Classroom libraries are all the rage, especially in districts where funding for books is available. But do they serve a purpose? The short answer is YES! In this article, you’ll find the research behind the importance of classroom libraries, how they should be organized and some resources for getting free or low-cost books and materials.
Classroom Libraries: The Research Behind Their Importance
There is an abundance of research behind the importance of a classroom library, and how they differ from a school or public library.
Equity of Access: Classroom libraries provide access to books for every student. Contrary to popular belief, many schools have had to scrap their school library due to funding constraints. While a classroom library is not an adequate replacement for a school library, since a school library has many other benefits beyond access to books, it is a start to providing equitable access to a large variety of books.
Classroom libraries allow students to have hands-on access to books they are interested in at any time. In lower grades, where students spend all of their time in 1 or 2 classrooms, students can have access to books during designated class time, recess or before or after school. In upper grades, when class time is limited and may not provide ample time to check out books, students can use lunch, free periods or before or after school to “book shop”.
Classroom libraries can provide access to books for students who don’t have access at home. For some students, school is there only opportunity to have access to books they want to read. Some students might have access to a public library and some may have their own books, but for those that don’t have this access, the classroom library is very important.
Classroom libraries can expand students’ horizons. The classroom library may be their first introduction to books written by authors of color or about characters experiencing the same issues they are experiencing in their daily life. This may be their first introduction to a specific genre, topic or author.
Increase Motivation and Reading Performance: Classroom libraries and their quick access provide opportunities for students to drastically improve their reading performance. Teaching students how to choose books, how to think critically about what they are reading, and how to reflect on their thoughts about their books will improve a students motivation to read, their vocabulary and increase their bank of reading strategies.