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. Scholastic is a great way to find popular and affordable books for your library. They have amazing dollar deals and thousands books that kids absolutely LOVE! If you would like to learn more about how I earn FREE books for our classroom, check out my upcoming blog post about Scholastic engagement!
In years past, I 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. Well… that system worked. Students read several books on their level and made growth. But before I started this year, I heard a quote that would forever change the way I organize my classroom library.
“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. I will never again 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.
Leveling books can be overwhelming- especially if you have a ton of books! You may even ask, “Is it really necessary?” In my experience, providing students with a welcoming and organized space to choose books to read for practice and pleasure is totally worth it. One of our most important jobs when students enter our classroom 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. However, if it is completely unorganized or not easily accessible, students most likely won’t be interested in checking out books.
I have tried so many different library setups, book level types, and ways to level. Whether you use DRA, AR, or Guided Level, I believe it is important to have an organized system for students to access books. So as much work as it is to level your library I think it’s totally worth it! I have found that what works best for me is to first level the books by reading level. This allows me to know what level students are reading at and if they are struggling, I am able to intervene. There are a lot of wonderful tools to help level books. Some of my favorites are the 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.
After leveling the books by their reading level, I then sort them into categories by genre. I absolutely love Just A Primary Girl’s Editable Classroom Library Labels! There are so many different categories offered and I love that they are also editable! I have been able to create my own labels for the variety of books I have in my own classroom. They can even be printed on 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 have been so good this year putting them back. Here are some pictures of what my process looks like:
As I mentioned, this is definitely a time consuming process but so worth it. I have never seen as much reading growth as I have this year. I think that allowing book choice with a variety of different kinds of books, along with an organized system, has been a huge contributing factor. Another factor is providing students with independent sustained reading time (SSR). You can also see my post about that below.
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.
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