classroom lending library

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Here’s a couple of shots from my classroom lending library. A trick I’ve learned over the years is pulling specific books and dropping them into specially themed bins for potential readers. While I have some standard bins (poetry, novels with plots themed around sports, award winners, and so on) I also try to think about what kids are into at the moment and play to that. You can see on this shelf, I have a bin of suggested reading materials for kids who enjoy playing Halo and a bunch of books for folks who enjoyed The Hunger Games series.

My newest bin of “zombie fiction” was a crazy success. We chose new books for the second quarter this past Friday and the entire bin was empty by the end of the day!

If you’re looking to build a classroom lending library, I HIGHLY recommend picking up a complete set of these books. 

As a publishing experiment back in the 1990’s, Stephen King wrote The Green Mile and it was rolled out out into bookstores in six small volume paperbacks over six months. Each chapbook cost about $3 bucks and was about 90 to 110 pages long. This style of publishing goes all the way back to the origins of print materials; Charles Dickens was a big chapbook publishers and there’s all sorts of stories surrounding his fans lining up at the bookshops to get the next chapter of The Old Curiosity Shop or whatever book he was currently in the middle of writing. According to King, the experiment was something of a success although the practice hasn’t caught on in a big way… most certainly because King’s bonafides as a superstar author helped the sales process as the series got into the higher numbers.

Anyway, here’s why The Green Mile chapbooks are a must-have for your high school classroom lending library:

1. They’re short and therefore immediately appealing to reluctant readers. Signet (King’s publisher) later brought out a full volume of The Green Mile but the full book runs over 600 pages. Giving kids a bite-size introduction to the book is a great way to get them into it.

2. Each book has a very good introduction. King designed each chapbook so as it could be read if you hadn’t gotten your hands on the previous one. You can give Book Three to a kid and s/he can pick up the whys and wherefores fairly easily.

3. They end on awesome cliffhangers. Again, in this original form, the short books were primarily meant to entice readers to come back next month… but the way King composed the endings of these will also entice readers in your classroom to keep reading. 

4. Most teenagers have not seen the movie. Although a film was made of The Green Mile, in my experience, it’s not retained huge popularity amongst my students. By comparison, I find lending out the Harry Potter and Hunger Games books pretty useless gambit at this point. I love those books, but must admit - most young people have already seen the film adaptations hundreds of times. Those worlds are already cemented in their minds. They aren’t getting the kinds of experiences I’m looking to impart because of their pre-established knowledge of the novels. With The Green Mile, most students are pleasantly surprised to find out there’s a movie based on the books they’ve just read and seek it out of their own accord.

5. Most readers traded up to the full volume collections when the movie came out, which means used bookstores and thrift stores are chockablock with copies of the chapbooks. If you can’t find all six volumes for under $5 bucks with minimal searching, I’d be quite surprised.

On Friday, my 9th graders chose their books for sustained silent reading. It was the first time they had a chance to go into my lending library and I saw a lot of thoughtful choices. I’m looking forward to seeing how they work with them in their writers’ journals and in conferences.

Toward the end of the day, the library has a tendency to begin to look a bit picked over, so during lunch I went through and pulled out a couple of overlooked gems.