Building a Class Library one Suitcase at a Time.
Updated: May 1
I wheel my suitcase into my classroom. Eyes widen. A student at the back of the room stands and clasps her hands together. A boy in the back corner says, "Yessss!"
My students know we'll be shopping today.
After 17 years of teaching, I've accumulated quite a number of books, and never enough book shelves, but I don't have my own classroom this year. Not in a Covid year where students stay put and teachers wheel around mountains of supplies on carts or in my case, luggage from one class to the next.
My suitcase is a rolling library filled with books I've read and that I let my students flip through to "shop" for what might be their next read. It's a brain break from essays, plans and exams and this year, we can use all the breaks we can get. The excitement in their eyes (because that's all I say see as they sport their covid masks) comes with the knowledge that today is going to be a breeze. Some kids look through my books with an I'm too cool for this attitude, but in about fifteen minutes, they realize my books are current, about topics that interested them, and they can ask me anything because they know I've read them all.
The contents of my suitcase vary from HiLo adventures, fantasy, nonfiction, romance, sports fiction, novels in verse and oh so much more with a high representation from Canadian authors like Heather Smith, Monique Polak, Eric Walters, Tim Wynn-Jones, Ben Philippe and on and on. There is a book for everyone and I always bet my most reluctant readers to sift through my pile and not find a book they want to read.
My challenge is always met with earnest and although it may sometimes take numerous trips through my suitcase, I remain undefeated.
Sometimes I buy the books myself because I have a healthy reading addiction, but often, I seek out the librarian to order books for the school library, but she always manages to rub a few pennies together and find the funds to buy second copies for my classroom. She trusts my eclectic taste in literature and wants to offer students outside my class the same reading opportunities. That's a huge compliment coming from a librarian a.k.a heart and soul of where our most avid readers find themselves in nooks and on couches diving into new adventures each day.
I'm always on the lookout for newly published works to turn my students on to reading, and it's an occupational hazard to be buried in books I've read, so I need to pass them on to new readers. My favorite resources for great finds are Goodreads, of course, as well as my precious subscription to Quill and Quire, CANSCAIP (Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators and Performers), SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) and 49th Shelf.
These resources are indispensable for an English teacher on the lookout for great Canadian Literature, especially for reviews and recommendations for students.
Promoting Canadian content in my classroom has always been a priority, especially as an aspiring author. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a huge outreach from Canadian authors to provide writing workshops. This year I have partnered with five Canadian authors who visited to workshop with my students. Lori Weber, Raquel Rivera (so brave, she visited in person), Liana Cusmano and Robin Stevenson and Tom Ryan have all graciously accepted invitations to be a part of my classroom and the response from my students has been a wealth of story writing and an eagerness to read voraciously.
These connections have provided me with invaluable worshiping skills and an goldmine of literature for my kids and my suitcase!