This book donated by The (your name here) Fund for Public Education

Apparently, there is a baby boom among the bargain-conscious crowd.  Or so I’ve been informed by a number of used-book store owners who told me today that they almost always have used baby naming books in stock but have sold out recently.  No, I am not expecting a little bundle of joy – unless you count the package arriving via USPS – I was in search of these books for my classroom.

A little background: I decided to adapt Alycia Zimmerman’s “What’s in a Name?” literacy unit for my class as our first writing project.  It has all the hallmarks of a good start-of-the-year mini-unit, helping to build classroom skills and routines while affirming our culture of respecting and celebrating individuality.  While originally written with third-graders in mind, a little adaptation made it perfect for my struggling fifth-grade readers and writers.  Students will research their names and the name of a classmate through dead-tree references, online resources, and family interviews and then write about them.

I already own a number of the thematic read-alouds as well as a few chapter books that students can read to extend the concept. With my children now teenagers, I no longer have baby name books.  Name books are also a great resource for finding character names when writing stories.  Hence the use of a Sunday trying to track down used baby name books and the discovery that in a mere 10 years my services as a fifth-grade teacher will be more in demand than ever before.

Buying books out of my own pocket is nothing new as practically none of the 1,500 or so books in my classroom were purchased with district money.  I refer to these as donations by the Diana B. Marcus Fund for Public Education by way of my Visa card. This leads to the need to find books at a reasonable price, often used books.  Used books on line are plentiful and I’ve purchased many, including the class set of Light & Sound textbooks in my room, through sites like Alibris.  The catch?  Shipping can cost so much that the total cost of a used book online may become greater than the purchase of a new book at the bookstore down the street.  As a result, I’ve reserved purchasing online to those books not available locally.

I decided to start by hitting my social and professional (is there a difference anymore?) networks, posting requests for donations to facebook and school email.  Not surprisingly, a number of responses suggested having my students simply Google names.  However, I want my students to know not only how to find something online, but also to develop the skills of finding information in an alphabetized reference book.  After striking out in the friend network, I hit the used-book stores both in person and on the phone.  No dice there, either.

I finally ended up at Better World Books and purchased 8 books for the grand total of $26.76 by selecting only used books with free shipping.  Along the way I discovered a few things:

1. Someone named Bruce Lansky has an obsession with writing books of baby names.

2. I applaud the aim of the book, “Baby Names Your Child Can Live With.”  Admit it, you’ve met people who should have received this book before naming their children.  Not all of them are rock stars.

3. While I shudder at the thought of the book, “Sci-Fi Baby Names: 500 Out-of-this-World Baby names from Anakin to Zardoz,” I probably have a number of friends who now plan on buying this book prior to the birth of their next child.  You can meet them all at the next ComicCon.

4. For a mere $175.76 I could get 1-day shipping of my order.  I resisted the impulse.

5. For $.40, I could carbon-offset my shipping.  I coughed up the 40 cents for the good of my conscience.

To those of you who scooped up all the used baby name books at our local stores, my class will be ready and waiting for your children when the time comes.  Please send them with books to donate.

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