Browsing the Bookshelves

About four years ago, I bought a house built in 1876 with a ton of history and a genuine “Michigan basement”—a six-­foot hole in the ground with dirt walls and floors and a whole lot of spiders. It stays pretty damp down there and can’t host anything not made of plastic or metal, so I knew storage was going to be a challenge before I even moved in. Luckily, it’s got two bedrooms and I only needed one for sleeping purposes, so the second bedroom became affectionately known as the “room of requirement” (what’s up Harry Potter fans!). For four years it was what some would call a disaster but I called “storage for all my stuff that I will someday spruce up and organize, I promise!”

It just never happened until this past January, when a friend broke into my house while I was away on a trip with some students (okay okay, he had a key) and surprised me by installing a whole wall of IKEA’s signature product—the Billy bookcase. Newly outfitted with fifteen shelves worth of storage space, I transformed the room into a library/media center/craft space/extra clothing storage hub. As I donned the shelves with dozens of books that used to live on the floor and/or were sprinkled among the four small bookshelves in other areas of the house, I came across some old favorites, as well as whole stacks I hadn’t read yet. I’m guilty of letting my books simply become decoration, but I’m hoping these beautiful new shelves will inspire many hours of reading this spring and summer!

When’s the last time you browsed your own bookshelves? You’ll likely find some you’re ready to pass on (thrift store? Little Free Library? a friend?), some you’re excited to reread, and a few you forgot you had. But just in case you find your shelves lacking, we’ve got a whole slew of suggestions in our annual resource review issue. This year, Anthony Bigornia brings us a novel suggestion for your high school English class, Christine Scholma and Bill Boerman-­Cornell have suggestions for books featuring characters with disabilities, B. J. Condrey wants to help us slow down and do some self-­care, Andrew Kirk reviews a book about teaching science and religion, Sean Englert shares texts from a successful high school religion course, and Robert Bruinsma reviews a history book of interest to Christian school teachers. Plus, we are joined this year by a group of student writers from Abby De Groot’s education courses at Dordt University who have a slate of books about found family for your middle and high school readers.

And just in case your reading adventures inspire you with new ideas, CEJ will be here as a venue to publish your findings. We announce our issue themes for the coming school year each April, and we’ve got some great issues coming to your mailbox next year. We’ll think about civic hospitality, parent partnerships, inclusive education, and the books and curricular material we want to share with friends. See the inside cover of this issue for more information about next year’s themes as well as how to propose a piece. We’d love to have you!

Happy reading.

—Abby Zwart