Building a Classroom Library as a First-Year Teacher

My first year of teaching has been filled with memorable moments. The year is only halfway over, but I’ve already experienced joyful moments, stressful moments, and everything in between. One of the most exciting events was walking into my classroom for the first time this past August. My dream of becoming a teacher was finally coming true—I would be teaching English at the same high school I attended as a student. The classroom door swung open to reveal desks stacked against the walls, boxes of textbooks lying in a corner, and a huge bookshelf waiting to be filled with stories.

I was honored to receive a Classroom Library Grant from Sigma Tau Delta to purchase books for my classroom library. After receiving the grant, I researched diverse young adult books that feature characters with a variety of ethnicities, abilities, and gender identities. Diverse stories are essential because all students deserve to see themselves represented in the books they read.

Used book sales were the perfect way to fill my classroom library. A local church held their annual used book fair this fall, and they had plenty of young adult fiction, nonfiction, and graphic novels for sale. I was happy to find several copies of Nic Stone‘s book Dear Martin, which was a popular book at my student-teaching placement last year. In the nonfiction section, I found copies of I Am Malala, The Glass Castle, and the young adult edition of Just Mercy. The books were all in great condition, and I knew they would be perfect for my classroom.

Independent reading is an important component of my English classes, and I love having a selection of literature in my classroom for students to read. My library includes books from a variety of different genres, so all students can find something that interests them. To promote my classroom library, I made a books-of-the-week display at the front of my room that showcases stories from different genres. I select new books-of-the-week from my library every Monday, and by Friday many of the featured books have been checked out. It’s wonderful to see that students are reading the books and enjoying them.

The best part of having a classroom library is giving students access to contemporary literature to supplement the classics in our curriculum. I teach an eleventh-grade English course called American Literature, and our curriculum includes texts from American history like The Great Gatsby, The Crucible, and the Declaration of Independence. I want students to understand that the term “American literature” can encompass more than just the classics from our curriculum. American literature also includes diverse young adult novels that mirror students’ life experiences. Modern young adult authors like Angie Thomas, Jason Reynolds, and Jenny Han explore what it means to be a teen in America today. I believe teachers should promote both classic and contemporary literature so students can experience a variety of different perspectives.

Sigma Tau Delta’s Classroom Library Grant allowed me to help my students grow as readers. Books are an essential component of an English classroom, and receiving this grant was an amazing gift. I’m excited to grow my library and share my favorite stories with students for years to come.

Brooklynn Gross
Classroom Library Grant Recipient, 2022
Harrisburg High School, Harrisburg School District
Harrisburg, SD


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 through August 7, 2023, 11:59 p.m. Central Standard Time (CDT). There will only be one application period for the 2023-2024 academic year.

Past Classroom Library Grant Recipients

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

More from Footnotes: July 25, 2023

W. W. Norton Internship Priority Consideration
Part of Your (Publishing) World: My Unforgettable Experience as a PRH Intern
An Internship Stipend Proves the Benefits of an English Degree in the Philanthropic Sector
2024 Common Reader—Carl Phillips Then the War: And Selected Poems

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