The Unofficial Guide to Getting the Best Books for your Classroom

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been collecting books for your classroom library for a long time. I started when I was a freshman in high school, and I’ve been looking out for library sales, small town bookstores, and online stores ever since. Needless to say, I was ecstatic to learn my school had been granted the Sigma Tau Delta Classroom Library Grant, and I got to work right away choosing books I knew my students would love. Today I’ll share my secrets for choosing books and stretching every dollar to get the most high quality books for your classroom. Because, again, if you’re anything like me, that matters too!

As I mentioned, the first thing I did when I learned my classroom had been given the grant was to start choosing books. There were some that I already knew I wanted: books like Unwind by Neal Shusterman, Maus by Art Spiegelman, and I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai. These are books that I have read, know well, and love. I knew that whatever other titles I purchased, I needed to make room in the budget for the books on my priority list. I have discovered that when you choose books for your classroom that you love, your students will be more likely to pick them up; you won’t have to worry about whether those titles will enhance your classroom.

Conversely, never be afraid to pick out new books that you’ve never read before. I made sure to pick out a variety of genres including books that promote diversity and books focused on nonfiction STEAM oriented subjects. For help with this, I registered my class for FirstBook, a program that, in their words, “provides books and other resources to classrooms and programs serving children in need, from birth to age 18, in order to remove barriers to quality education for all kids.” My classroom qualified to buy from the FirstBook marketplace, where I found new titles for my classroom. This helped me stretch every dollar, and I recommend looking into their program to see if your classroom qualifies.

The other place I bought many books from was Ebay. I found a bookseller that offered a “buy four get two free” deal, and that really helped me stretch each dollar. In my school, which is the second campus to a larger high school, my classroom library is the only library readily available to the students, and so it was important to me to get as many books as possible. Seeing the book in front of them has helped my students want to read. Overall, I was able to purchase 105 books with the Sigma Tau Delta Classroom Library Grant, and I am still buying more books from the same places to put on my classroom shelves.

Finally, I want to share my absolute go-to when I’m deciding whether or not to invest in a book: Goodreads. I know Goodreads isn’t new or obscure, but don’t take it for granted when previewing a book. My advice is to focus on real reviews from people who have finished the book. I scan the reviews for mentions of what triggers the book may contain as well as anything potentially problematic (negative stereotypes, harmful depictions of mental illness, unchallenged sexism, etc.). I don’t ban books in my classroom, but I do ensure that my students are built up by the books on my shelf, not torn down, and I prefer to spend my money on books that will help my students gain empathy for others as well as expand their worldview.

As I have expanded my classroom library with new titles, I have seen an increase in students asking to borrow books. I have some very reluctant readers in my classes, and so I count that as an absolute win. I hope reading about my experience will help you find new ways to get books into your student’s hands. If you’re anything like me, that’s the end goal. Happy reading!

Sarah Wingert
Classroom Library Grant Recipient, 2021
Mary Ellen Withrow Academy
Marion, OH


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 Monday, July 11 through Monday, August 8, 2022, 11:59 p.m. Central Standard Time (CDT).

Past Classroom Library Grant Recipients

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 6, 2022

2023 Common Reader and Common Author
2023 Convention Update
Chapter Annual Report: Extended Deadline
Fall Internship Stipend

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment