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How I Handled...

Getting Books Into the
Hands of Our Students
Who Most Need Them


Many of our poorer students do not have access at home to good, grade-appropriate reading materials. We came up with a creative solution to this problem -- one that involves parents, high-school seniors, and the wider community.

The Problem:

Many of our poorer students do not go to the library over the summer vacation; and many of those same students cannot afford to buy books for personal reading. The problem we face is getting books into the hands of all of our kids, including the most needy.

The Solution:

We get books into all our students' hands by staging a Book Swap. We work for much of the school year to stage this event. We begin by asking people for book contributions -- "literature in good condition that would appeal to kids K-6" -- right after the December holidays. Over the next several months we send out repeated requests to students and to the wider community. We have collection boxes spread throughout the school and community. Volunteers gather the book contributions on a regular basis. The books are stored in the basement of our school until Book Swap time.

During the last week of the school year, all classes visit the Book Swap. Depending on the number of books taken in, students can select three to six books to take home for the summer. Some students' names are "selected in a drawing"; those students, chosen by our guidance counselor and assistant principal based on their need, are allowed to select more than the minimum allotment of books.

In addition to books, we accept private-dollar donations. We use those donations to buy more books. And our town's public library frequently donates books too.

The Reflection:

There are so many great benefits to our annual Book Swap. The obvious one is that we get books into hands for students who need them; and we encourage summer reading in a very public way. One of the other benefits is that it is a great way to get the community involved in and thinking about our school and our students. Instead of throwing out books or letting them gather dust in an attic, people share those books with kids -- and they get a good feeling by doing that.

In addition, the project makes great use of parent volunteers and high-school seniors who need to earn community-service credits. Those volunteers pick up books from the drop-boxes, sort them, and manage and run the Book Swap event.

The event also offers an opportunity to advertise our public library's summer reading programs for kids. We hand out flyers to kids as they go through "The Swap."

See our How I Handled Archive to read about problems that other principals have solved.

About the How I Handled... Team of Principal Problem Solvers
The How I Handled series is intended to be practical resource for all principals and principals-to-be. Each week, members of Education World's How I Handled team share how they solved actual problems relating to school leadership, parent involvement, professional development, and a host of other "principal" responsibilities. How I Handled team members are anonymous; in that way, they can share freely the range of issues/problems they are called on to solve each day.