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Recommended Reading: Student to Student

It all started with an Amazon gift card.
I don't know how things work in your school, but we are not permitted to accept personal gifts for the holidays. However, we are allowed to accept classroom donations. Well, behind the scenes, an amazing parent of one of my students started taking up a collection to help buy our classroom more books.

First, I just need to show you the note that accompanied the gift card. It perfectly sums up my class this year :) My goodness do I love them, and their parents for rolling with it!

I know that some people feel that gift cards are an impersonal gift, but let's be real! Teachers are not rolling in dough, so every little bit that we can put into our classroom that doesn't come from our own wallet makes us do a little happy dance.

I also think that a gift card leave the door of possibilities wide open, and the teacher can use it to meet the specific needs of their classroom. When I first saw the gift card to Amazon, I immediately thought of purchasing books to support my new Social Studies and Science curriculums (Having switched grade levels this year, my library of content area literature is wanting!) After the vacation, I started making a list of books with my school librarian, and was just waiting for some down time to open the computer and place my order.

Then, a few weeks ago, one of my students brought in a book from home to read during snack. The colorful cover caught the eye of the girl sitting next to him. She asked him what book he was reading. He shared that it was the third book in a new series he was reading. He started to tell her what it was about, and I don't think she blinked once during his entire explanation.

I have to say, the student had me on the edge of my seat too. His summary was enough to give me a good foundation of the plot, but he left me in suspense… he had hooked me! The girl he had been speaking with came right up to me and asked if she could go to the library to see if they had the first book in the series. Of course I said, "Yes!"

Wow! All it took was another student's enthusiasm over a book to get a kid out of her seat to run to the library. Hmmm… an idea was brewing!

In my Guided Reading Groups, I started checking in with students 1:1 while their peers were quietly working. I asked them about books they have enjoyed, books that they would recommend to a friend, and books that they would like to see in our classroom library. The response was overwhelming! There were so many books I had never even heard of before, that I actually started to feel like an inadequate teacher!

I made a comprehensive list of all of the books the students had recommended, and then it came time to make our purchases.  We actually purchased them as a group, by projecting my laptop to the SMARTboard.

"Well, this book is cheaper from that vendor, but if you add the cost of shipping, it's more than if you get it for free with Amazon Prime."

"If you buy the whole series from this vendor, even though it's used, it's cheaper than buying them separately with free shipping."

"Hard cover will last longer, but it's so much more money!  We could take good care of the paperbacks so that we can buy more books!"

Thank you students for the impromptu integrated math lesson!

We ended up purchasing 72 new titles for the classroom (some of them were an absolute steal!)  Since some of the purchases were from affiliated vendors, it took about 2 weeks for all of the packages to come.  I hid them in my closet until the last of the books arrived.

You should have seen their little faces the morning they walked in and saw the pile of all of their books sitting on tables around the classroom.  They squealed, they cheered, and they did a third grade version of the happy dance.

Now, I needed to provide a bit of guidance for how to navigate 72 new books.  How would the students know which books they would like?  How did they know if they were at their just right level? How would they know if they would be too scary for them or not?

Well, I took a little cue from the neighborhood bookstore down the street.  There is a small shelf in their store where each month, employees display book(s) they recommend.  I have identified a few employees that seem to share my taste in books, so I follow their recommendations and am almost always pleased!  It made me think, why not try this with my own kiddos?

Welcome Our Newest Monthly Activity:  
Recommended Reading!

With each new month, every student will select a new book to recommend to their peers.  It's a very quick, but meaningful activity.  Students have shown great respect for other's opinions, and are feeling encouraged to try new things.  An awesome side effect that I hadn't planned is that students are now searching the school library to try books nobody has read to see if they would be worthy of recommending to others.  The best part?  It's all student driven!

Here are a few examples so you can see their recommendations up close.

We have designated the front shelf of our library to showcase these recommended books.  Thankfully I took this picture before I opened the door to my classroom yesterday, because the books FLEW off the shelves!  I can't wait to see what they recommend next month!

Time For A Giveaway
To celebrate some recent blogging milestones, I thought it would be fun to host a giveaway to help you try something similar in your own class!  Enter the giveaway below for a chance to win your own $50 gift card for your classroom!
Good luck and thank you for stopping by!


  1. 1. I love your blog design :)
    2. I teach first in a low income area. They don't have a lot of resources around them. I usually give out a scholastic reader (on their level) for Christmas and for the end of the year gifts! They really do love books!

    1. OH and I forgot to add...What an amazing story of your students and these books! Melt my heart!

    2. Hi Jen! I wish everyone could have won this giveaway! Your students are so lucky to have you. I'm sure they cherish the books you give them! I am an avid follower, so I am thrilled that you stopped by and entered!

  2. I teach third grade. Moving grade levels this summer, I made it my mission to have a library for my students. My students have a selection of books from my classroom and the school library to choose from. Outside of school, most of my students do not have opportunities to access books.

    1. Hi Sarah! Starting up a new classroom library is HARD!!! Having books for your students to access is so important, but even more so when school is the ONLY place they will likely have the opportunity to do so. P.S. Congrats on uploading your first TpT product and on your Leibster Award!

  3. I love following you on Instagram! Congrats on your blog views. We have tiny library at our school and a tiny public library because I teach in a rural area. I try to keep my library stocked and interesting. We received Raz Kids through a grant this year. That gave my third graders access to more books. I hope we find funding for it next year.

    1. I LOVE Raz Kids! It's such a great way to give your kids access to more books… but I also love that my students have some privacy with regards to what level they're reading. It really helps lower the anxiety of my lower readers! Plus, the use of technology has been a great motivator!

  4. You are such an inspiration! I have been following you for quite some time now on all social media! I also look forward to your monthly TpT banners:) I teach second grade in Illinois, about 30 miles east of St. Louis {Illinois is more than just Chicago:)} I have a lot of books in my room, more than my husband needs to know about! Although, every year I lose quite a few because the Book Hospital just cannot perform miracles. I have taken a book buying break for the last couple of years but I am going to have to kick it in again. We also have a volunteer librarian that comes to our school so they do get to go to our school library once a week. I LOVE your Recommended Reading idea! I think I may just start that this week. I have a lot of kiddos that need to practice their public speaking skills so maybe I could tie their presentation into their Speaking & Listening grade that we now need to give for our Common Core Report Cards - thanks for the idea!

    1. Hi Chris! Thank you so much for your kind words! We actually did presentations of our books… looks like great minds think alike :) We split into small groups of 4, giving 2 minutes for them to share, and another 2 minutes for questions and comments. It was AWESOME! I also struggle with keeping my number of book purchases hidden from the hubby. It's a real skill! Haha! Thank you for entering!

  5. I teach 4th. I LOVE books, and have tons for the kids to access. Right now, my library is divided into fiction and nonfiction sections. We also have book luggage to store our books. We also have a great school library as well. I have quite a few readers this year!

    :) Kaitlyn
    Smiles and Sunshine

    1. Hi Kaitlyn! Thank you so much for stopping by! I'm so curious what book luggage is! Is it bins and containers? Or something fancier that I don't know about yet?

  6. Love that you are sharing the love of selecting books with your students! And those book reviews are great.
    The Take Home Teacher

    1. :) Thank you so much Amanda! I love checking in with you on IG! Your comments always make me smile!

  7. I teach 2nd grade, and luckily, we have easy access to lots of books! I have a pretty impressive library for such a "young" teacher, but there's still so much I feel like I haven't tapped into. love asking the kiddos what books they want to see in our library! With my monthly scholastic catalogs, I gauge their interest from there, but it's so limited. This is so great!! :o)
    Munchkins Inc.

    1. CONGRATULATIONS!!! I'm so happy that you will now have a wider selection of titles to purchase from other than the Scholastic Catalogs (which I love, but I totally get it!) I hope you and your kiddos love your new books! Thank you so much for entering!

  8. Hello Hello!

    I teach 3rd grade. My kids have a wonderful access to books because we have a WONDERFUL librarian that fuels their fire for reading. She is great to help them search for whatever topic they are interested in and shows them how to use the iPAD for searching the catalog.

    I get a ton of free books from scholastic because I push those sales like a marketing consultant to my parents ha! Can you believe my kids LOVE NON-FICTION MORE THAN FICTION?!?!?!? I don't have man non-fiction books so I am definitely trying to grow my library to reach their interest! ;)

    I am currently reading aloud the "Who Is Milton Hershey" because its February AND it reaches their non-fiction loving hearts! ;)


    1. Hi Amber! I have already written down in my notes for next year "READ MILTON HERSHEY IN FEBRUARY!" What a great idea! It sounds like you have a fabulous librarian. It's so wonderful to have such a valuable resource in your school! I hope you continue working to build your non-fiction section for your third graders! Thank you so much for entering!