I spend most of my classroom budget on books. Every school year I buy a box of dry erase markers and maybe some post it notes, but they rest of the money the school gives me is spent on books for our classroom library. My students need these books because they read. A lot. At this time of year some students are complaining that they have already read almost all of the books in the classroom library at their level. Many students have already read more than 15 titles, so I am always looking for more books and trying to preserve the ones we have.
Acquiring books for a free voluntary reading classroom library can be expensive, but if you add to it year after year you can really start to build something. Most books we use are the small TPRS-style novels in the target language, usually 6,000 to 9,000 words. The are paperbacks and they can wear out quickly if students are not extremely careful with them. But there is a way to preserve the books in your classroom library. My student aides and I have experimented over the years and we have come up with a way to maintain your investment. We preserve the books with tape.
The best tape I have found is Scotch heavy duty shipping packaging tape. The most convenient system is the small red plastic dispenser with built in cutter. This tape is thicker and more flexible than most other packaging tape we have tried. The quality of this product makes it more forgiving and easier to smooth out bubbles and folds if you do not place it perfectly the first time. It costs a bit more, but it is well worth it.
We tape the parts of the book that get worn as students read and lug books around in their backpacks. We have found that it is not necessary to tape the entire book–only the parts that get worn. It is enough to tape the outside edge of the front cover and the spine.
Taping books in this way makes them last much longer. When the books look neat students tend to take better care of them. This idea of maintenance is also known as the “broken windows” school of management: When things are kept up people tend to take better care of them. When conditions deteriorate and it looks like no one cares for a building and broken windows are not repaired quickly, citizens begin to care less. Vandalism increases. They begin to throw rocks and break the remaining windows. This same principle applies to your classroom library. Books that look neat and well tended to will be treated with more care by students.
It also helps to assign a student to the classroom job of librarian. The librarian’s job is to straighten up the stacks of books and keep them sorted in their proper piles. The librarian can also report books that do not look to be in prime condition.
Here is how we tape the books:
Only parts of the front outside cover need to be taped in order to protect a paperback book. The easiest way to do this is to tear off a strip of tape that is longer than the book. There is no need to cut this piece precisely. Just fold it over the upper and lower edges of the cover. You do not need to wrap the tape around long outside edge, just put it all along the outside edge of the front cover. The extra tape on the upper and lower edges of the cover is folded back into the inside of the cover. This gives double tape support to the vulnerable edges of the front cover of the book.
The spine is the other area that gets worn. To tape the spine, cut a piece of tape that is the same length as the book and wrap it around.
There is no need to tape the back cover. It does not normally get worn, so using tape there is a waste of time and materials.
Protecting the classroom library books like this will keep them looking neat and your students will be able to read them for a long time. They will survive years of heavy use. There are books in our classroom library that despite having been read more than ten times a year, still look good after 10 years of use.