Need some help with your classroom library organization? Or maybe… you know how to organize you classroom library but keeping it that way is another story! One thing doesn’t really work without the other. Keep reading for tips to a well organized library and how to maintain it throughout the year.
Sort, Contain & Label
Yikes! I remember my first classroom and the random books I inherited shoved haphazardly into a shelving unit. I literally got the job a few days before school started and didn’t have much choice but to go with it as is. It was a mess, books were damaged and even though there were actually a fair number of books, no one could ever find anything they wanted to read. If yours is anything like this…. here is how to organize your classroom library.
- Sort. This is probably the biggest job! Go through all your books and put them in categories. There are so many ways to do this. By themes, author, series, genres, holidays, seasons, non-fiction, animals, reading levels, school subjects and more.. This can really depend on the books you have and how they best make groups and how you want your students to use them.
- Contain. Next job is to find a container to house each category of books. To be perfectly honest I had a mishmash of different containers in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes that I collected through the years. It’s lovely to have a beautiful cohesive looking classroom library but your classroom library can be perfectly organized without matching book bins.
- Label. This step is important for keeping your library organized! Having book bins labeled helps students find books and put them back in the right spot. For primary grades, labels with pictures can be really helpful!
There are so many rules and routines to teach in that first week of school or so! To give classroom library expectations the focus and time they need, start the year with your classroom library closed. Of course that doesn’t mean not having any books around! I started the out the year with book tubs for each table. I filled them with a variety of high interest books (kinda like a book sampler). The book tubs were rotated each day so students got to look at a wide variety of books. When we weren’t reading I kept them at the front of the class and students were able to browse when they finished early etc. At this point I wasn’t that concerned if the books got mixed up.
Teach, Practice & Repeat
Taking the time to teach the rules and routines for using the classroom library makes all the difference! I know from experience. After spending a summer sorting books and labeling bins I just set my students loose on the classroom library. It was a mixed up mess by the end of September! I knew how to organize my classroom library but not what to do next!
I learned… teaching students explicitly how to use the library and how to treat books is important! Give a “tour” of the library, look at all the bins/categories, teach how to handle books gently, how to put them back in the right spot and what to do if a book is damaged.
Don’t forget to practice! For example. Sit in a circle on the carpet. Each student chooses one book from the library, everyone reads together on the carpet for a few minutes and then returns their book to the correct spot. Those book bins we started the year with are also great for practice! Make it a class project to get all those books sorted and put back in the classroom library.
A few more tips!
- Mini-lessons over a few days or weeks are much more effective than one long lesson.
- Depending how large your classroom library is … teach and practice with less selection and add bins in as the year goes on.
- Review again after school breaks.
- Reinforce expectations with visuals such as posters with classroom library rules.
Keep it Fresh!
The more my students were invested and interested in our classroom library the more effort they gave to keeping it organized and taking care of the books. One way to do this is by keeping it fresh. Rotate some book bins in and out, have some book bins only for special occasions, have featured books and get your students to share about books they like!
Here are few things I did!
Birthday Books. I had a bin of Birthday themed books. On a student’s Birthday they could choose one of the books to be read aloud. I only brought this bin out for Birthdays. This was a huge hit!
Class Book. Near the end of the year I had students choose their favourite book from our library. I took a picture of the student holding the book and students wrote a few sentences about why they liked this book. The pages were bound together with a cover to make a class book. The next year when I introduced the classroom library I shared this book with my new group of students. This really generated excitement about reading and our classroom library.
Featured Books. Some months we would have a featured book bin… like Books We Love, Teacher Picks, Student Picks, Favourite Characters etc. Sometimes these would be books I choose and other times students would contribute to add one book each to the collection. These bins were very popular! Try out some free book bin labels to freshen up your classroom library!
I hope you found a few ideas to help you organize your classroom library and keep it that way all year long!