I had never really paid much attention to the importance of classroom libraries. As I was first reading our assignments this week over the topic, I kept thinking how it seemed like so much extra work, time and money when there is already a school library with a specific system and layout to cater all these needs. Then, the further I thought about, I realized that was the problem; school libraries are not meeting all the reading needs a student has to be a strong, confident reader.
This isn’t necessarily the libraries’ fault. Like we discussed previously, book banning and censoring limits library selections, especially in schools. Yes, books can still be questioned and protested in classrooms, but there is the freedom to buy whatever books you please, without permission from the school, state, or parents.
Another reason I may have found classrooms libraries an accessory instead of a necessity could be my personal experience with them. From what I can recall, my elementary classes and English classes all had a form of classroom libraries. The issue was, they were more for decoration than anything else. As a student who could tell you the Dewy Decimal system out of familiarization, I would have been a familiar visitor of these extra books, but I don’t think anyone used them. On the first day of school, teachers would point them out the way they point out bathroom passes – they are there if you need them, you know how to use them so just go for it, no discussion needed. Another aspect could be the selection. I can remember looking at those shelves in the back of my high school English rooms and seeing the exact same books we had across the building in the library. The difference? The library copy was hard cover, the dust cover was protected with industrial Saran Wrap- like material and no one had scribbled images or words on to the pages. Yes, abused books can still be read and loved, but why pick the battered, falling apart copies when I could get a strong one?
Here is where Kittle’s idea of having the students help manage the classroom library would play in. Students will take pride in their work if it is exactly that, their work. Had someone other than the tired teacher who tracked those books down cared for those paperbacks, they would have been in a more inviting condition.
Another positive impact stemming from classroom libraries would be the connection that can spark between a student and a teacher. We all know students learn better from people the can relate to and respect. If a classroom library is created largely from a teacher’s personal collection, the students can build a relationship of common interest once they begin to explore the collection. It would also show the positive outcome a love for reading can lead to (a career teaching others to love it!).