The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Welcoming New Friends

My students got to welcome several new friends to the classroom today. We had a new student and we are all very excited to bring her into our fourth grade family, but that’s not actually what I am writing about this evening. Nope, these new friends are more of the… bookish… sort.

Well, okay, they are books.

Lots of them, in fact.

I’ve been wanting to build up my classroom library for a few years now, but I wanted to make sure that I was getting worthwhile books, not just whatever bundle of pages I could find. My school participates in Scholastic book fairs and I usually have a few students whose parents purchase books for our classroom in their names, but otherwise my library has mostly been the assorted mix of inherited books. Some came from a retired fourth grade teacher who gave me her library in exchange for helping her pack up her room. Some came from my mother-in-law who was cleaning out her classroom one year and then decided to get rid of some books that she didn’t think would quite work with her new third grade class. And some are books that I brought from home or found at garage sales. But rarely have I had new books for my room.

All this changed this weekend. Now, to be fair, my classroom library contains probably close to 1,000 volumes, so adding less than two dozen may not seem like such a big deal. But when many of those books I have are non-fiction and other reference materials.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had my students give me suggestions for books to add to our library. I used an old Gatorade mix container that my wife decorated with craft paper and an adhesive spray. Then I emptied the container on Friday and made a list of the books my students suggested. I made sure to make it very clear that suggesting a book was not a guarantee that I would purchase them, but I also pointed out that the chances of me buying a book that they wanted that wasn’t suggested were pretty slim. So I was excited to see a pile of paper scraps with a variety of selections listed!

I had known for a few weeks that October 12 was the start Barnes & Noble Educator Appreciation Week. Teachers could get very nice discounts, sign up for drawings for materials, devices, and other fun things, and participate in a reception with cookies and drinks. After going to a soccer game in the morning, I went home, picked up my wife, and took her to the bookstore. Armed with my list of student recommendations, a desire to find some books that were not suggested but I’ve wanted to get, and a district-issued credit card (I am very, very, very fortunate to have a classroom budget to purchase materials for my class!), I entered the store and made a bee-line for the children’s books.

About 90 minutes later, with a shopping basket nearly spilling over with books, we went to the cashier, made the purchases, and walked out of the store with 22 new selections for my classroom, plus one that I had to special order. (Well, actually, only 21 for my students. Two of the books I got are for my professional use.)


So, who are the new friends we welcomed today? In no particular order, they are as follows:

  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio
  • The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
  • Fortunately the Milk by Neil Gaiman
  • Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Voyage by Trenton Lee Stewart
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma by Trenton Lee Stewart
  • Smile by Raina Telgemeier
  • Drama by Raina Telgemeier
  • Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Tuesdays a the Castle by Jessica Day George
  • Wednesdays in the Tower by Jessica Day George
  • A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park
  • The Watsons Go To Birmingham–1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • Babymouse: Queen of the World by Jennifer and Matthew Holm
  • Babymouse: Our Hero by Jennifer and Matthew Holm
  • Babymouse: Beach Babe by Jennifer and Matthew Holm
  • The Serpent’s Shadow by Rick Riordan
  • Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea
  • Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson

I introduced these books to my class today. With each selection there were cheers, hands reaching out, and excitement. Sadly, I had to tell my students that they wouldn’t be able to get their hands on the new books until tomorrow because I need to enter them into my database.

In addition to these new books, I also revealed about half a dozen donated books that are older and worn but obviously loved. I don’t remember all of them, but they included a Hardy Boys mystery, an American Girl book, and The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. I feel like my classroom library is just getting better and better every year. I won’t always go out and use the bulk of my classroom budget on books, but I love that my students are all so eager to read these books and share them with each other and their families!


4 responses

  1. Those are awesome books! I love all of them! Be advised, however, that while The Fault in Our Stars may be my favorite book I’ve read all year, it may not be appropriate for 4th graders as it has a sex scene (though gracefully handled). Enjoy your new paper friends!

    October 30, 2013 at 5:28 am

    • Yeah, I’ve heard that from several people after I purchased it. I’d heard so many good things about TFiOS but no one mentioned that part beforehand. My wife started reading it and said it would be better for a 7th grade or higher class.

      Not the first time I’ve had a swing and a miss when it comes to picking out books for my class, but I feel like I should take some risks!

      Thanks for coming by!

      October 30, 2013 at 5:58 am

  2. Becky Dell

    Anything by John Green is edgy. I teach eighth grade, and my students love his books. However, they are not appropriate at all for fourth grade. Wonder is a fabulous book!

    October 30, 2013 at 9:06 pm

  3. Pingback: Book Review: The One and Only Ivan |

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