School Classrooms and Libraries Program

Books for Classrooms continues to provide books on diversity, peace, bullying, social justice and the environment to teachers and school libraries so students can see themselves every day in books in their classroom.

When invited by a school district or principal we meet with the administrator or a designee to understand the demographics and perceived needs of the school (special programs, specific disabilities, bullying, cultural needs). We curate a suggested list of high-quality, educator-reviewed, diverse books from our Teacher’s Diversity Booklist for each grade level for admin istrative review. Administrators and Teachers agree to provide test data, cooperate with brief annual surveys for three years and agree that the books will remain at the school if the teacher leaves. Each teacher has an opportunity to receive a gift certificate to order books of their choice on First Book Marketplace.

With the administrator’s approval of the list, we provide 50 books at grade level to each classroom. Sets of grade level books are also provided to the school library which can be checked out by all students and used by support staff.  Most books are new, purchased from generous distributors and presses that provide 50% discount and often free shipping directly to the teacher at school. Titles that don’t have a discount available are purchased on Amazon where we often find great bargains on gently used books. All books are delivered directly to the teacher at the school.

We are grateful for the early, strong, continuing support of First Book, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit focused on educational equity for Title 1 kids since 1992 who has distributed over 225 million books and educational resources valued at more than $2 billion. Working with the private sector and major foundations they provide books that are deeply discounted at 40-70% off list price. Their programs are available to all qualifying teachers and social service programs dealing with educating underserved children.

Special Projects

The goal of Books for Classrooms is to surround children with high-quality, diverse books. Studies show that students who choose their own books and are given sufficient time to read move from learning to read to reading to learn. To that end we have embarked on several special projects to develop lifetime readers, responding rapidly and creatively to community opportunities with proactive, replicable results:

Holocaust/Genocide: Collections of 31 books and Teachers Guide were delivered to all Title 1 8th grade social studies teachers and 25 middle school libraries in Pima County. A similar collection at the 10th-grade level was delivered to Title 1 high school libraries. We also arrange for school visits from a local survivor.

Middle School/High School Gay/Straight Alliance Club initiative: A collection of high-quality, educator-reviewed books at the high school level was made available to a school-sanctioned club. The students reviewed and discussed the books and donated selected books to the school library.

Books for Backpack Meals: Books were inserted in meal packs each weekend for several months during COVID-19. This is an ongoing need that we hope to eventually continue.

More Books Per Classrooms: Three fifth-grade teachers requested 270 books each as the school year was beginning. We met their needs by purchasing the choosing books for a range of grade levels, including books that we selected in addition to the ones requested by the teachers. By the following spring, the students’ reading scores had gone up by an incredible 21 points. This success led us to create pilot projects to provide 100 books and 250 books to similar schools to determine the optimal number of books per classrooms.

We asked permission from the district administration to let us contribute book sets (250 different titles per class) to the school library of a school that was rated C. The demographics of the school were 80% Latinx, 16% Indigenous, and it was also disadvantaged by having a high level of violence and a 61% attendance rate. We have finished adding the books to classes and will soon have the library filled. We will follow the school for three years and already, despite COVID-19, have seen the school improve the Arizona state rating. We expect scores to continue to improve as students move through all grade levels surrounded by high-quality books.

Individual Classroom Projects

8th grade ELL Project: Five 8th grade classes under one teacher with 120 students at reading levels from first grade to high school in a D-rated school in a book desert, 3-5 miles from a library with no public transportation, were given several hundred high quality, diverse books that matched their demographics of predominantly Latinx and Indigenous in the fall of the school year. They were allowed to keep books if they asked. In January the classes were given a book budget of $200 a month to cooperatively make a list of desired books from First Book Marketplace. Reading levels improved so significantly that the teacher was given a bonus at the end of the year.

Voc Ed High School Class: Recently, a long-time teacher retired from a very rural high school. The district was an information desert, with poor cellular service and the closest library 65 miles away. The new teacher asked for more relevant, new books. We helped her make a list and provided what she needed for a successful year with her students.

STEM Activity Kits: Kits are based on the Smithsonian Lab Series collection of hands-on activities and contain items and instructions needed for teaching science, math, and engineering. Legos are purchased by the pound and used with Lego’s Build the Change Course Packs for teachers. These activities are being successfully used in classrooms and recreational settings.

Little Free Libraries

Tohono O’odham Nation: With the cooperation of a creative, proactive principal, Books for Classrooms has placed and maintains Little Free Libraries in community centers throughout an Indigenous Nation the size of Connecticut with no access to public libraries. Volunteer woodworkers constructed the libraries with material donated by a local lumber company. A library group furnishes some of the books. 

Tucson Recreation Center: A project to stock Little Free Libraries in Tucson recreation centers recently began, making pre-screened, quality, diverse, K-12 books available to participating youth. Centers with no close library service in underserved, minority neighborhoods are the focus. One pilot, already operating in a historically Black neighborhood, is being well received and recently expanded to a sister recreation center. The focus is neighborhood cultural demographics and STEM.

We are also providing Little Free Libraries to three community service agencies who have regular child foot traffic and have expressed an interest in providing diverse reading materials. This effort has initially proven successful and is expected to expand community wide.

As we move forward, we will explore providing diverse Little Free Libraries community wide through businesses.

Scroll to Top