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 THIS blog post about Scholastic engagement!
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. 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.
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. Below you’ll learn about my favorite tips and tricks for organizing your library and turning it into an amazing space that students love to spend time in.
After you’ve acquired your books and you’re ready to get started, you must think about where and how all the books will be stored. 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 and fit really nicely on shelves. They fit *most* books 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 fit less books but you can fit more of the actual bins on the shelf. 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!
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.
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 “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 the books organized, we also have a librarian who helps with our library and classroom books. 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 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!
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 books, along with 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 and overfill 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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