November 04


Books and Beards by Brian Wyzlic

Books are important.


I know, I know: preaching to the choir. But really.


Books. They’re important.


Different experts give slightly different amounts, but most agree that a good classroom library should have between 7 and 10 books per student who uses the room. Combine that with growing class sizes over the past decade, and we’re talking about upwards of 1,000 books for a classroom. Some high school teachers have 6 classes of 30+ students each. That’s over 180 students. Such a classroom needs close to 2,000 books to properly serve them.


Books are important.


But so is food. And many teachers, especially new teachers, are faced with an ultimatum: food for their family or books for their classroom. Unfortunately for those students, that’s an obvious choice. Without food, nothing else much matters (something else we teachers need to keep in mind with many of our students).


But, again: books are important. So what are we to do to help those teachers who need them? I have a few suggestions:

  • Buy a book or two and give them to a teacher.
  • Give a teacher a gift card to a local book store.
  • Ask your students to donate books to support local classrooms (especially powerful for high schoolers to donate their elementary school favorites)


What can we do on a large scale?


Fortunately, Penny Kittle exists. And so, too, does her husband and their foundation: the Book Love Foundation. This foundation, if you’re not familiar, donates classroom libraries to teachers and students in need. Not just a book or two here or there. Classroom libraries. $3,800 worth of books.


Of course, the Book Love Foundation can only support as many classrooms as they have funds available.


Here’s where my beard comes into play.


brian's beard


(No, that’s not a joke, nor a typo)


I’ve been growing my beard out for about a year now (this picture is from National Beard Day in September). My wife permits it so long as I keep it somewhat trimmed, but there have – for better or worse – been no restrictions on its overall length.


I like it. It protects my skin and helps prevent wrinkles, which will come in handy in 30 years. It gives me clout with my students (though, frankly, I’m not sure why – they’re an odd bunch). It keeps me warm, and NCTE is coming up in Minneapolis, which I believe averages somewhere around -400° F in November. But you know what’s more important than the warmth of my face?




And so, a fundraiser begins.


If you would like to see me shave my beard at NCTE (or perhaps have it shaved if I can find a volunteer), go donate to this GoFundMe page.


If you would prefer that I keep this magnificent creation, go donate to this GoFundMe page.


If we reach $1,000 combined, whichever page has a highest dollar amount of donations will get its way.


If we raise enough to fund a library ($3,800), I will do some crazy styles with the beard for NCTE and then either shave it or save it at the end of the conference.


The nice thing about something like this is that every couple dollars really does make a difference. Every couple dollars is another book in the hands of a teacher who can get it in the hands of a student who needs it. So if you’re sitting here thinking, “Well, I can’t give more than $2,” then that’s perfect. Give that $2. That $2 could change a child’s life.


Because books are important.


So what will it be? Save it? Or shave it?


Brian Wyzlic teaches high school English, math, and physics at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Marine City, Michigan. He loves his beard, but he loves seeing the youth of society develop as readers and human beings even more. You can find him on Twitter at @brianwyzlic. He also blogs occasionally at Wyz Reads. His goal is to be found in the moment where a book changes a life. Help him make someone’s life better, won’t you?