Last year, I embarked on a journey to give students a voice in the budgeting decisions in the library. Last year’s students were a targeted group of below grade level readers in grades 3-5. That project was funded by a grant. This year, I wanted to expand the idea to include more than just a targeted group. I once again obtained a grant of $1000, but I took $1000 of our book fair profits to match that grant.
This year our school began school-wide enrichment clusters. Every Wednesday from 9-10AM, every student in the school goes to a cross grade level class that is based on interest. Leader Librarians was the cluster that I offered. 12 students were selected based on their interest to be in my group. An interesting thing is that 3 of the 12 students were students who participated in my student voice, student choice project last year. It was great to see their interest in buying books for the library continue.
In our group, the 12 students made all of the decisions. I told them that we had $2000 to spend. I shared with them many of the ways that I make decisions about how money is spent from setting goals to assigning percentages to each goal. After looking at the ways that I normally spend money, the students began brainstorming how to spend their own money. They decided to informally survey the school from Prek-5. Students assigned themselves to grade levels and set out with clipboards to collect information about what students liked to read about. We put all of the data on the table and started looking for themes. In the end, students identified about ten different categories of books to focus on that ranged from scary stories to comics to superheroes to sports. Students paired up and chose categories to focus on and we divided the budget equally among the partner groups. The students decided they wanted to meet with vendors like last year’s group, so once again Jim Boon from Capstone Press brought book samples for students to preview. We also invited Frieda Julian of Children’s Plus Inc. Students began making wish lists from the books they saw and the books found in catalogs. Finally, students began narrowing down their lists to what they actually wanted to order.
Once lists were finalized, I placed the orders. While we waited, the students worked on making posters, a commercial script for our morning broadcast, talking points for sharing the project with others, and an animoto video of the whole project.
When the books arrived, we made an assembly line. Students had the following jobs: unpacking the boxes, checking the packing slip, inspecting the books, stamping the books, photographing groups of books. Finally, students sat down and enjoyed reading the books.
We still have some steps to go, including presenting our project at our school enrichment fair on December 7th. I’m very proud of these students. There was so much that they wanted to do that we just didn’t have time for, but they accomplished a huge need in our collection: buying books that are guaranteed to be loved by students school-wide.