‘Save a Teacher, Plant a Library’ Book and Supply Drive

I went to a poor elementary school,  I was in one of those multi-grade classrooms that included third and fifth grade students as well as my fellow fourth graders. It was a big class, like all of the classes in my school, between 25-30 kids. Most of the teachers were barely squeaking by with their sanity.

I met one of those teachers (who I never had, but who every child in the school agreed was a big-mean-ogre) many years later, retired and still volunteering to help under-privileged children. She is a sweet, quiet, competent woman who I now understand was vastly outnumbered, overworked, and underpaid.

My teacher was different. At least to my untrained eyes. Endlessly patient, endlessly energized and motivated to teach. She wanted us to learn, she craved our understanding, her desire to see us grow and absorb new concepts was readily apparent. And she had a library.

A Library. In her classroom.

She had converted a supply closet, with its precious and rare storage space, into a classroom library from which she doled out Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume and Alice in Wonderland. Number the Stars and a plethora of other Newberry medalists were there, with their  gold-foil circles gleaming out at us. We were breathless and a little baffled, children being trusted with books.

Our school had a library, don’t get me wrong, which we visited on occasion. Nothing like the library classes many school systems have now, where Library is just another enrichment class rotated along with Art and PE. Our library was only slightly larger than a regular classroom. It held three or four low stacks, shelves lined one wall with an over-large circulation desk opposite. Two rectangular tables sat in the middle of the room, and two small desks set into a tiny cubby, each sporting its own already outdated computer boasting Oregon Trail and not much else, were tucked into a corner.

We visited the library on rare occasions when we had some kind of special report due on some historical figure or time period and our teacher wanted us to use actual books (lots of big, dusty children’s encyclopedias and monumentally historically inaccurate ‘educational’ picture books) as resources. We didn’t have the luxury, or weren’t trusted enough, to be regular school library patrons. We only got to check out books from this official library a handful of times every year, for these special class projects or because we were reviewing the Dewey Decimal System.

But our library, that belonged to us. Our teacher doled out books to each of us, whenever we liked or whenever we finished the one before or wanted something new to read. She paid attention, to what we liked (swordplay , horses, princesses, history…), to what our skill level was, how long and challenging a book we could handle and still enjoy reading it. She read aloud  to us from these books, she sent them home with us, trusting us to bring them back when we had navigated the fictional worlds within and come out the other side.

I spent fourth and fifth grade in her class and learned to love reading, I found The Little Prince in her class and learned to love books for all the things that they were, magic and heartbreak and wonder. My time in fourth and fifth grade was the first time I had unfettered access to (what seemed like) any book I could possibly want to read, for fun! And that changed my life.

This year I have been fortunate to have a good job when many others don’t. I have surrounded myself with wonderful people who are supportive and caring, and have been able to pursue my own interests in a way I’ve never really been able to do (outside of college). But I know that classroom (and that closet that was a library) changed my life and sent me on personal and academic paths I would otherwise not have gone down. I am so thankful for that. If you are a book lover, or if you are passionate about anything in your life, you probably also have an ‘Aha!’ moment somewhere in your past; a turning point that helped shape your love for books, or art, or computer programming, or where ever your passion lies.

This year, in honor of that teacher and that library, I want to give back. As I’m sure you’re aware school systems around the nation are struggling with budget cuts, oversized classrooms, and a lack of necessary supplies such as paper, markers, and tissues.

To help some amazing and dedicated local teachers who are facing all these challenges and more, I’ll Read Anything Once is launching our first annual ‘Save a Teacher, Plant a Library’ book and supply drive. We want to help five deserving teachers begin to build quality classroom libraries of their own, as well as supplying them with some much needed basic supplies for their classrooms.

Our goal is to collect at least once copy of each of the 79 books on our gift recommendations lists (found here, here, and here) which will be divided between the 5 classrooms (by age level) as well as donations of basic classroom supplies (a list which is forthcoming).  ‘Save a Teacher, Plant a Library’ will begin today and last through Friday, December 23rd. That gives us five and a half weeks to reach our goal. 

If you would like to donate any of the books or supplies email us at Readanythingonce [at] gmail [dot] com for information on how to do so.

More details and specifics on how you can help, including master lists of items we need, will be coming throughout the day.






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