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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 16, Number 4, March 2004

Book-trade day

by Herb Couch

A few decades ago, my attitude toward classroom book-order clubs for students changed. At first, I participated in Scholastic and other book-order clubs because other teachers in my school did so and I didn’t want my class to complain that they were being left out.

I was careful to collect book-order money at the beginning of the school day, and I put the cash under lock and key. The books were not expensive, and most children ordered several books. I sent in book orders right away before the company ran out of any titles.

It was exciting when the book orders arrived at school. Everyone loves shiny new books! Also, there were always books "awarded" to the classroom for all students to share.

Then it happened. Book-club orders lost their shine. I was transferred to a new school where parents hadn’t as much spare cash. The economy was going down the tubes, and money was tight. Only a small number of students in my class ordered book-club books. The students who did order books often spent $20 to $50.

When the book orders arrived, it was a major disappointment for most students. While three or four students were happy with their shiny new books, most students were envious and had their family poverty shoved in their faces. Also, students who needed to do recreational reading the most were often from families who could not afford to order book-club books.

An alternative to book-club orders was needed. I got together with another primary teacher, and we decided to have a Book Trade Day for our students. A note sent home to parents explained the special day. Students could bring up to 10 books from home to trade with other students.

Important: We stressed to parents and students that books were to be traded, and the trade was permanent. Students were not to bring any books from home that were family heirlooms. Books to be traded at school had to be books that the students no longer wanted. However, the books needed to be ones that other children would enjoy reading. We wanted parents to check and okay the books that students brought to trade.

The Book Trade Day was to be held in 10 days, but students were encouraged to bring books to trade immediately. The books were kept in a large box in the two classrooms. The teachers’ job was to record how many books each child brought to trade.

When Book Trade Day arrived, excitement was in the air! The books were spread out around the gym floor and students were given a few minutes to wander around and look at the books. Next, we asked each child to sit down with a book she or he wanted. We wanted to make sure everyone got a least one desirable book. We had discussed with our students beforehand good manners at the book trade. We gave a reminder in the gymnasium.

When all students were finished choosing one book, we were ready to carry on. For example, students who brought five books to trade could choose up to five books in exchange. After the book trade, students went back to their classrooms for silent reading and a discussion about our "new" books. All students brought books to trade. Everyone was reading. Best of all, the Book Trade Day did not cost any money. And we all went home happy.

Herb Couch teaches at Distance Education School of the Kootenays, Nelson.



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