One of the requests for buttons came with a different request: could I talk about how to ADD books to the collection and not about removing them? I am happy to do so. Here are my suggestions for selection, the process by which we add books to a classroom or school or any collection.
Have a policy in place. This is especially important as you add to a collection that will be used in a school or library. Some districts have a policy that is district-wide. Some do not. Check to see if you have a policy where you work. Does it apply to the library alone or to the classroom as well? If there is not a policy, you should develop one. Here are some of the elements of my own policy from back when I began collecting books to place in my classroom.
1. Is it developmentally appropriate for my students/readers/patrons? Believe it or not, the developmental theories I learned in my education classes are important when it comes to selecting books. I think about where kids are in terms of Piaget, Kohlberg, Maslow, etc. I think which of Havighurt's developmental tasks might come into play.
2. Is this a book that will be popular for a while or is it a fad? Sitting on my desk right now is the Justin Bieber book. If I were still teaching tweens and young teens, I would have the book (but more than likely buy it in paperback when it was available). I had books about NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK, VANILLA ICE, and PAULA ABDUL (before American Idol) along with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle books, all in paperback. Still do have most of them and love to show them to the grad classes who groan in recognition.
3. Is this a book that is getting lots of buzz from the social networks? I picked up THE STRANGE CASE OF ORIGAMI YODA after reading posts to Twitter from my tweeps. If @donalynbooks or @paulwhankins sings its praises, I am adding it to my TBR pile.
4. Does it meet some aspect of my curriculum? Not all books need to be utilitarian, please. However, if there are books that tie into social studies or science or math, I love to add them and how kids the connections.
5. Is this a book that could be a stepping stone to another and another and so on? As readers of this blog know, my new book READING LADDERS is about moving readers forward. So, I have added ZORA AND ME, loving the idea of having my tweens meet Zora Neale Hurston as a child within its pages.
6. Is it a book I read and found appropriate? I NEVER put out a book I had not read in my classroom. I never hand a book to someone if I have not read it. How can I make good recommendations if I do not know the book?
7. What do the reviews say? This is down the list because I do not always agree with reviews and, frankly, kids could care less about them. However, I do want to see favorable reviews. Not starred necessarily, but positive. If the reviews are negative, it does make me examine the book more closely. Am I missing something or did the reviewer miss something? Remember that reviewers do not know the needs of my kids, so a book they dismiss might be a real find for just the right reader.
8. Look at some existing documents. For instance: NCTE has THE STUDENTS' RIGHT TO READ (http://www.ncte.org/positions/statements/righttoreadguideline) and GUIDELINES FOR SELECTION OF MATERIALS (http://www.ncte.org/action/anti-censorship). The American Library Association has THE LIBRARY BILL OF RIGHTS (http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/intfreedom/librarybill/index.cfm).
9. Talk to your colleagues.
10. Ask your kids.