Archives For Better World Books

The original purpose of this blog was to explain how used books were purchased in order to increase the classroom libraries at Wamogo Middle and High School, grades 7-12. The name of the blog, “Used Books in Class”, was initially chosen to indicate the condition of the texts. The term “used”, however, can also serve to mean how the text are used in class. In other words, how are the used books being used in the English Language Arts Classrooms at each grade level?

A carload of Used Books after a summer book sale!

In writing this blog, I have found myself increasingly commenting on English/language arts curriculum, lesson plans, and current issues in education. This means the purpose of the blog has grown to include topics that are all related to the use of reading materials in the classroom, and reading is the most important skill that students will need to be successful students at every grade level. Providing a wide variety of books-new and used- is critical to engaging readers.

To date, the used books purchased in the secondary markets have helped in four specific ways:

-Used books have replaced copies at each grade level. Used books have been used to replace lost or damaged copies of books assigned to a particular curriculum. For example, there have been replacement copies of The Giver for Grade 7, Of Mice and Men in 9th grade, and Animal Farm in Grade 10. These titles are taught in almost every school system in Connecticut, and are titles that are relatively easy to find locally in the secondary market. These are also titles that are readily available in large quantities online on used book dealer sites such as Better World Books.

-Used books have increased selections for independent reading in classrooms. The English Department has incorporated more time for silent sustained reading (SSR) in class at each grade level, and classroom libraries have been increased to allow students the opportunity to choose books to read. For example, students in grade 9 are provided 40-45 minutes each week to read self-selected books during the school year. Students may choose a book from the school’s library media center, or choose a book from one of the carts in the classroom.  Titles vary in genre, subject and reading level in order to meet student interest. Students are responsible for blogging reviews about the books they read at least twice a quarter.

Other classes that take advantage of independent reading are the Advanced Placement English Language and English Literature classes. Students select independent reading that meets the critical standards of the Advanced Placement program. These selections range from the classics (Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment) to more contemporary titles (Roth The Plot Against America) and write responses to these books.

-Used books are added titles as “satellite texts”. English teachers have extended thematic units to include titles that complement a text from the literary canon. For example, the 11th grade thematic unit “Coming of Age” is usually associated with Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. Purchasing used books have increased selections to include Sittenfield’s Prep, Cormier’s The Chocolate War, Lamb’s She’s Come Undone, Gibbons’s Ellen Foster, and Chbosky’s Perks of Being a Wallflower. Students select a text to explore the thematic idea through the lens of another author.

Score! A set of books for Grade 10

-Used books have allowed for the addition of new texts. The purchase of used books has expanded curriculum at several grade levels with high interest titles.  For example, Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, Coelho’s The Alchemist and Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (see picture) have been added to the World Literature curriculum in grade 10. In addition, Walls’s The Glass Castle has been added to Grade 12 Memoir class while Farmer’s The House of the Scorpion will be added to grade 7.

Ultimately, the re-stated purpose of this blog will be to continue to discuss the inclusion of specific used book titles in English/language arts classrooms as well as discuss how we are working to improve reading in and out of the classroom  at every grade level. Used books in class is also about using books in class to improve reading!

Where I can get used books online AND save the planet? Where can I find multiple copies of a text AND support literacy efforts in Third World countries? Better World Books is the online website for the ecologically concerned and the socially conscious. According to the website, “We were founded in 2002 by three friends from the University of Notre Dame who started selling textbooks online to earn some money, and ended up forming a pioneering social enterprise — a business with a mission to promote literacy.” The short video explains how they started and what they do:

This enterprise partners with local library books sales. Enter a zip code, and a map of participating libraries pops up. Clicking on one of the libraries shows the books they have for sale. Libraries and campuses can donate books and share the proceeds from sales of those books.  The site has a section devoted to the buying and selling of textbooks. Books in good condition can be donated to this site, as well.  Service organizations can organize book drops in their communities. Every conceivable option to the buying and selling of used books is covered on the Better World Book web site. There is also an option to donate books at no cost; Better World Books will pay for postage.

I have been successful in securing odd copies of texts when I am short one or two copies to make a class set. I have ordered copies of  the hard to find Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine for $6.98 which normally retails for $12.50 and Larry Watson’s Montana, 1948 for $6.98 which normally retails for $11.20. Recently, I ordered 20 copies of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Haddon for $3.98 each; the book retails for $8.73 – a savings of $95.00. All books arrived on time and in good condition. There are sales on this site as well; bargain books are marked 50% off the already low sale price.

Best of all? The shipping is FREE! Not so with other used book sites charge a minimum of $3.99 for each book sent.  In addition, the most entertaining  confirmation notice I have ever received from a company has come from Better World Books. I purchased several used copies of Night, October Sky and The House on Mango Street because I could not find enough in local book sales for class sets. Not only were the used book prices reasonable, but the July sale included an additional 15% off the entire order.  A week later I received an e-mail to tell me the books were shipped. The correspondence read as follows:

Hello,
(Your book(s) asked to write you a personal note – it seemed unusual, but who are we to say no?)
Holy canasta! It’s me… it’s me! I can’t believe it is actually me! You could have picked any of over 2 million books but you picked me! I’ve got to get packed! How is the weather where you live? Will I need a dust jacket? I can’t believe I’m leaving Mishawaka, Indiana already – the friendly people, the Hummer plant, the Linebacker Lounge – so many memories. I don’t have much time to say goodbye to everyone, but it’s time to see the world!
I can’t wait to meet you! You sound like such a well read person. Although, I have to say, it sure has taken you a while! I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but how would you like to spend five months sandwiched between Jane Eyre (drama queen) and Fundamentals of Thermodynamics (pyromaniac)? At least Jane was an upgrade from that stupid book on brewing beer. How many times did the ol’ brewmaster have one too many and topple off our shelf at 2am?
I know the trip to meet you will be long and fraught with peril, but after the close calls I’ve had, I’m ready for anything (besides, some of my best friends are suspense novels). Just five months ago, I thought I was a goner. My owner was moving and couldn’t take me with her. I was sure I was landfill bait until I ended up in a Better World Books book drive bin. Thanks to your socially conscious book shopping, I’ve found a new home. Even better, your book buying dollars are helping kids read from Brazil to Botswana.

A company that is spreads literacy while being ecologically friendly, socially conscious, and funny? Better World Books is a great resource for those looking for good quality books on the cheap.