Book Whispering: A Workshop with Donalyn Miller plus Resources for Stocking your Classroom Library
You know how you sometimes get in a rut as an educator? Although I continue to review and revise, there are aspects of my teaching life where I feel perpetually stuck in a rut. One such place is my book selection - for both my lessons and for student selection. I had been looking forward to this conference for months and it did not disappoint.
Donalyn was such an inspiration and awakened that fire that had been smoldering for some time. She was full of practical ideas for igniting a love of reading in students. So many takeaways that I am excited to try this year.
One of the best parts of her talk was the portion about stocking your classroom library. As we all know, teachers spend a great deal of their own money on teaching supplies every year. For me, a huge part of my spending was on books for my classroom. Donalyn spoke to this issue and provided us with several resources to help ease the burden. A couple I had used before, but one was new to me. Here are a few of my go to places for books and the resource she shared with us.
Five Resources for Stocking Your Classroom Library
1. My very favorite place to shop for books is The Village Bookshop in Worthington, Ohio. My mother used to take the four of us when we were young, and it's one of those places that has been a part of you for so long that thinking of it brings back not just memories, but sights and smells. I can remember picking up some of my most cherished books there and always looked forward to our visits.
The Bookshop is a converted church that was built in 1886 and is two floors of book heaven. They purchase overstock from publishers and bookstores and have a large supply of used and antique books as well. When I visit, I have to clear several hours from my schedule because I get sucked in to scouring every single shelf in the children's section. I'm the weirdo you see sitting on the floor with an overflowing basket of books. The last time I visited, the sweet lady working offered me a folding chair to sit on while I made my decisions so I wouldn't have to sit on the floor anymore. If you live in the Central Ohio area, you really need to stop in. And if you don't, you might need to consider making a new friend here so you can use your visit as an excuse to do some shopping. Of course, I'm always available to go...
2. Scholastic Warehouse sales. At least twice a year, Scholastic clears out their warehouses and sells books at incredible prices. And not just old books they can't get rid of, but current, in demand books. Years ago, there was a massive warehouse just north of where I lived and visiting there was like visiting Santa's workshop. Seriously. Massive, commercial grade shelving stocked full of glorious books as far as the eye could see. I had to bring a forklift with me to move my haul to my car. Sadly, it closed and the sale nearest me moved to an office building. Not as many choices, but still amazing deals.
If you go to their website, you can search for sales near you. Be sure to sign up for notifications! They will email you when a sale is happening near you and include a coupon to use on top of the already low prices.
3. Friends of the Library sales. I love the library. Always have. There was a time when I would visit several times a week either to pick up, drop off, or just browse the books. I would always pass a plaque on the wall that talked about the "Friends of the Library," but never knew who/what they were. Turns out they are a group of wonderful people who help raise money to support libraries. Perhaps in your town this group has a different name, but I love the idea of "Friends of the Library." (I think I need to join.)
In our libraries, the "Friends" hold sales several times a year to help reduce the library's stock of books while raising funds for the library and to donate to children's charities. During these sales, you can find books at super low prices - many for less than a dollar. The best thing is that these are library books, so most of them are hardback or specially coated to stand up to wear and tear. Perfect for classrooms! They even have an online store called Thriftbooks, where you can purchase books at any time without waiting for a sale.
4. Half Priced Books. Do you have one of these near you? I'm fortunate enough to have several and have been spent many hours searching for deals there. The best part is their clearance section where you can find books for a dollar or less. This is my go to place for chapter books as I can usually find multiple copies of the same title. As a teacher, you can sign up for a discount card to receive an additional 10% off any purchase. And if you live near Bloomington, Indiana; Bowling Green, Kentucky; Rockford, Illinois or Olympia, Washington, you should check out their outlets where nearly everything starts at $.50!
5. The resource Donalyn shared that I had never heard of was Book Sale Finder. It's a website that lists just that - book sales around the country. You can sign up to receive notifications of when sales are happening near you. Feeling adventurous? Set your "near you" search to 50 miles or more and take a weekend trip to score some really great deals!
Attending the workshop also solidified my resolve to change how I tracked independent reading. When I moved into my current position, specific forms were used by everyone on my team to record what students read in and out of the classroom. For the first year, I went along with the flow and used the forms without much thought or reflection of their purpose. Over the past couple of years, I've revised the forms to better fit my students' needs, but still felt they could use some improvement. After Donalyn's workshop, I realized which components were missing and made a few final changes.
The first is my in-class reading log. Students record everything they read in the classroom and bring their logs with them to our reading conferences. The logs provide essential information that helps me understand how well each child is able to select appropriate books, determine genre, summarize, and finish a text. Complete logs stay in their binders throughout the year so that we can refer to them whenever needed.
The second is my at-home reading log. Years ago I removed the requisite parent signature and even the number of minutes read. Instead, students record the books they read and select an appropriate response prompt. No more timers, no more scrambling for parent signatures on the morning it's due. Parents rejoice. You can read more about why I decided to ditch the timers and parent signatures here:
If you haven't read Donalyn's book, you simply must! It will change your view of the purpose of reading instruction and, in turn, improve your students' experience of reading in the classroom.
Now off to finding new books!