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?
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.
-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!