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NYC Helpline: How To: Work with Students' Families

Need Books?  by Linda Mandracchia

One of the most challenging parts of being a new teacher is never having enough books for your classroom.  This may be especially the case this time of year, when your students may be on higher reading levels; you look around and realize that you don’t have higher level books for your advancing students.  There are several ways you can include parents in this journey of getting more books for the classroom by utilizing book clubs, eliciting donations, and creating wish lists.

One of my favorite ways to get classroom books is to use the book clubs like Scholastic, Lucky, or Arrow (both an offshoot of Scholastic).  The book club order forms that kids love are a great way to get lots of books for very little money.  Some teachers are reluctant to send them home because they feel that parents will not buy books.  I would try to send the book club order form with a short letter like the following:

Dear Families of Class ____

Enclosed are order forms for a book club.  These books are offered at a reduced price for your child when they order from the club.  It is a great way to build up your child’s library so they have lots of books to read at home during the summer and vacations.  It is very easy to order.  Look over the order form with your child, choose some books and either send cash or a check made out to Scholastic Book Clubs in a sealed envelop with your child’s name on it and send it to school.  The books will be delivered to school in a few weeks and as soon as they arrive, I will send the books home with your child.

Thank you for your participation in this. Happy reading!

Ms. Mandracchia

The ways that you benefit from this are that you can order books yourself for a reduced price, but you will also get bonus points for the money the kids spend, and you can use your bonus points to order books for the classroom!  They always have specials and deals and you can place your order by phone at 1-800-scholastic or online at www.scholastic.com.  Remember, you are not laying out money--the kids have already paid--if someone sends a check, just send the amount of the checks and deduct it from your total.  It is very easy.  When I was a new teacher in pre-computer days that’s how I built up my library.!

Another good way to get books (and you might want to begin this next September), is to ask parents to donate a book for their child’s birthday instead of sending in sugary snacks.  Parents will see how much you value books and it will also help them value books as well.  They can also be invited to come and read the donated book to the class on their child’s birthday.  It’s a nice present for your student.

If your school is having a book fair, make sure you create a wish list of books that you want for your classroom.  Parents usually are invited to the book fair and when they see which books their child’s teacher wants, they are sometimes willing to buy it for them.  One year I was on a sabbatical and I always buy books for my classroom in August.  The summer I was on the beginning of my sabbatical, I went to the local book store and bought my son’s teacher many books because she was looping with the class and needed books for the next grade.  I knew what kinds of books she would need, but when parents don’t know and you create a wish list, they become inspired to buy books for their child’s teacher.

Having enough books for your classroom is a career long challenge.  Perhaps you can use some of the above suggestions when you need books.  Don’t forget to check out the libraries which sell books cheaply and now in the nice weather, there are plenty of street vendors (in New York City, anyway) who also sell books. They’ll often give teachers a good price, so don’t forget to mention that you’re a teacher. And do it with pride.




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