Lots of them. Good ones. (Bonus points = New books.)

Sure, you can tell your students to visit the public library. Or the bookstore. Or, if you’re lucky, the school library. But that works only if your students already identify as readers.

If they don’t, that’s where you need a classroom library.

Inspired by Penny Kittle, author of Book Love and the founder of the Book Love Foundation, which helps teachers build classroom libraries, I am excited to announce that the first-ever Iserotope Starter Classroom Library is now a reality!

Here’s a peek:

First Iserotope Starter Classroom Library.jpg

The library, from top left to bottom right, includes five copies each of 22 titles: Thirteen Reasons WhyDrama High: The FightThe Fault in Our StarsEleanor & Park, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Snitch, A Child Called It, Dope Sick, Monster, Tears of a Tiger, Lost and Found, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Lightning Thief, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The First Part Last, Life in Prison, The Rose that Grew from Concrete, Legend, We Were Here, Tyrell, Street Pharm, and Hip Hop High School.

The 110 books were purchased with the kind and generous donations of people across the country. A total of seven separate DonorsChoose.com projects were funded, with 53 donors in all. The total cost of the 110 books was $1,339.

Here are all the donors: Anonymous (x 11), 100 Women in Hedge Funds (x 9), Alyssa (California), Miss Large (California), Marielle (San Francisco), Nyokabi, Ellen (Oakland), Carmen (Kansas), Emily (California), Wendy (California), Jacob (California), Sean (California), Gwyn (California), Laura (California) (x 2), Google, Larry (Texas), Sue (Texas), Macey (Texas), John (California), Roxy (California), Susann (Alameda, CA), Linda (Boulder Creek, CA), Sam (California), Marian (California), Elaine (Thousand Oaks, CA), Kristin (Alabama), David (Pennsylvania), Jennifer (California), Lori (Benicia, CA), Gregor (California), Lisa (California), George (Boston, MA), Roni (Pennsylvania), Melanie, Mr. Bahl (Elmhurst, NY), Candice (Oakland, CA), Donna (Oakland, CA), Valerie (California).

It took just two months to build this starter classroom library, thanks to these generous donors. Four of the donations came from friends. Thank you! The rest are from total strangers. Thank you!

It is astounding and heartwarming to know that there are so many people across the country who care about Bay Area students and their reading lives. It gets me excited about what can happen if we get the right books into the hands of our students.

Just a little more about the process, in case you’re wondering:

I chose the titles with the help of some of my colleagues, who have been keeping track of which titles have been most popular among ninth graders this year.

Instead of purchasing 110 different books, I decided to buy five copies of each title. This is best practice, I believe. Particularly for ninth graders, and especially to encourage reluctant readers to come back to reading (after sometimes a long time off), it’s best to focus on depth rather than breadth. It’s better for students to be reading the same titles, talking about how much they like those stories and characters, and building a classroom reading culture of shared texts. Once they have several of these books under their belt, they’re on their way. They’re free to explore.

I’m really excited to get this starter classroom library out to a deserving teacher and his or her students. But now comes the hard part. Who should get this library? Right now, I’m not ready to come up with a process, but I know one is necessary. After all, there are many excellent teachers ready to make a huge impact on their students through independent reading.

Please let me know, by leaving a brilliant insight, what you think of this starter classroom library and if you have any ideas about how to decide who should receive it. Thank you! favicon


  1. Sarah

    I can’t give you a specific name but I think that it should go to a 9th or 10th grade teacher who is part of your sphere of influence. It should be someone who is always trying to improve his/her practice and who seeks out advice from others. I’d love to see it go to a newish teacher…but a person that you think will stay in teaching for several years.

  2. Maghan

    This classroom library is phenomenal; I only hope to have something like this in my 8th grade ELA classroom! At the start of this year, I only had about eight books in my “library”, but over the last few months, I expanded to about 25 books from purchasing Caudill texts and picking up several other books at Good Will.

    I have been searching for businesses that offer school supplies and books donations to classrooms; however, I have not been successful in searching. This year alone, I’ve spent at least $750.00 out of my pocket for my 80+ students. The district in which I teach does not give their teachers a stipend, and my students live in an area where the economy has been tough on the families.

    I actually grew up within this district, so I know what most of these students face at home day to day. I am a new teacher; however, I am 32 and was in the military, so I am coming into education with a vast amount of other experiences in addition to “best practices”. Good luck with your decision; please make sure the chosen teacher is deserving. 🙂

  3. Mark Isero

    Maghan, thank you so much for your brilliant insight, and welcome to the Iserotope community! It’s hard to build a classroom library, but you seem to have the dedication and commitment. Have you tried DonorsChoose? I’ve found that small projects ($200 or less) asking for books get funded fairly quickly. Let me know if you’d like support in getting that going. It’s always a good idea to have a project up on the site.

    Sarah, I totally agree with you: My heart is always with ninth graders and their teachers. It’s the most important year of high school (and was the hardest for me to teach). I think I have a pretty good candidate in mind!

  4. Suzanne Mills Crawford

    Can I just say I am so excited that this classroom library is built to spark talk about books? Because that is brilliant. And so not SSR as usual.

    • Mark Isero

      Hi Suzanne! I totally agree that TALK is crucial. I’d rather have multiple copies of fewer titles than fewer copies of more titles. Some of my colleagues do literature circles with multiple copies, which I think is great, but I also just like the idea of building classroom libraries where everybody sees that talk is hoped for, expected, valued, prized. Thank you for your insight, Suzanne!

Please share your brilliant insights!