The Wish Bookshelf: Teaching Kids That Their Libraries Can Provide for Them

BookendsCindy: When I was a kid, long before the Black Friday stampedes of today, I couldn’t wait for the Sears Wish Book to arrive in the mail. My brother and I grabbed notebook paper and stretched out on the floor, turning each page of the toy section while we made our Christmas lists. Santa never brought most of the things we wanted—money was just too tight—but it was fun to dream and browsing the catalog was half the fun.Kayla's Wish Bookshelf

A few weeks ago, one of my reading intervention teachers gave her students the Tab and Scholastic book flyers along with scissors, glue, and a sheet of paper that said simply, MY BOOKSHELF. The sheets also had some horizontal lines representing empty shelves. She asked them to browse the flyers and cut out the cover art of the books they wanted to own. They went to town, cutting and gluing, perhaps judging some of the books by their covers. Who doesn’t? The teacher gathered them up and gave them to me, grouped by class hour because they were coming for book talks the next week.

Over many years of holding book fairs, I’ve seen
an increase in the number of students who don’t
have money to purchase a book.

I rounded up the books I had, ran to the local bookstore for a few that I didn’t, and gave the students their bookshelf papers back as I booktalked the titles each hour. It was one of the most successful sessions we’ve ever had. Many of these students don’t have money to purchase their own books, or would not choose to spend their money on books, but they got the message that the library can provide them. And I had a better idea about what they might want me to booktalk after viewing their ideal book shelves. The teacher reported high satisfaction with their selections a few days later.

Wish Bookshelf 2This teacher’s project fits nicely with an offer I make during our schools’ book fairs. Over many years of holding book fairs, I’ve seen an increase in the number of students who don’t have money to purchase a book. So, as I make announcements about the fair during each class’s visit, I also make this offer: “If you see a book you want to read but you don’t want to spend your money on it, check the library catalog as we have many of these books. If we don’t have it, you can recommend it to me to purchase with our book fair profit and you can be the first to read it, because that is the beauty of libraries . . . you can read for free.” I keep sticky notes on hand and have the students put their name on the books they want me to buy. Several students an hour take me up on my offer and are happy to know they will get to borrow the book they want instead of wandering away disappointed after watching other students buying books. We librarians get to shop for books for our libraries with other people’s money, why shouldn’t our students as well?





About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

2 Comments on "The Wish Bookshelf: Teaching Kids That Their Libraries Can Provide for Them"

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  1. Cindy Dobrez & Lynn Rutan says:

    I should add, that not every LIBRARY has a book budget, especially school libraries these days. My own budget is a sliver of what it was 15 years ago, but supplying my student’s book requests is high priority.–Cindy

  2. Laura W. says:

    We are working with a group of kids who have not seen themselves as readers. We have done several activities to engage them in becoming readers and finding books of interest. I love the idea of chopping up flyers and catalogs as another technique. Thank you for a great idea!

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