Check Out, Check In

My classroom library is a mess. Well, maybe not in the literal sense of the word, but in more of a logistical sense of the word. I have hundreds of titles. I have them cataloged by genre, and in the beginning of school year, I set up the library by genre, which simply makes it easier for me to find books when I’m recommending something to a student. About a month into school, books that are strictly for my eighth grade readers end up mixed in the with the general library, non-fiction is mixed into fantasy, and the new book section is empty. My library management is meant to be a simple record of who has what book and is also meant to teach some independence and responsibility. Students are supposed to sign out the book when they take it, and sign it back in when they return it. I’ve noticed my readers this year, looking in the sign out log when they can’t find a book they want to read. They will search the log until they find the reader with their next book, then they ask if they can have the book when the student is finished with it. And thus the problem begins.

At the beginning of this week, one of my students, who happens to be a self-proclaimed reluctant reader, asked who had Beastly. I told her I didn’t know. I knew who the first person to sign the book out was, but I haven’t seen it since that day in November. My suspicion was that the book was sitting in the locker of said student. So yesterday, I decided it was a good time to “clean house.” We’re at the halfway point in the year, and my 8th grade students were finishing a curriculum unit so a good chunk of their block was spent in self-reflection, meaning I had the time to call students up and talk about missing books.

As I was going through this process, I noticed that Taylor had The Alchemyst checked out from January. The Alchemyst is a tricky book to track for two reasons: 1) It’s a Schmidt’s Pick, so it is a more sought out book than others. 2) I have two copies of it. Taylor looked at me and said that she gave it to Jamie. Jamie, upon hearing her name, looked up. Jamie corroborated Taylor’s story, adding, “Yeah, Taylor gave it to me at my locker.”

Taylor shot back, “Jamie was supposed to sign it in for me when she signed it out.”

So I said to Jamie, “Where’s the book?” As no copies of The Alchemyst are in the library at the moment. Jamie looked a little sheepish and said, “I gave it to Pat.”

Hearing his name, Pat looked quizzically at us. I asked him if Jamie gave him The Alchemyst. He said, “Yeah. I signed it out.” Looking in the log, there enough was Pat’s name, The Alchemyst, and the date. Realizing that I probably need GPS tracking on the books, I sighed in frustration and annoyance.

However, driving home from school I realized something really important. Something that’s much more important than where my books are and will I get them all back in June. My students are so into books that A) they’re tracking down kids to find out who has the book they want to read, B) they know what they want to read, C) they have a TBR list, D) they’re handing off books at lockers – lockers where they’re normally gossiping and catching up on the latest episode of Glee or Jersey Shore. Has book sharing replaced gossip? I don’t know. But I do know that the Taylor – Jamie – Pat book triangle is not an isolated incident; it’s only one example of my students enthusiasm of books.

As I’ve said in earlier blog posts, my students don’t come into my classroom excited about reading. Because I believe it’s important for students to leave my room, D210, on their way to being a lifelong reader, I carve out time in my block for reading. Students choose what they read during that time. We all read. We all talk about what we’re reading. And slowly, the enthusiasm builds. It builds over the year. I’m starting to understand some of what’s happening in the room. I know the books being passed around and sought after are either Schmidt’s Picks or new books I’m booktalking in the classroom. This is the process that works because it starts to build a community of readers that Nancie Atwell and Donalyn Miller proclaim is important for getting kids to read. It’s rooted in constructivist theory – Learning is social, Learners’ interests drive learning goals, Learning spirals as new information connects to the known, and Learning is transformative (for more constructivist theory see Dewey, Vygotsky, and Bruner).  It’s just good literacy teaching.

I also learned something else this week as I was searching the check-out log. I learned that as soon as new books come into the library, they go. I booktalked seven books this week. None of them are currently available. Many of them are being checked out during homeroom. Students are giving up locker/hallway time with friends to come check out books. I also learned that Pat, who’s reading The Alchemyst, also checked out The Christopher Killer (one of my new books this week). When I asked him about it Friday, he told me that he was almost finished with The Alchemyst (looking at the reading status of the class, he’s half-way, but I can understand what he means). He continued to explain that he’s going to start The Christopher Killer this weekend. Then he wanted to know if that was okay. Grinning, I told him, “Yeah, that’s fine!” And a huge smile emerged on his face.

The good news… Beastly was indeed with the students who checked it out in November. It was in the bottom of his locker. He returned it, and my reluctant reader dropped Beauty and picked up Beastly.

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One Response to Check Out, Check In

  1. mardie says:

    Glad you found Beastly! I had to chuckle at this post because it is just such familiar territory for me. Once in a while I accompany my home room 8th graders or my other English classes to their lockers to do a locker clean-up, which almost always results in the unearthing of several of my books. It is wonderful that your students are tracking the books on their TR lists!

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