Friday, March 16, 2012

If You Were The Librarian: Essential Books For Kids

Currently, I've been working on a master "wish list" for my elementary school library.  It is proving to be a much larger task than I initially thought it would be, primarily because the kids are reading so much this year that wear and tear on books has been way more substantial than I expected at the beginning of the year.

As a result, replacement of much beloved and read books -- especially in popular series -- has to take a front seat and adding to the collection will end up being a secondary concern as budget allows.

And when I say budget?  I try not to laugh out loud because, as is the case in almost every school in the country I would imagine, "budget" means mostly out of my pocket with the occasional assist of some much-appreciated book donations from wonderful parents, family and alums who are clearing out their children's bulging bookshelves and think of us.

Without those gently used book donations?  I fear we would be in very sad shape indeed.  Consider this a gentle reminder that your local school libraries as well as public libraries are generally thrilled with donations of well-kept books as you clear out your bookshelves.

All of this has gotten me thinking about what my dream elementary school library would contain, if budget were no obstacle and space were no concern either.

Which made me wonder:  if you were the elementary school librarian, what would be the books -- or book series -- you would consider "must have" material?

If you have a top ten of elementary school aged favorites, I'd love to hear it!  Or more, if you are so inclined.  I'm looking for great books, ones you adored as a child and have shared with your own children, ones your kids haven't been able to put down or have read over and over again.

We all have our own set of favorite treasures from childhood -- but they tend to be as different as our interests and personalities are as individuals, so I'm trying to reach out to gather as many opinions on this as I can to create a broader, more well-rounded picture of what might be possible for our little library at school.  And I want it to be inclusive of many interests:  girls who love horses or fairytales, boys who love sports books and scary goblin stories, or vice-versa.

I teach a range of ages, from the little Pre-K 3 year olds to  kindergarten level at 5 and 6 years of age, all the way to the 6th grade kids who are pushing the edge of 12 and headed toward 13.

At present, my library is small -- but packed with a lot of wonderful books.  We have quite a few of the classics, and I'm trying to add some newer series as well for the older kids and emerging readers -- we've added Fablehaven as an older reader series and Diary of a Wimpy Kid for the middle readers as well as a few more Geranimo Stilton books.

But there is still a lot of work to do to build things up.  And I don't want to neglect great picture books for story time with my wee ones -- they love it, and I want to keep them interested and eager to read.

This summer, my plan is to cull through the collection, pulling all the crumbling paperbacks and broken-spined hardbacks that are beyond my ability to mend.  I've been keeping a running list this year of volumes we'll need to replace as the need has arisen, and I've been trying to brush up on my book-mending skills as I have had time, but sometimes?  It is well past my ability to fix a thoroughly mangled, crumbling into dust and fragments book, no matter how beloved its stories may be.

As I compile my wish list, I'd love your thoughts and input.  What children's books did you love?  What are your kids in this age range devouring?  What books could you never live without in an elementary school library?  Do you have any great recommendations for science fiction or fantasy for emerging readers or even more advanced ones that you highly recommend?  The kids all seem to love animal stories, whatever their ages, so do you have some favorites that include animals?  If you had a top ten list of children's literature, which books would you include and why?

Do tell!

(Photo by Christy Hardin Smith.)


Christy Hardin Smith said...

As a starting point for the science fiction portion of the discussion, I found a list that someone had compiled of great science fiction books for kids:

Have you read any of these? If so, what did you think? I loved The Little Prince when we read it for French class all those eons ago in high school, and I can absolutely see how it would be a fun tale for younger kids as well. But I'm not as familiar with a few of the others and would love thoughts on any you all have read.

Thanks so much everyone for any comments or suggestions -- I really, really appreciate it!

Richard Taylor said...

Walter Farley's "The Black Stallion" and all the sequels

I'm sure these are all way dated but John R. Tunis' juvenile sports fiction (starting with "The Kid from Tompkinsville")

Kipling's Jungle Book, Riki Tiki Tavi, and Just So Stories

Heinlein has a lot of good juvenile Sci-fi. The first Heinlein I can recall reading (in my '20s no less) was one titled "Starman Jones"

musicsleuth said...

My 9 yr old son's recent favorites:

Phantom Tollbooth (Milo is his favorite character of all time - he's re-read it twice)

Guardians of Ga'Hoole series (he's on book 8)

The 'Secret Series' by Pseudonymous Bosch (5 books based on the 5 senses)

He also loves any kind of trivia book -- Guiness Book of World Records type stuff. Animal facts -- especially reptiles or pets. Joke books are also welcome -- we usually get the Scholastic Book Club selections.

musicsleuth said...

Just a note on the 'budget' -- When I attended library school, just about every reference class had a test question "If you were a librarian on a desert island and could only bring 5 books on this subject, which ones would you choose and why?".

You have no idea how many libraries live on that desert island... and probably need to reduce that number of books to 3.

Christy Hardin Smith said...

musicsleuth -- that is so true about the reduction issue. In trying to refine an already existing collection, I find myself constantly asking -- do we really need this particular book, especially if the kids aren't reading it? Is it a great book that needs me to hand sell it to the kids (which I've done, for example, with the Marguerite Henry Misty of Chincoteague and other horse book series that are now getting a LOT of readers because they are awesome) -- or is it just taking up valuable space that could be used by something far, far better?

It's a tough question, but one that really needs to be asked on a regular basis, I think. And not one with easy answers because every group of kids is so different -- so it's something I'll be asking myself regularly over time, I'm sure.

Christy Hardin Smith said...

Richard -- I have two kids reading Black Stallion right now and loving it. Truly, books become classics for a reason, I think -- and the really good ones stay timeless. :) You have to love that, don't you?

musicsleuth said...

I am always amazed at how much space opens up once you remove the 'worn to pieces' items and the nonfiction ones that are so dated that they are no longer factual (think office equipment, countries, planets, dinosaur names, animal names/habitats, environment, travel).