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The Commonsense Guide to Your Classroom Library: Building a Collection That Inspires, Engages, and Challenges Readers

Take a look at our #G2Great chat Wakelet artifact HERE

On 9/29/22, we were privileged to welcome Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp back to #G2Great chat to discuss their incredible new book, The Commonsense Guide to Your Classroom Library: Building a Collection That Inspires, Engages, and Challenges Readers (2022, Scholastic).  Donalyn and Colby also joined a past chat on 2/21/19 for Game Changer: Book Access for All Kids (2018, Scholastic) and more recently on 5/12/22, Donalyn supported a #G2Great discussion around her book co-authored with Teri S. Lesesne The Joy of Reading (2022, Heinemann)

Before I even finished the introduction of their remarkable book, I realized that I was happily holding a desperately needed educational gift in my hands. As I read their shared “HOPE” for The Commonsense Guide to Your Classroom Library on page 13, I paused and nodded:

“We hope this book provides you with tools to look at your library through a different lens, curate it with students in mind, and tap its full potential throughout the year”. (p 13)

I’ve read many books about classroom libraries over the years, but I have never read a book that is more supportive, informative, and from the heart as this book that keeps the promise of “COMMONSENSE GUIDE” on every page. One needs only to look at the Table of Contents to see that Donalyn and Colby leave nothing to chance, offering every possible detail that educators will need. At a time when dictatorial mandates are at an all time high, Donalyn and Colby show us what a respectful flexible “guide” looks like with ample room for teachers to apply their wise advice in their classroom in honor of the students in front of them. It doesn’t read like a DO THIS but rather an invitation in the spirit of CONSIDER THIS. This elevates the role of professional as decision-maker.

This became very clear to me in the introduction on pages 6 to 13. We are given a front row seat in Colby’s classroom as we gain access to the in-the-head thinking that inspired his decision-making process. We are able to see how he addresses the challenges presented during the pandemic without ever losing sight of his deep commitment to getting books in the hands of every student. We listen in as Donalyn and Colby make us privy to the analysis, observation, thinking, planning and adjusting in the name of the readers in his classroom and then take that a step further as they look ahead to a new year. Their book reads as if we’re standing on the sidelines, intently listening in as they consider every possible informed option and then use their collection of information to craft a classroom library space that Colby’s students deserve. Every page is a reminder to keep students front and center in the course of decision-making.

Donalyn and Colby make this clear in a quote we shared before our chat began:

The tweet below that responds directly to this quote is a beautiful reminder

If you attended our #Great chat, then you know that the fast-paced discussion provided a treasure trove of thinking in celebration of The Commonsense Guide to Your Classroom Library. Obviously, there is no possible substitution for the detail Donalyn and Colby give us in their book so we highly recommend that you check The Commonsense Guide out HERE. But for the rest of this post, I’d like to draw from the wonderful twitter style discourse that can support and extend the book. I’m going to share this TWITTER WISDOM in two parts, starting with Donalyn Miller and followed by some selected tweets from the many wonderful teachers who participated in our #G2Great chat. Although Colby was unable to attend due to prior commitments, he was definitely there in spirit.



And let’s not forget this reminder from Judy Wallis


In this post, my goal was simple and personal and leads back to my long-time belief in the critical role of volume, choice and exposure to books that reflect our children not just as readers but as humans. To this end, this post is a celebration of the gift of understanding that Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp so generously share with us through their book The Commonsense Guide to Your Classroom Library. This book looms large in our responsibility to our children and we are grateful that we were able to extend and celebrate this gift through our #G2great experience.

For me, this is the tipping point and what makes “The Commonsense Guide” a must read. In the wise words of my dear friend, Heidi Mills: “HOPE is a verb.” Donalyn and Colby model the spirit of this message by writing a book that will generously offers us the actionable steps that will bring “BOOK HOPE” alive. From cover to cover it reads like an invitation to teachers to create a classroom library that keeps children at the center of a collaboration as we learn how to breathe new life into a space in honor of and with the input of our children to ensure that the classroom library will indeed become ‘the heart of the classroom’. As if the book couldn’t get any better, they wisely add sections with Colby’s Classroom and Commonsense Suggestions from guest authors across the book. There is no detail left unturned as they show us how to bring children and books together in such a beautiful and personalized way.

I’d like to close with the quote we shared at the end of our chat:

We would like to extend our deep appreciation to Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp, both for writing The Commonsense Guide to Your Classroom Library and for sharing their gift with each of us in our #G2Great chat.

Suggestions from our #G2Great chat friends for ideas and finding books



Order The Commonsense Guide to Your Classroom Library: Building a Collection that Inspires, Engages, and Challenges Readers by Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp (2022 Scholastic).

Order The Joy of Reading by Donalyn Miller and Teri Lesesne (Heinemann, 2021)

Book Whisperer

The Author Village

The Book Whisperer Facebook Page

Live Facebook Announcement from Donalyn and Colby