The importance of reading for language acquisition has been rediscovered recently, thanks to CI and Stephen Krashen. Whether you are a first year teacher or a 20-year veteran that wants start a free voluntary reading program, you’re going to need to get Spanish books for your classroom library.
You’ll have to get creative, first because you are a teacher and there is never enough money for supplies, and second because getting good books in Spanish is not easy. To be honest about 90% of the books in my classroom library I bought with my own money or acquired them on my own abroad and was reimbursed.
Raising money for books
Write grants for both national and local groups that are internationally minded to ask for books. For example, where I live Peace Corps groups and Rotary Club groups will often sponsor grants, and you could certainly argue that getting books in Spanish or in another language for your classroom library would be helping students learn more about the world.
School library books in Spanish
You should push for your district to get more school library books in Spanish. It only makes sense that we try to encourage our students to be reading more in Spanish and in their home languages. This is something that we’ve been able to do recently at my school, since we now have dual language immersion programs. We’ve acquired larger collections in our library, which is great to see. Most of the books that are in Spanish are the Spanish translations of books that are already popular in English.
I try to make sure that my classroom library has unique books, but I will generally make a trip to the school library with students at the beginning of the year. Students can choose a book from there or they can choose a book from the classroom library. This doubles the amount of books that you have access to.
Kellogg’s Feeding Reading
Something else I’ve done every year is participate in the Kellogg’s Feeding Reading Program. Over the years I probably got 30 or 40 free books from this program. All you have to do is buy specially-marked boxes of Kellogg’s products. You upload your receipt after taking a picture of it and for every item that you’ve purchased, you get one book.
This can be a really good deal, because there are books for kids of all levels and they always have some in Spanish. Some years they have more Spanish choices than others, but there have always been books that are worth getting. One year I even ended up getting enough copies of Esperanza Renace or Enrique’s Journey that we were able to use it for a reading group. There’s no fee to this; they don’t charge shipping either, so it’s completely free.
Read more about my experience with Kellogg’s Feeding Reading here.
Something else that I’ve done to get books is pick up books at conferences. Sometimes, if you go to ACTFL or if you participate in other teacher education conferences you have a chance to win free books. Check out the exhibitors to see who is having drawings or giveaways. I’ve gotten a few books that way and everyone loves winning!!
If you participate in book clubs, sometimes you can get the book you are reading for free. I’ve gotten free books from both a school and a district book club, although they were not in Spanish. This year I’ve been part of international webinars for teachers through a local university, and we get a copy of each middle school level book for free.
Scholastic Warehouse Sales
The educational publishing company Scholastic has pop up sales throughout the year. The locations are all around the country and change often. New books are heavily discounted and you can get coupons for even more of a discount. The warehouse sales have a good selection of books for elementary students in Spanish. If you teach high school novice students, children’s books can be fun for them.
Used book stores
I like to go to the used book store. I have a Half Price Books in town and every time I go, I look through the shelves for books in other languages. There are usually two areas the kids section and the language learning sections. Sometimes there are really great books in the kids section because they’re at a level that’s appropriate for novice and intermediate levels. But oftentimes they’re very easy ABC 123 type books that would not really be appropriate.
I also look in the section that’s for language learning because in addition to textbooks, lots of times there are novels there that college students would sell back. Often these books are very difficult, and more of like classic literature that high school students aren’t usually interested in. But if you’re starting from nothing and you can get cheap books that way, it’s a good way to get some of the Spanish classics into your library.
Get books when traveling
I’ve also looked for books when I travel to other countries. This can be countries that are Spanish speaking or not. I actually got a whole bunch of great Spanish books when I was in Norway, of all places, at the bookstore. They were a decent price and were books that I had not seen sold in the U.S.
You can buy many Spanish books for your classroom library on Amazon, but if you’re looking to get something a little more unique and that’s not necessarily made for American audiences, you should look abroad. When you travel, it’s always a good idea to look at bookstores and see what’s there. When I went to Mexico, a year and a half ago I combed through the bookstores and it was a great opportunity to see what books were popular in Mexico. Unfortunately, I was not very impressed with the prices in Mexico. I feel like I paid the same that I would pay in the US for books and I was expecting it to be a lot cheaper, based on the prices of everything else.