One of my dearest memories of elementary school, especially in grades 5-8, was being able to purchase paperback books from TAB Book Club. The "club" which was administered by the classroom teacher. At the beginning of each month she passed out a newsletter that listed available books with a brief summary or description and cost. We would have a week to fill out our order form and bring in our money.
My mom would give me enough money to purchase between three and five books, if I remember correctly, which cost between $1.00 and $1.75 each. Don't forget we are talking the 1950's and in those days $1.00 would buy approximately $8.25 worth of books today so we are talking about close to $50.00 worth of books. This must have been a sacrifice for my parents, one that was always appreciated.
To this day (you'll hear me say this a lot,) I can remember the box of books and their arrival on the teacher's desk. After lunch she would sort them out. The excitement and anticipation of the newly arrived books built during the day. Finally during the last hour of the day she would pass them out. To this day I can remember what the brand new books looked like (4"x6" printed on cheap paper but with a glossy cover) and smelled like.We spent the rest of the day in class reading and then took our books home. I wonder now about those kids who couldn't afford to buy any books. Did the teacher make sure each kid got one?
The excitement continued until I was forty years old. As a teacher of fourth and then fifth grade, I was that teacher who took the book orders and money, sorted out the newly arrived books, and passed them out during the last hour of the day they arrived. Now it was called the Scholastic Book Club but guess what, the books looked and smelled the same as they did when I was young.
With Scholastic, one of the benefits for the teacher, as payment or thank you for handing the busy work or ordering books, was that you received free books. For every five you sold you would get one free book. Using the free books, I made sure that every kid in my class got a book whether they could not afford and chose not to buy. The extras ended up in my classroom library which must have consisted of several thousand copies by the time I retired. The library corner included shelves, a sofa, a carpet, and several lamps. Very cozy indeed.
Sometimes I would order 10 or 25 of the same title so I could loan them out as part of our book discussion groups as part of the reading program I created. I would offer three titles each month and kids could decide which group they wanted to be part of, no matter what their reading abilities were. If I knew that a student selected a book that was a little too hard, I would give them extra support before the discussion meetings began, ask their parent to help, or ask the student if they wanted a fellow student partner to help. Sometimes they made it on their own and that always made me feel good.
High expectations, high results.