Who Needs Books?

I have a book addiction. I admit it. I am addicted to books. Of course, I read them, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I also collect them.

I think I need to stop.

Yesterday, I invited my colleague to bring her class to my room, where I could chat to them about books. I’d just returned from NCTE in Las Vegas where I shipped home five boxes of books I’d collected from the exhibition hall. Five boxes. I also had two tote bags full of the books I got at ALAN, special ones with author signatures.

Book Addict Heaven.

When my friend’s class arrived, I had them sit around my eight tables, which I’d piled high with 6 to 8 new books, mostly ARCs. First, I book talked a few of my favorite YA titles: Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars, Delirium. I asked these 9th graders what they liked to read. They told me, and I explored shelves and unopened boxes for books that would match interests. One kid asked for fantasy. Another asked for paranormal. Surprise endings? More copies of The Fault in Our Stars? Others like it?

I had each student choose one book from the stack on the table.

“Just one that you think might interest you.”

Then I set a timer and had them read for three minutes.

“Stop. What do you think? Do you like the narrator’s voice? Do you want to keep reading?”

Students could keep reading that book or choose another they thought looked more interesting. Again, they read for three minutes. We did four rounds of this. Each in-between-time talking more books, and what kids liked or didn’t like. The pace was quick.

I heard comments like:

“I read that one. It’s good.”

“Mrs. M. has that one on her shelf. I want a different one today.”

“If you liked that, you might like this.”

“I’ll finish this over the weekend, I hope I can come back Monday.”

I am pretty sure every student found a book to read–most found two. My friend created a sign out sheet that she’ll keep track of for me. I hope I get my books back, especially the signed ones, but it’s okay if I don’t. The books were free to me (I don’t even mind the shipping fee.) See, I love books; my bookshelves are bulging and cluttered, and the books my friend’s class took didn’t even make a dent. I really have become more of a collector than anything. Sure, my own students read books. We read and talk books all the time. But I only have so many students, and they can only read so many books.

Why do I have so many just sitting there? Wouldn’t they be of better use in the hands of other readers?

I had some interesting discussions with my students this week as we got started on a global issues project. We talked about literacy, and I shared these statistics:

  • More than eight million students in grades 4-12 read below grade level. Most are able to sound out words—the challenge isn’t to teach them to decode text but, rather, to help them comprehend what they read.
  • Only 31% of America’s 8th-grade students—and roughly the same percentage of 12th graders—meet the National Assessment of Educational Progress standard of reading “proficiency” for their grade level.
  • Among low-income 8th graders, just 15% read at a proficient level.
  • On average, AFrican-American and Hispanic 12th-grade students read at the same level as white 8th-grade students. (This one made my kids mad.)
  • The 25 fastest-growing professions have far greater than average literacy demands, while the fastest-declining professions have lower than average literacy demands.
  • Roughly 23% of high school graduates are not ready to succeed in an introductory-level college writing course.
  • About 40% of high school graduates lack the literacy skills employers seek.
  • Male and female students with low academic achievement are twice as likely to become parents by their senior year in high school compared to students with high academic achievement.
  • High school dropouts are 3.5 times more likely than high school graduates to be arrested in their lifetimes. (From Alliance for Excellent Education: http://www.all4ed.org/publications/FactSheets.html)
 Why am I holding on to books, if I know that reading can make a child’s life richer and more complete? Pretty selfish of me really.
I think it’s time I overcame my addiction, broke my book-collecting habit, and learned to share my books. No longer will I boast of having a great classroom library. I’d rather boast of having gifted books that helped create life-long readers.
Guess what my students are getting for Christmas? colleagues, too.

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One thought on “Who Needs Books?

  1. Audrey Wilson Youngblood December 3, 2012 at 2:10 pm Reply

    Amy, thanks for sharing! I was just staring at a huge pile of books at home that I read and loved, and thinking to myself, “man, someone else should get it on this action.” I’ll be toting them all up to school to pass on to my teachers for their classroom libraries as my own little holiday gift to them.


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