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What happens to physical books in schools

favicon No matter how careful teachers and librarians are, this is what happens too often to physical books in urban public schools.

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It’s sad but true: Physical books get thrown in random bins on classroom floors. They’re strewn about willy-nilly, artifacts of classroom detritus.

Those books are definitely not in students’ hands, or in their backpacks — or anywhere near students, for that matter, which means those books are not being read.

Sure, many schools (though not very many urban public schools) have beautiful libraries, where physical books do not meet this fate. But in most schools, where resources are low, libraries are scarce, and teacher turnover is high, physical books are not so lucky.

Today a student approached me at a school in Oakland. She’s a voracious reader, and last year, she was part of the Kindle Classroom Project. At the end of the year, she decided to return to physical books because she missed them. “But I was wrong, Mr. Isero,” she told me, before asking me to rejoin the program.

It’s not that e-books are better than physical books, the student said. It’s that they’re more accessible, and they’re easier to take care of. “I was going to the library, but everything was checked out, and I forgot to return books on time,” she said. With the Kindle, “books are everywhere I go.”

That’s a good thing. If we get books in the hands of students wherever they go, they’re as accessible as music, as pervasive as texting. When those books are good, and when they’re widely available, and when students may request any book they want at anytime — that’s when we see a big reading transformation take place. favicon

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