Thursday, May 28, 2015

Quality Vs. Quantity

It’s spring. Finally.

And that officially means it is time for spring cleaning. When the school year starts winding down, I start going through the school looking for things that I can toss. One year, I went through all the non-student lockers. I found so many old books, pan balances, and weird random items (a sombrero, stuffed frog, and Christmas tree to name a few) that we filled several boxes in donations. Last year, I cleaned out our literacy closet and threw out old books that no one wanted to read and the lone single copy that had long lost its mate.

This year, I’m on to classroom libraries. It started at the beginning of the year when a colleague invited me in to help her weed through the books she had. Her purpose was to freshen up her classroom library because the students weren’t using it. Books were hard to find, it was haphazard and unappealing, and hadn’t been updated in quite awhile.
We began by pulling down each bin and looking at each book. Anything that had a cover that would be difficult to ‘sell’ was gone. Anything that was outdated (goodbye, 1983 science books) was gone. Anything damaged or just plain ugly was gone. By the time we finished, we had reduced her library by more than half.

The great thing was now we knew where the holes were! She knew which areas (Fantasy, Graphic Novels) needed more titles.  After a year, her library is thriving, her students are voracious readers, and the library is overflowing once again with current, appealing titles.

Just this week, another colleague allowed me to help cull her library. We packed up more than two boxes of books to go away.  While we were discussing the fact that now her library is considerably smaller, it is also now filled with only quality literature. The space isn’t taken up with books that no one is going to want to read.

I’ve now helped four classroom teachers with their libraries. Although the teacher always has the final say, I am ruthless in my suggestions of what to get rid of.

I love books.

I love stories.

But, I’m ruthless.

I’m realistic that a student in our school isn’t going to pick up a tattered copy of ‘Superfudge’ with a cover from the 1996 printing.

No matter how much a teacher loves ‘Misty of Chincoteague’ from her childhood, that horse on the cover is not going to draw in many students.

When we stock our classroom libraries with beautiful books that are inviting to students and appeal to a wide range of interests, we say to them, “I believe reading is important. We should have great books available at our fingertips. I believe that you are important as a reader and there should be appealing, attractive things that are of interest for you to read. I also will learn what you like as a reader and make sure that I have those things available.”

After four classrooms, I returned to my own office. I started looking through my own collection.

Another weeding may be coming soon.

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