Yes. It makes a big difference.
Research shows that if children have easy access to reading material, they are more likely to read. In a classroom with few books, children will read less.
A classroom that encourages reading is bursting with books, magazines, comic books, tablets or whatever will entice children to read. Some classroom teachers allocate a box per student that at all times is full of books for the child to read. The box is on the child’s desk or at the child’s feet, but within reach of the child.
Most teachers have a classroom library full of age-level, appropriate books of all kinds. Before morning classes begin, it is the student’s responsibility to get a book or two for her desk, so if she finishes an assignment early, she can pull it out and read quietly.
Why does your child’s classroom have few books? Depending on the reason, there are many remedies.
New teachers right out of college usually don’t have a stockpile of children’s books for their classrooms. Sometimes retiring teachers pass along their classroom books to new teachers, but many times the new teacher depends on her own resources to develop a classroom library. Some schools offer books to new teachers, but usually not enough to suffice.
So how can you help a teacher to create a classroom library? You could
- Contact neighbors to ask for books their older children are no longer reading.
- Contact used book stores or Goodwill to get boxes of books at a huge discount.
- Attend garage sales or estate sales and pick up books there for a slight cost. If you go at the last hour on the last day, you might be able to obtain books free if you will just haul them away.
- Convince the PTSA to donate money so the teacher could buy books she would like in the classroom.
The books don’t need to be new. If you go in any classroom with its own library, you’ll see that the books are dog-eared, the bindings are splitting, and pages are taped. New books are great, but the point is to have many, many books, new or old, for the children to pick up, sample, and read.
Another reason a classroom teacher might not have many books is the socio-economic status (SES) of the community in which the school is located. A study of 20 first grade classrooms in low SES communities showed these classrooms had fewer books and fewer types of books, and children there used books less than in schools located in wealthier communities.
What can you do to help a classroom teacher in such a school?
- If the school is a Title 1 School, money might be available to buy classroom books. Check with your principal to see if some money could be allocated for classroom book purchases.
- You could ask your PTSA for a “grant” to buy books for your child’s classroom.
- You could pair up with the PTSA of a school in a wealthier community, which might be willing to donate books to your school.
- You could find out the names of kindergarten and elementary teachers who retired recently, contact them, and see if they have any books they might be willing to donate.
- You could contact your local library and see if they have children’s books which they are “retiring” due to multiple copies or the need for more space on the shelves. Or perhaps they have books that will be tossed because they are torn, soiled or less than perfect. You could offer to fix them for your child’s classroom.
- If your community has a city council or neighborhood groups, you could go to meetings and plead for books for the classrooms of the local school. Chambers of Commerce, church groups and fraternal organizations sometimes have money available. Or they might have wealthier members who would make a donation in exchange for a tax write-off.
A lot of work? Yes, but keep in mind your goal: a print-rich classroom that will encourage children to read. –Mrs. K