Society Wide

Aiding Access with a Classroom Library Grant

I believe, wholeheartedly, that access is one of the key elements of getting kids to read. But it’s more than just physical access that they need. The emotional and mental access that comes from reading stories that speak to them is what really opens the door. The first thing I did after accepting my first position teaching was to go home and start pulling books off shelves. Any book I thought would be suitable for a classroom library got piled up in the center of my living room floor.

But as I carefully catalogued each book, one thing became alarmingly clear to me. I had very little to offer in terms of author and character diversity. Truth be told, I’ve never paid much attention to anything when picking a book beyond my own interest in the story. While a lot of my adult books were a scattershot of all types and styles, my YA selection was pretty much either straight white girl leads, or . . . Percy Jackson.

Regardless of the school I would be teaching at, I knew having diverse options would be important. But this went a little beyond that. I’d been hired to teach at a Title 1 school with a population that was primarily made of minority students, and I wanted—no, needed—to stock my shelves with stories and authors that would reflect and hopefully reach those students. The best stories are the ones you can see bits of yourself in, and I was determined to give my students just that.

When Sigma Tau Delta awarded me the Classroom Library Grant, I was over the moon. I consulted with my school’s media specialist, read through dozens of different lists and reviews, and made my own list of desired books—books that would cross every kind of divide I could imagine. Then I went to work. Many of the books I was able to procure from Thrift Books, which sells gently used books, allowing me to purchase far more than I would have if I’d bought all new. I went to the local library book sales and procured many books through those for less than a dollar a piece. Finally, I scoured thrift stores, Goodwill, and the bargain sections of places like Books-A-Million and even the Dollar Tree.

When all was said and done, I managed to add nearly 80 books to my classroom library, including the titles from this year’s Florida Teens Read list, as well as several anthologies and novels written by people from all different cultures, backgrounds, sexual orientations, and genders. Finally, my students were able to see themselves on my shelves.

Within days of adding the new books, I had students who had shown little to no interest in reading browsing shelves, picking up titles, asking questions, and eventually, checking out new titles. Before adding the new-to-us books, I’d had only three students ask to check out a book. Currently, I have 22 books out, with previously ambivalent students showing signs of interest and requesting certain books be featured on First Chapter Fridays. Access isn’t always about physical presence. Sometimes, it’s simply about being seen, while seeking yourself. Sigma Tau Delta helped give that gift to my students, and it’s the best present I could have received this year.

Desiree Ascevich
Classroom Library Grant Recipient, 2022
Mainland High School, Volusia County
Daytona Beach, FL


Sigma Tau Delta Classroom Library Grants

Sigma Tau Delta’s Classroom Library Grants are designed to enhance the Society’s goals of

  • promoting interest in literature and language in the surrounding communities;
  • fostering all aspects of the discipline of English, including literature, language, and writing; and
  • serving society by fostering literacy.

The Classroom Library Grants are also intended to support our members who have entered the field of teaching and need material support to help achieve these goals through their work in the classroom by providing their students with a library in their own classrooms, especially where access to school or public libraries or to books in the home may be limited.

The Society will award up to five grants of $400 each per cycle to help members of Sigma Tau Delta who have been teaching in a Middle School or High School classroom for five years or fewer. That is, applicants may or may not be recent college graduates; the Classroom Library Grant is intended to help new Middle School and High School teachers, whether in their first years out of college or in the first years of a second career, to build a classroom library for their students.

Criteria For Selection

In choosing recipients, the Classroom Library Grant Committee will consider the following criteria:

  • lack of economic and geographic access to books at your school, or another demonstrated need;
  • the explanation of how the classroom library envisioned will support your goals in alignment with the Society’s goals; and
  • supervisory endorsement of your classroom library project.

Please note that this grant is now only available to middle school and high school educators.

Deadline and Dates

Applications will be accepted July 22 – August 12, 2024, 4:00 p.m. Central Time (CT). There will only be one application period for the 2024-2025 academic year.

Past Classroom Library Grant Recipients

A Classroom Library Grant: The Gift that Gives Again and Again
Building a Classroom Library as a First-Year Teacher
Feeding the Minds of Our Future
Classroom Library Grant: A Book Blessing
Classroom Libraries: Inclusivity and the Reluctant Reader
“I Finished a Book!”: A Classroom Library’s Impact
The Unofficial Guide to Getting the Best Books for your Classroom
Creating Lifelong Readers with a Classroom Library Grant
The Contemporary American Dream: The Impact of a Classroom Library Grant
Building My Classroom Library: A Bright Spot in a Tough Year
Special Books for Special Students
New Books, New Motivation
If You Build a Classroom Library, They Will Read
Books are Our Passports to the World
Striking a Match

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