This August, in the throes of readying for the new school year, a recently hired colleague expressed concerns about where to keep her purse during the day. Her worries were understandable, as the school is in an urban area with a somewhat higher level of crime than the suburb from which she comes. I assured her that last year I had an enormous purse that would only fit under my desk, but no one had ever bothered it. I even kept a dish filled with nickels on top of my desk from students who purchased pencils, and no one ever stole any.
No, the students don’t take money. They steal books.
By June, it had cost me more than forty dollars to replace titles “borrowed” from my classroom library last year. Shiny new copies of The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet, Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry and My Side of the Mountain had all disappeared from the bookshelf.
“Does anyone have these books?” I would ask my class, only to be met by total silence. But I already knew who had them. I’d recommended them to those students, myself. All bright children who I was pretty sure didn’t have any books of their own at home.
As far as I’m concerned, they are welcome to keep them, and if it costs me another forty dollars this year, I’ll pay it without flinching. I only hope that all of those books stay in print.