Building My Classroom Library: A Bright Spot in a Tough Year

I was ecstatic when I learned that I had received the Sigma Tau Delta Classroom Library Grant in 2020. In a year that felt like a complete roller coaster it was truly a high note. As soon as I received the news I began to plan which books I would order for my students. This is when the real work set in.

At the high school where I teach, we have always implemented ten minutes of reading at the beginning of every period. These are usually independent reading choice books except when we do our whole-class novels (usually 1-2 times a year). Because I have always been an avid reader, my classroom library had a selection of my own books (such as old Percy Jackson books and any new books I read and then put on the shelf) but it was slow going. As much as I wanted a wide selection of books in my classroom, I also couldn’t spend my whole paycheck on books (even if I wanted to). I also had some books the school had purchased and included but I still knew I needed more options.

I knew once I received the grant that one of my goals for my classroom library was to diversify my books and step away from my own personal interests. I love YA fantasy and so many of my books were in that genre. I also knew I wanted to diversify my book selection to include main characters who are POC and also differently-abled people. One way I gathered ideas was by looking at what other teachers suggest on Teachergram. Teachergram is a bunch of teachers on Instagram who share their ideas and suggestions. It’s a great resource for book suggestions but also for anything else you need help with (lesson ideas, lunch ideas—just a place where other teachers get you). I also enlisted the help of my coworkers and students, asking them for suggestions.

I used Bookoutlet to order the books I chose. This website has tons of newer books that are usually heavily discounted. I also really like the feature they have where you can search by genre and subgenre. I was able to get books like The Devil in Ohio by searching for “YA Horror” (many of my students requested “scary” books) and the Field Party series by Abbi Glines when I searched for sports. This helped me find books that weren’t specifically what I am interested in as a reader. I also looked for graphic novels because the two graphic novels I had before this grant would never stay on my shelves!

Because of COVID-19 students have not been able to use these books yet, but, I am excited for spring 2021 because we will be doing an independent reading unit and my students will be able to choose a book from my classroom library. I am excited to see what they choose and also to be able to recommend books to them based on their interests. Thanks to this grant I now have plenty of options for them to choose from.

Destiney Warren
Classroom Library Grant Recipient, 2020
Orosi High School, Cutler-Orosi Joint Unified
Kingsburg, CA


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 year to help members of Sigma Tau Delta who have been teaching in the 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 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 9, 2021, 11:59 p.m. CST. Awards will be announced September 3, 2021.


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