Saturday, July 6, 2013

3 Tips for New (or not) Teachers! Build your own General Music Classroom Library!

This post is especially for NEW (or not) Music Teachers who would like to start a classroom library for their general music classroom and need a little guidance on how to get started.  (Even if you aren't a music teacher, there may be some tips here for you as well!)

1.  You've got to know where to look!  What repertoire is available?

Music in Motion is a GREAT first step.  You can look in the regular catalogue that is mailed to your school or you can look online at their website. The advantage of looking at Music in Motion first is that as a trade catalogue, you can be certain that although all of the titles might not fit your needs in terms of the age of your students, you can be  assured that all the titles are musical.  Another thing that makes Music in Motion awesome is that if you are lucky, they might visit your state music convention and bring their inventory of books.  YAY! 

West Music is another great trade vendor.  If they have a Wish List, I was unable to locate it.  However, like Music in Motion, they attend state conventions and they are often approved vendors for school districts. is great because you can look and look and look and their suggestions can lead you to finding other titles that you might not know about.  Because they are Amazon, their inventory is just plain huge.  Also, because they can sell from private vendors, they sometimes carry books that would otherwise be impossible to purchase because they are out of print.  I consider my chance to do living room window shopping.  Since I'm window shopping for books for school I may not want to purchase them with my own dollar, but because I have the ability to add any books I like to my WISH LIST, I can remember it and then save it either for a day when I have money, or for the opportunity to purchase through another vendor at school.    Truly, I didn't really know what was possible until I started really looking at

One thing to consider is that when you find an author who has brought a song to life through a children's book, chances are they will have other credits to their name.  When you search, consider searching by author or illustrator.  Iza Tripani, John Lithgow, John M. Feierabend, Michael Evans, Vladamir Radunsky, Woodi Guthrie and John Denver all have several books that are wonderful.  If all you did was purchase the titles by there authors alone, you are already looking at almost 50 titles!  That may seem like a lot, but all good reading teachers will tell you that 40 books doesn't even scratch the surface. 

2.  You've got to know where to shop!

Your school or public library - In case you have forgotten or didn't know, you have to know your library skills to be able to find what you are looking for.  .   Everything about vocal and instrumental music including instruments families and general theory will be located  in the 780-792 section.  Biographies are in alphabetical by the name of the subject in the 921-928 section.  There will also be a great quantity of books that because they are stories about music or because of how the book was written will find their way into general fiction.  Which is why it's good to have a list of titles and authors handy for easy reference.

Your schools guided reading library - If you know what titles to look for there are lots of them AND because of the way that guided reading works, they are in sets of 5-6.  Plus the campus reading specialist will do cartwheels!

Your schools discarded library books - Once upon a time libraries stocked books with cassette tapes.  Now it's past time to move on to new audio formats, so what happens to all of those books?  They get discarded.  Make friends with your librarian and tell her to send you any discarded books with songs in them. 

Budget Bookstores - You never know what you will find!  A few years ago John Lithgow wrote a book through which he reframed the very famous "Carnival of the Animals" by Camille Saint-Saens with a new poem and a book filled with beautiful illustrations.  I purchased the book on a whim and as a splurge when it first was published.  The book came with a CD and was just brilliant! THEN about six months later, I happened to be at Half Priced Book stores looking through their shelves when I came across 10 copies for $2.00 each.  I bought all of them and shared them with teacher friends that I knew!  Often, the very thing that we LOVE about the books related to music is the very thing that sends the overstock to the Budget Book retailers sooner than other titles. That's bad for the folks who would like to get paid but GREAT for us!!!! 

Garage Sales - You never know what you will find!  It's a gamble, but if you don't look, I typically don't have time to go, but my mom really enjoys them AND she doesn't mind going through the book sale bend at the public library, so, pretty much every time I see her, she has something to add to my library, which I either say, ooohhhhh I've been wanting this one, OR I give it to one of my students if I have multiple copies or just don't think it's an exact fit.

3. You've got to know where to find money!

Yes, I said FIND money because there is actually money to be found, IF you know how to find it. 

Treat Yourself - Any books you buy, you can keep if you change schools.  You don't have to treat yourself often, but I'll admit, that all of my FAVORITE, can't live without titles, I own.  One book at a time.... My friends know what to get me for Christmas!

Beg -  You might not have a music budget to speak of, but maybe your librarian has a few discretionary dollars.  If you leave a WISH list on her desk that includes ISBN numbers than she might be able to toss you a few titles that you can keep checked out in your room.  How cool would it be if after reading a book with your students they knew that they could then check out the book from the library?  You know they would love it!  Remember to attach chocolate to the list.  :)

Keep Begging - So principal might not be able to see their way to replacing your Bass Xylophone, but it will be hard for your principal to say no to a list of books that comes with attached with their favorite chocolate bar and a list of ways that you would use those books to support the current testing initiative on your campus..... I know.... it's brutal.... but it just might work. - Remember that Wish List you created on  Well print it out and keep it handy because AJK Books is the vendor for and when I have drafted a book project through I found that the AJK website is not all that user friendly.  You will want to have the list in hand when you create your project so that you don't loose track of what you are asking for.  I've had 30 projects funded through and by far my favorite project were the ones where I got books.  One time I got an entire set of composer biographies, while another project provided books that were essentially illustrated folk songs.  The best part about using to help stock your classroom music library is that you can use social media to share your project. 


  1. I have watched my wife create a couple of classroom libraries--first as an art teacher, now as a ELD teacher. The really sad part is that now on Goodreads, I enter every contest I see for books suitable for elementary class libraries--especially the dual language books. (Or maybe that is not sad, and merely a sign that I love my wife.)

  2. Oh boy. This is the perfect time for me to land on a post like this as my best guy friend just landed a job as a music teacher at a private school in NY. He's not exactly new at this, but I am sure that a lot of the information you posted here will be useful to him in one way or another. :)

  3. Both my kids are huge readers and love their books, we use our local library a lot and also second hand stores, garage sales, book clubs, books for presents etc.
    Great information.

  4. I was a music teacher for 13 years, and I think your tips are great. I used a lot, too. I also shopped at thrift stores. I was always buying new music, and I normally paid for it. Even performance music. I have a lot of it still to this day.

    The only music I did not pay for was actual choir music. But I found out that I could shop online at the big music stores, and there was a place just down the road from us that discounted whatever we ordered 15 percent. And so many music teachers in the district did not use it!!

    Thanks for continuing to particpate in the UBC.