As an educator, helping students develop a love of reading starts with you. There are so many ways to help foster that love and your classroom library is one of them. However, figuring out how to master classroom library organization can be tricky because there’s so many ways to do it. In this post, you’ll learn about my favorite tips and tricks for organizing your classroom library. Get ready to turn it into an amazing space that students love to spend time in!
Tips for a Vibrant Classroom Library
Students deserve a welcoming and organized space to choose books to read for practice and pleasure. It is something that should be prioritized in my opinion. One of our most important jobs is to help encourage a love of reading and your classroom library is the first place to start. If this space is inviting and engaging, students will love to visit it. On the other hand, if it is completely unorganized or not easily accessible, students most likely won’t be interested in checking out books.
In years past, I’ve leveled books by their reading level rather than by genre. It was my belief that after you assessed students and determined their reading level, you would assign them a basket based on that level. And don’t get me wrong, that system worked. Students read several books on their level and made growth. But then I heard a quote that would forever change my classroom library organization.
“We don’t fall in love with a book because of its reading level.”
At that moment, I knew I was putting my students in a literal book box. I realized I wasn’t allowing student choice to foster a true love of reading because they weren’t deciding what to read really. No longer would I say, “Sorry honey, that book is not your reading level.” Instead of deterring my students from a text, I knew I should let them explore books based off their interest.
Acquiring Great Reads
Building your classroom library full of engaging, diverse texts is an art. It’s so much fun to find a beautiful book you know students will love to add to your collection. Despite what others may say, it also doesn’t have to break the bank! Scholastic is a great way to find popular and affordable books for your library. They have amazing dollar deals and thousands of books that kids absolutely LOVE! You can also earn FREE books for your classroom through a program they have. I highly recommend it. Another great way to acquire amazing books inexpensively is shopping around at your local thrift stores, garage sales, and buying seasonal books after holidays when they are discounted. I have even created Amazon wish lists for books to share with family, friends, or parents throughout the school year if they want to donate to students.
It’s also very important to note here that your classroom library should reflect your students. Spruce up your library with diverse books. Start a collection of books that are written by authors from all cultures. Read aloud stories with characters that are of all colors, abilities, and genders. Take note of the cultures represented in your school and make it a point to get books that reflect THEM. If you can’t afford to buy all the books your heart desires, utilize your libraries. Creating a cultured collection of books takes time, but you have to start somewhere! If you’re looking for some awesome curated lists created for you to explore, you can check out the Ultimate List of Books to Celebrate Diversity , 20ish Awesome Read Alouds to Foster Social Emotional Learning or the Best Picture Books for Teaching Math Concepts for K-2 .
After you’ve acquired your books and you’re ready to get organized, you must think about where and how all the books will be stored. The biggest part of your classroom library organization will be the containers you choose to store them in. There are TONS of affordable options of bins that are great for organizing and displaying your books.
I love THESE bins from the Dollar Store because they are large enough to fit a good sized amount of books. They also fit really nicely on shelves. Most books are able to fit inside, but there are a few larger books that don’t fit well. THESE bins from Target are also great for organizing books. They are smaller so fits less books, but you can fit more of the actual bins on the shelf which allows you to have more categories. My suggestion is that if you have a lot of categories and genres but fewer books, I would recommend the Target bins. If you have less categories but more books, I would recommend the Dollar Store bins!
Implementing Your Classroom Library Organization
Before you begin the process of organizing your library, take some time to purge books that are no longer needed or used. These can be books for different grade levels that don’t fit, books that have been loved too hard, and outdated books that are no longer relevant or are culturally insensitive. I know this can be a tough process, but by taking the time to purge, you’ll have a more organized, cohesive library and flow.
To level or not to level? I think leveling books can be overwhelming- especially if you have a ton of books! You may even ask, “Is it really necessary?” I think it is totally your call whether you decide to level books or not. If you choose to level books, here are some of my favorite websites that can help make that process easier: Scholastic Book Wizard and AR Book Finder. They are both free websites that have pretty much any book you might have, as well as different leveling options depending on how you may choose to level your books.
To start the organizing process, I begin by assessing the collection of books in front of me and organizing them into piles of common themes/topics. Below you’ll see just a few of the categories I sort books into:
Nonfiction – animals, ocean life, transportation
Back to School
Seasons and Holidays
You can also choose to organize your books into number or letter bins too. How you decide to organize is completely up to you. Just remember, the ultimate goal is to have a well organized space that is easy to navigate AND clean up. I love having thematic bins for primary students because it is easy for them to utilize independently. For my bin labels, I create brightly colored pictures that are easy for students to see with the title. I also have book labels on the actual books for students that match their bin so that it is easy for them to return without support. See some examples below.
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Systems for Success
Once you’ve spent all the time and effort to sort, organize, and set up your library, it’s important to implement a system to keep it that way. One thing I do is to provide students with is “book shopping days” once a week. I send 5 students to our library at a time and they know they have to put their previous books back before getting new ones. The matching book labels pictured below help students keep the books organized in the correct bins.
After they return their books, they can spend some time picking 5 new books to keep in their book bag for the week. You can use bags or bins for students to keep their own books for the week. I personally like to use bags because they are easy to store in their desk or bin. This process does take some time for students to get down, but they get quicker as the year goes on. While students take turns picking new books, the other students are reading. To further help keep up with your classroom library organization, we also have a librarian who helps with our tidiness. One of their jobs is to go through the book bins at the end of the week and make sure all books are organized in their correct bins.
A few more things to practice at the beginning of the year are:
What to do when someone wants a book we want
How we love, care for, and respect our books
What happens if a book is accidently damaged
With solid systems in place that allow students to independently choose and love books, your classroom library will soon become one of their favorite places!
Editable Classroom Library Organization Labels
So are you ready to organize your classroom library and set your students up for success? You’ll LOVE this jam packed Editable Classroom Library Label pack. You’ll have everything you need to organize your classroom library by genre and create ownership over your classroom library. There are over 75 different categories offered, as well as editable labels to create your own! They can be printed on Avery labels so that all you have to do is peel and stick them on the books! One of the reasons I love these is that there are big labels that go on the book baskets and little labels that go on the books. This way students know exactly where the book belongs and they’ll soon become masters at putting them back!
You find these also included in the Classroom Organization Growing Mega Bundle where you can organize EVERYTHING in your room. This is the secret to fostering true independence in your classroom!
Organizing your classroom library this thoroughly is definitely a time consuming process, but SO worth it. I have never seen as much reading growth as I have this year. I truly believe that allowing book choice, along with a variety of books, and an organized system, has been a huge contributing factor. You can also routinely rotate through books so that they don’t get bored and you don’t have to display all your books at one time, possibly overfilling the library.
Of course there’s no one right way to set up your classroom library. You just have to do what works for you and your students! You might even find that what works some years won’t work for others. Feel out your class and see what works. You’ll find what makes sense for your classroom and your kiddos! My students LOVE when they get to choose new books to enjoy. It is their favorite time of the week. Want to learn more about how to set up solid systems like our library checkout? Check out the Back to School Teacher Survival Guide that helps you create systems in your room that will have your class *almost* run itself!!
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