Two years ago I sat in the basement of my local independent bookstore for their annual Educators’ Night. I was mostly there for the free wine and promise of book giveaways, and truly had no idea what to expect from the event itself. The programming began with the shop’s events director explaining all the ways the store partners with educators around the city. My jaw dropped. I had no idea that the indie bookstore I shopped at so frequently was also such a robust resource for teachers! Making use of their offerings helped me broaden my curriculum, expand my classroom library, and offer my students more opportunities to see authors speak about their work.
While every independent bookstore operates differently, it’s undeniable that these hubs for booklovers are incredible resources for teachers. Keep reading for some recommendations on how teachers can make the most of a partnership with their favorite independent bookstores.
Get Print Books
Finding Books for Your Curriculum
Schools around the country are working hard to diversify their curricula and include more student choice in the classroom. But it can be challenging to teach full-time while also trying to read and discover new books. Befriending the booksellers at your local indie is a great way to get book recommendations from the experts. Not only are most booksellers voracious readers, but they also have a pulse on what’s popular with young readers. That means they can suggest books for your curriculum, book club books, or read-alouds that you’ll want to teach and that kids want to read.
Stocking Your Classroom Library
Indie bookstores often receive lots of ARCs (Advanced Review Copies) so that they can read a book before its release date and be ready to recommend it to the right readers. Because they aren’t permitted to sell these copies, some bookstores donate ARCs to schools or classrooms. Let your local indie know that you’d be interested in taking unwanted ARCs off their hands when they start piling up in the store.
Acquiring Your Course Texts
One way you and your booksellers can support each other is by sourcing your course texts through your local indie. Every school and district operates differently in how they acquire texts for the classroom, but if you have the freedom to order a class set of texts through your local independent bookstore, it’s a wonderful way to support the store, and the events and services they provide. If your students buy their own texts, you can also let your indie know what you’re assigning that year so they can order extra copies for your students. Many indies will even create a shelf dedicated to your school’s curriculum for easy student access.
Using Audiobooks in the Classroom
Another great option to help your indie is to make a bulk purchase of audiobooks through Libro.fm. Audiobooks are an excellent way to build literacy skills in all ages of readers. Libro.fm’s bulk purchasing option allows you to get class-sets of audiobooks at a discounted rate and choose the independent bookstore you want to support. (For more information or to obtain a quote, email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Make Reading Interactive
Incorporating Author Talks
I taught for seven years before I learned that my local indie could help arrange author talks specifically geared towards students! Some local indies will work with visiting authors to see if they’re willing to give an additional talk for young people, especially if you assign one of the author’s books in your class. With events moving online, we may see more room for virtual author chats with students or recordings of events and interviews that you can use in your classroom.
Many indies offer read-alouds and storytime to their patrons. It’s great for kids to hear different adults read to them, and bookstore storytimes are an easy and fun way to facilitate this. While in-person events have been affected by COVID-19, some stores are hosting their storytimes online. This is a wonderful opportunity for teachers to bring booklovers and expert readers into their classrooms from near and far!
Remember, every indie is different.
While it’s true that every teacher should bond with their local indie, not every indie offers the same programming. Even if your indie isn’t able to stock your classroom library with ARCs or arrange author talks for your students, it’s so worth taking the time to get to know your local booksellers. Book people belong together, and whether it’s recommending an engrossing read to take your mind off grading or helping you find the perfect book for that reluctant reader in your class, your local independent bookstore is the place to go!