Classroom libraries are important. I am one of the co-founders of a Grades 6-12 English Language Arts teachers Facebook group called #2ndaryELA. Several times now members have posted a question about if classroom libraries are still useful. The comment section fills up very quickly with teachers sharing their thoughts on the importance of classroom libraries.
I love my classroom library. I have spent a lot of time, energy and money to help make my classroom library as self-sufficient and student-friendly as possible. Classroom libraries are important because not all schools have a physical library space, students need immediate and frequent access to books to encourage reading as well as providing a venue where teachers and students can easily recommend books to each other.
With competition for school square footage at a premium today, not all schools have a fully functioning school library. Some libraries have lost their space to accommodate unexpected community growth resulting in classes needing to be held in the library. Other libraries have lost their librarians due to cost cutting measures, or the current educational push to make libraries into Makerspaces or Learning Commons. All of these ideas remove partial or full student access to books. Many of favourite childhood memories involve books. I cannot imagine a future where children are denied access to books.
To foster and encourage a love of reading, texts need to be readily accessible to students. Having students wait a week or two for their scheduled class library visit does not meet the needs of all students. Your faster readers will be done their books in days and have nothing new to read if this is the system at your school. Classroom libraries provide students with immediate access to books and keep reading as a class priority.
This year my students would actively recommend novels to each other. Sometimes this was done inadvertently when a student would read through lunch prompting other students to inquire why they were reading instead of talking to the group. Other times students openly shared their thoughts and feelings about their novels with the class during class work periods. I developed a classroom community where students felt free to come and ask me for personal book recommendations. I would walk over to my classroom library, ask the student what genre they wanted, and selected several books for them to try. These book recommendations would not have happened if my students did not have daily access to texts.
I strongly feel that classroom libraries are essential for all classrooms, not just for English classrooms. Students need to understand that literacy does not end once they walk out of their English classroom’s door. Where I teach in Ontario, Canada some schools do not have subject specialist teachers for middle school classrooms. This means that during my 10-year career I have taught: English, History, Geography, Drama, Dance, Physical Education, Art, Science and Health. I have tried to ensure my classroom library has non-fiction resources that cover most of these topics. Students need to see that books do not always have a story line, and that reading takes on many forms.
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