Archives For Book flood

I’m moving.moving_van

This blog is moving with me.

This Used Books in Class blog will now be headquartered in West Haven, Connecticut, as I have taken a position as the Language Arts, Social Studies, Library Media and Testing Coordinator for their public school system. West Haven is a shoreline community with six elementary schools, one intermediate school, one middle school, and a high school that houses a student population four times my previous school.

I am very excited about this opportunity.

One of my first responsibilities will be helping teachers at the middle school (grades 7 & 8)  develop an independent reading program for their extended English/Language Arts period. To make the reading program a success, the teachers plan to offer student choice in reading and that means the classroom libraries need to be expanded.

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Six bags full for $180 !

Building or expanding a classroom library can be expensive, but by seeking out gently used books, the expense can be minimized to as little as $.50/book. One simply needs to know where to look….and the best place to look for gently used quality books for any age is at the Grandmother of all Connecticut Book Sales, the Labor Day Book Sale that benefits the Mark Twain Public Library in Redding, Connecticut.

photo 1Some library book sales in Connecticut have a few tables or sections of a room devoted to books for children or teen readers. In contrast, the Mark Twain Library Book Fair has an entire room with literary treasures galore for young readers. I had hardly scanned the first tables when the neatly arranged copies of Rick Riordan books caught my eye. All three copies of the Red Pyramid filled the bottom of my bag, followed by novels from his Percy Jackson series, including the elusive The Last Olympian. I turned around to find a variety of titles from John A. Flanagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice series, selections from Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider series, selections from Margaret Peterson’s Haddix series as well as copies from Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy.

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Boxes of Young Adult (YA) novels & non-fiction from the Mark Twain Library Book Sale; $.50-3.50 each!

Once I collected books from YA series, I looked for individual titles by writers who are always popular: Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet and Brian’s Winter, Mike Lupica’s Heat and Travel Team; Jerry Spinelli’s Maniac Mcgee, Milkweed, Stargirl; and a plethora of princess stories from Meg Cabot. If there was a book that was a hit with middle school readers, this book sale had it…in triplicate. Finding multiple copies was helpful, since multiple classrooms will be accessing these books during the same independent reading periods. For this reason, I had no problem justifying the purchase of seven copies of Louis Sacher’s Holes or Wendelin Van Draanen’s Flipped.

There were several student volunteers tabulating my haul, and I would ask them every now and then, “Did you ever read that book?” or “Do you think a student would like to read this book?” They would nod enthusiastically. Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul got a soulful look from one of the tabulators, who explained, “Some stories in this are just so…sad. I felt better reading them.” They approved of my selections.

I was soon packed up with six bags full of young adult novels and non-fiction for $180, and I was helped to my car by a boy scout (literally…he was in uniform!).

Tomorrow, I plan deliver this first load of books to the teachers, creating the “book flood” in their classrooms. The Mark Twain Library Book volunteers who so capably load the tables, organize the donations, and make the whole experience a “destination” for readers of all ages must be credited with helping more than their own library. Their hard work has made an expansion of classroom libraries possible. A wonderful effort from a library named for the American writer who once said that, “out of the public school grows the greatness of a nation.”

Now, let us see how these expanded classroom libraries help grow the students of West Haven!

The New Fairfield Public Library Book Sale  took place on a lovely fall day; a crisp and cool Connecticut beauty of a day. Unfortunately, the sale also took place in the same locale where the local highway department was painting the parking lot lines at the front of the building,  and where the soccer club practice with team coordinators were handing out team jerseys at the back of the building. The actual book sale was held in a meeting room and a small entry hallway. At 10:00 AM, shopping at the sale was challenging between finding a spot to park outside and negotiating cramped quarters inside.

There were, however, some bargains to be had. Browsing was a shared experience with several other buyers; I would remove a box piled with books to one section, while another person would replace that box with another. Crawling along the front hallway floor which held boxes of trade paperbacks, I was able to locate copies of Codetalkers by Joseph Bruchac and A Yellow Raft in Blue Water-Michael Dorris for the Contemporary Native American unit that is being taught this month in Grade 11. I was also able to add to our curriculum collection:

The Giver- Lois Lowery
Night-Elie Wiesel
The Great Gatsby-F. Scott Fitzgerald
Lord of the Flies-William Golding
Brave New World-Aldous Huxley
The Road-Cormac McCarthy
The Handmaid’s Tale- Margaret Atwood

An independent choice book for Grade 11.

The “score” of the morning was a new copy of Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell.  This is the fourth copy I have found this summer, and the book will be placed in the “Coming of Age” unit in Grade 11 as an independent choice novel. The School Library Journal reviewed this book for high school students saying, “In the poverty-stricken hills of the Ozarks, Rees Dolly, 17, struggles daily to care for her two brothers and an ill mother. When she learns that her absent father, a meth addict, has put up the family home as bond, she embarks on a dangerous search to find him and bring him home for an upcoming court date. Her relatives, many of whom are in the business of cooking crank, thwart her at every turn, but her fight to save the family finally succeeds. Rees is by turns tough and tender. She teaches her brothers how to shoot a shotgun, and even box, the way her father had taught her. Her hope is that these boys would not be dead to wonder by age twelve, dulled to life, empty of kindness, boiling with mean.”  When I read the novel, images of the witches from Macbeth came to mind!

For the independent reading shelves, I also located a copy of Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, Book Two The Ruins of Gorlan in The Ranger’s Apprentice Series by John Flanagan , After by Francine Prose, and Ape House by Sara Gruen (surprising since this is a recent release).

New Fairfield’s sale offered far more hardcover fiction texts than trade paperbacks, and the children’s picture books were overflowing the small table to which they had been assigned. This could be an indication of a shift in population to more elementary aged choices….the New Fairfield babies are growing up!

Once I brought my two baskets to the counter, the volunteers at the checkout were gracious and accommodating. They were prepared with bags for purchases, and at my request  one quickly designed a receipt for me. (“Last year, I had a pile of receipts, but no one need them, wouldn’t you know?”)

Hardcovers were $2.00, trade paperbacks were $1.00, and small paperbacks were $.50. Sunday was “Bag day”-all books in a bag for $10.00.  I purchased only trade and small paperback on this trip and spent $26.00 for 32 books. These will be added to the school’s “book flood“.

The volunteers picked a perfect weekend for people looking for book bargains. Perhaps next year there will be better coordination of traffic outside the library and inside the sale so the efforts of the Friends of the New Fairfield Public Library are fully supported.

Classrooms are several feet deep in a “book flood” at the Wamogo Middle and High School.

Junior classroom library created with used books

While there has been a torrent of late summer rains that have closed roads and delayed schools in the Northwest corner of Connecticut, our students are experiencing a deluge of an entirely different nature. Gently used books spill over in classroom bookcases; they slop on to counters and swamp several double-sided carts.

The term “book flood” is used by Kelly Gallagher in Readicide.  He states, “Let me be clear: if we are to have any chance of developing a reading habit in our students, they must be immersed in a K­12 ‘book flood’–a term coined by researcher Warwick Elley (1991)” (43). Book flood is a theory, recently tested in countries (Fiji, Sri Lanka, Singapore) where English is not part of the culture.  The theory is that students exposed to quantities of literature will learn English as a second language more effectively.

The abstract for The Potential of Book Floods for Raising Literacy Levels by Warwick B. Elley states that “the evidence is now strong that it is possible to double the rate of reading acquisition of Third World primary school pupils with a ‘Book Flood’ of about 100 high-interest books, per class, and short teacher training sessions. The benefits for reading skill and enthusiasm are consistent across diverse cultures, mother tongues and age levels, and they appear to generate corresponding improvements in children’s writing, listening comprehension, and related language skills. Such skills are typically found to develop very slowly under traditional textbook styles of teaching.”

Gallagher suggests that American educators do the same in their classrooms by asking, “Do students at your school have access to a wide range of interesting reading materials? Is providing access to interesting text a priority among your administration and faculty? Are students on your campus immersed in a book flood? Are we giving them every opportunity, via reading, to build vital knowledge capital?” (49).

Well, we are.

11th grade choices that accompany the Contemporary War unit with The Things They Carried

Over the course of one year (June 2010-2011), the Wamogo English Department had added 2,500 books previously used books to the classroom collections. Many of these books are familiar titles that are taught in grades 9-12 (EX: The Great Gatsby, Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm, Speak, The Glass Castle, A Lesson before Dying, The Bean Trees, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Handmaid’s Tale) or titles taught in  grades 7 & 8 (EX: Stargirl, Nothing but the Truth, The Giver, The Light in the Forest, The Outsiders, No More Dead Dogs).

Additionally, class sets of books (20 -30 copies) that were already purchased as new books were expanded with used copies for each student at grade level. For example, the 10th grade library started with 20 copies of The Kite Runner. After two years, there are now 116 copies for 10th graders, one for every student, plus all teachers and teachers’ aides. There are also 15 copies of A Thousand Splendid Suns for students who would like to read another novel by Khaled Hossani. Similarly, 20 copies of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time were purchased new in 2009. An additional 67 used copies have been added since; 13 more copies will make a grade level set of 100 copies.

Books offered to Advanced Placement English Literature students for independent reading

In order to offer independent choices for the Advanced Placement English Literature and English Language classes, newer titles have been added including multiple copies (4-30) of  The Plot Against America, Alias Grace, The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Middlesex, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, The Poisonwood Bible, In Cold Blood, Love in the Time of Cholera, Paddy Clarke Ha-Ha,  Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Cold Mountain, Ironweed, The Wide Sargasso Sea, Gertrude and Claudius, Atonement, The Hours, and The Memory Keeper’s Daughter.

There are thematically connected texts for 10th grade World Literature such as a unit centered on adolescents growing up in conflict. These books include A Long Way Gone, The Power of One, What is the What, and First They Killed My Father. Students can choose to read one of these titles in literature circles. There are also thematically connected texts for non-fiction (A Walk in the Woods, Into the Wild, The Perfect Storm, Touching the Void, The Hungry Ocean, Between a Rock and a Hard Place) and fiction  (The Bluest Eye, Their Eyes Were Watching God, The Color Purple, Invisible Man, The Known World, Monster, Precious, Native Son) for students in English III American literature to read independently or in groups.

10th grade "choice" books for Adolescents in Conflict unit

But, it is in the area of providing book choice for independent reading that the largest gains have been made in the classroom collections. There are book series (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Ranger’s Apprentice, Maximum Ride) available for 9th students to choose during Silent Sustained Reading (SSR) sessions. There are many different titles from popular teen authors: Meg Cabot, Anthony Horowitz, Jodi Picoult, Sarah Dessen and Scott Westerfield.

There are several (5-10) copies of books such as The Lovely Bones, Dairy Queen, So Be It, Where the Heart Is, and The Thirteenth Tale. There are pairs of books such as The Chosen, The Good Thief, Bad Kitty, Shadow of the Wind, Sleeping Freshmen Don’t Lie, Prom, and Life As We Knew It. There are single copies of The London Eye Mystery, The Off Season, The Compound, The Maze Runner, Black Duck, and Copper Sun.

Independent reading texts for SSR Grade 9

More Independent SSR choices for Grade 9

At the conclusion of the summer of 2011, after trips to thrift stores and public library book sales throughout Connecticut, another 1,700 copies of books have been added to our shelves at a cost of  approximately $2,300.00.

The “book flood” straining the banks of Wamogo’s classroom shelves is, as Gallagher suggests, wide-ranging; it is a flood saturated with interesting material to read. Our students are now inundated with titles; our teachers have an overflow of suggestions. We have created the one flood in which I could happily watch students drown.