Toys. Is this Toys ‘R Us? No. It’s Borders. The same Borders that is declaring bankruptcy. I was shocked to see such a huge toy display when I went to spend a few gift cards the other day. Clearly they are trying to reinvent themselves and I don’t think it’s going to work.
In the most recent issue of The Big Fresh, a newsletter put out by the fabulous minds at Choice Literacy, Brenda Power talks about how these big chains are reinventing themselves to keep up with the digital market.
I’m sure you can tell from my other blog posts that I’m “into” technology. But I have to admit that I find something a little sad about the demise of real books. I recently read my first eBook on my iPad for a book club I’m in with my neighbors. I liked that I could read in the dark, I was excited at the post-it function in iBooks, overall it was a great experience. It was a pretty great book, Half Broken Horses by Jeanette Walls. It was so good that I really wanted to put it on the adult lending library shelf outside of my classroom. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t pass it on to a friend with a note scrawled on a post it, “I thought you might like this.” Now that I’m done with it, it’s just sitting there, taking up virtual space.
Brenda Power also talks about the concept of book sellers as book curators, and how the independent book sellers take on this role much more seriously. They don’t just stock every book, or what’s popular, they find great books, books you don’t even know you want yet. (It’s like Field of Dreams for books. If you buy them, they will read.)
“It is their job to collect, organize, and stock the best books – “best” as defined by what their customers want, and wouldn’t necessarily be able to find on their own.
-Brenda Power, The Big Fresh Newsletter, #220
That sounds a lot like my job. I find amazing books and I try to find ones that my students usually wouldn’t find on their own. Really, if you’re going to run literature circles successfully in your classroom you NEED to have amazing books that students wouldn’t normally find on their own. (It makes the experience enriching and exciting.) According to Brenda, like the independent booksellers, we are curators as well.
“As I’ve been reading about the struggles of large bookstores, I’ve realized even small communities still have at least a few locally owned and operated independent bookstores with well-trained and enthusiastic staff. They are more commonly known as classrooms. We’re selling books every day, even though no money changes hands. We’re asking for something far more precious from students – their time and willingness to take a chance on the unfamiliar texts we place in their hands.”
I like the sound of that. So, while I will still probably visit Barnsie because, let’s face it I have a ton of gift cards and they do have a great kids section, I also plan on spending a lot more of my own money at the local independent book sellers in my neighborhood. The truth is, I’m at the point in my teaching career when I’m looking for books that I don’t even know I’m looking for. Only someone dedicated to their craft as a bookseller will be able to help me. And, as much as I love technology, I love books more.
While I can see a future for eBooks in some contexts and for certain students, I can’t ever imagine a day without my classroom library. I will have to think carefully about how and when this switch to digital works for my students. Maybe I’m old fashioned? Is it possible to be progressive and old fashioned at the same time? In the meantime I will continue to do my part and stimulate the local book economy, just don’t tell my husband…
You can also get a copy of The Big Fresh in your email inbox by going to the Choice Literacy Website.