Classroom Library Organization
How do you have your classroom library organized? This question is as personal as asking someone to tell you his or her favorite color! There are many methods to go about setting up a fun area of discovery and learning for your students, but let’s review methods for stepping up your library game.
Get it Together
You have got to have the right gear, yet you do not have to break the bank to accomplish this task. Hit yard sales or 50% off day at your local thrift stores to secure some great shelving. Even the most beat up shelf can look awesome with a new coat of paint (just refrain from painting in the heat of the day because the paint will bubble up- rookie mistake I once made!). Next you will want book bins that are durable, and that fit both your shelves and books. A coordinating color would be nice, too. Book bins can get expensive, but Dollar Tree, Wal-Mart, Old Time Pottery, Dollar General, and Target usually have some nice options around back to school time. Invest in a few extra matching bins in case you expand your library in the future or a bin needs to be replaced later. In my later classroom years, once I had really expanded my collection of books and had more funds to splurge on library gear I treated myself to a few Container Store bins and the mother of all IKEA shelves. You know the one! Be sure to secure all shelving to the walls of your classroom. Safety first!
Summer is the perfect time reorganize a classroom library. I had my most successful library makeover when I called upon a trusted colleague to come to my classroom as a consultant. At first I did not like what she had to say. Mainly I did not want to take the work it would require in revamping everything. I finally broke down, took a leap of faith, and did what she suggested. It was completely worth it. The time I spent in the summer saved me so much time reorganizing the library daily during the school year because it was set up where my first graders could put everything back exactly how I had it. They could access the books easily and this inspired them to explore a wide range of genres. Whether you prefer in person or online sharing, gather some ideas from peers and get your library shaped up for the next school year.
Start with your teacher stash of books. These are literally top shelf books that I get out only for read alouds or special holidays, lessons, etc. Maybe some are fragile pop-up books or treasured keepsakes from your own childhood. I used to think having a teacher stash of books was a bit selfish considering I want to spread the love to literacy to all, not hoard books to myself. But you must be able to find your books needed for certain lessons quickly and it makes them more exciting to the students when featured books are displayed for a limited time only! Now we have the student books to discuss.
The number one rule is they must be easily accessible. Can students get them in and out of shelving easily without bending the covers or ripping pages? Can students find where to place the books when they are finished? Do students have a location to keep books they are not finished reading so they don’t get beat up in their desks?
How will you sort and categorize the books: by topic, by reading level, and/or by series? There are many options here and it is good to have a variety. Overall I encourage my students to select books that interest them. I do not mind if the books are not on their reading level. We read just right books during small group time. If students want to thumb through pages of a chapter book that is too difficult for them to read, I let them. If they want to look at a picture book but they are my top reader, I do not consider this a waste of time. I want students to learn the excitement of books in general, not dictate what they can and cannot choose to read or make them feel self-conscious about their reading levels.
One tip I got from a fellow teacher is to introduce books to your classroom library just a few at a time. This way the library is not as overwhelming when you are first going over the rules (you must always teach the procedures for using the classroom library) and students get SO excited about having new books to choose from in the bins. This helps to prevent boredom with the same books. Also, find your student(s) with the most Type-A personality (a.k.a. future teachers) and assign them the duty of classroom librarian. I had a team of students help clean up the library weekly. Your hard work in the summer will last all year. Enjoy!