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The Importance of Building a Classroom Library: Creating a Reading Culture in the Classroom

The Importance of Building a Classroom Library: Creating a Reading Culture in the Classroom

Books are powerful tools in language learning. They provide examples of authentic language and expose students to different cultures and ways of thinking, allowing them to explore new ideas, expand their vocabulary, and improve their comprehension skills. In practice, it’s not that easy to get students reading though. Barriers from language levels, confidence, and past experiences of books can all impact on students’ desire to pick up a book.

However, there’s a stage before all the above that you also need to consider, which is giving students access to a range of books to choose from. This is where a carefully curated classroom library comes in, allowing you to create an environment that not only supports literacy development but also enhances language acquisition, fluency, and cross-cultural awareness.

Here are a few tips on building the perfect classroom library:

Firstly, getting hold of books takes time, effort, and unfortunately, money. Depending on your school’s budget, you might not be able to build a library overnight, but instead you may need to build incrementally. If you have a budget, many publishers will provide bundles of graded readers, such as this bundle from Pearson. Readers are great because their language is tailored to students’ levels. They help to build confidence in students and allow them to become completely immersed in English. The only problem with readers, and this is just a personal opinion, is that the stories just aren’t as exciting or interesting as the real thing. This is where authentic titles come in.

Students might not be that interested in great works of fiction, but there are plenty of popular authors who write in English for an international audience. You’ll see their works in most airports and you can purchase large bundles of second hand English books from sites like eBay or Facebook Marketplace quite cheaply. Think Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series or Tom Clancy for espionage and action, or Jodi Picoult for social issues. All of their books are easy to read, have gripping stories and interesting characters. Some people might look down their noses at their books but millions of happy readers can’t be wrong. Popular fiction like this is a great way to immerse yourself in English.

Build activities around your library

One of the great things about real public libraries is that you also get to walk around them, browse, talk about the kinds of books you might like and generally make reading a social experience. You’ve got to return a book within a set period of time, giving you the motivation to finish your book quickly.

If you can make your classroom library social and organised, it’ll help students maintain momentum in reading and keep working to get through their titles.

How you do this is up to you, but here are a couple of ideas. Try to recruit some students to act as your librarians and to work to a system in which book loans are tracked, so students can develop a sense of ownership over their library. Or you can set up book discussion groups, drama clubs, review newsletters and blogs or even creative writing workshops based on the kind of titles in your library.

In summary, a classroom library is more than just some shelves with books on. It’s a social place in which students can gain an insight into the English language and its diverse culture world without having to step outside the school building. Hopefully this blog has given you some ideas on setting up your own library, and that it inspires and entertains your students.

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