A few people are always surprised when I tell them that I put hardcover books in my classroom library. Hardcovers are usually about twice the cost as picture books- so I imagine they are thinking that since I spent good money on the books, I wouldn’t just haphazardly put them into the hands of first graders.
I considered only briefly not putting them in my library. When it really boils down to it, I bought the books for them, not me, so it only seems right to add it to the library after I read it aloud. When I do a read-aloud, it goes to a special section of the library. Often, it’s too hard for some of the readers in my class, but I let them read it anyway. They sometimes pick up on repeated words or phrases, they can take a closer look at the pictures, or they can recall and retell the story.
Today I saw on Twitter a tweet that Donalyn Miller posted that quoted Richard Allington. It said, “If you don’t lose at least 10% of your library every year, you’re buying the wrong books.”
Now, I’m inferring that Allington meant that children found books so good that they “borrowed” them for an indefinite amount of time. But, I’m taking a spin on this- I lose about 10% of my classroom library every year because students cherish the books to bits and pieces.
The students love the books so much that they fall apart. I teach students at the beginning of the year how to take care of books, how to take care of the classroom library, how to turn pages so they don’t rip, etc. But a cherished book cannot withstand a group of even the most careful readers.
Scholastic is wonderful for offering cheap paperbacks, but their shelf-life is not very long. Unless the binding is glued, the middle pages often come loose of the staples used to bound the book together, and it’s hard to repair the book.
But, even some of my hardcovers have not stood the test of time in the library. As readers look closely at these books, the pages start to wrinkle, the binding starts to break. After the book has received so much love, it eventually takes a turn for the worse and may become unusable.
And, like I said- it’s not because readers are being careless. They are loving the book, and sharing the book, and squeezing every drop of usefulness out of the book that they can. A book that’s falling apart usually indicates a favorite title among readers.
One that I’m happy to invest in again, if need be.
A few times, I’ve overheard a fight in the classroom library- two students tugging over the same book. It was both moving and made my teeth grind at the same time. I was happy to see that a book was receiving so much love that two students were battling it out, but I was sad to see that they were showing neglect toward the book.
I don’t know if it’s right or wrong to put hardcovers in the library. But I do know that books that are falling apart must be a sign that they were the right books for some readers.