Create a functional classroom library
Make your classroom library functional
I’m so excited to talk to you today about how to build and organize your classroom library. Building and organizing a library that your students will want to find books and curl up to read in every day is a magical thing! This is where they will fall in love with books! We are going to take a small tour of my library and I am going to answer some frequently asked questions today. I talked about my classroom library here a few years ago.
Where do you get your books?
I have gathered books from numerous places! Here is how I built my library to where it is today:
- Retiring teachers: During my first year of teaching, I was really blessed to have had many books left for me in my new classroom from a retiring teacher. If you are taking the place of a retiring teacher or know of one retiring, ask that teacher if you can buy his/her books. This is a great option because this teacher probably has a great stack of well-liked books and will also be happy to sell the books to another teacher.
- Garage Sales: Look on Craigslist in the garage sale section by typing in the search bar, “teacher garage sale”, “picture books”, “kid chapter books”, etc. Also, just stop at garage sales when you are out and about and see if they have any.
- Facebook Marketplace: This is a new one for me, but if you search for picture books or chapter books through Facebook, you can find a lot! Even if you don’t find anything right away, Facebook will remember your search and will pop up with similar items and notify you when a seller posts something. You could also join local Swap & Shop groups on Facebook.
- Goodwill: This was a big eye opener for me. I never thought about looking at Goodwill until a few years ago. It was the jackpot! The books I found were in such nice condition!
- Scholastic Points: Send home Scholastic catalogs and you earn points from the books parents buy. Use those points to buy more books to put back into your classroom.
What kind of bins do you use?
I have used a smorgasbord of book bins. I have bought them from Dollar Tree, Big Lots, Target, Really Good Stuff, and Wal-Mart. During my first few years teaching, I did not have a lot of money to buy bins, so I spray painted ones that were handed down to me to match my color scheme. The spray paint has lasted 7 school years and 3 moves! You can find the Really Good Stuff bins on Amazon here. I know they are pricey, but they are some of my only book tubs that have lasted me a long time.
How do you separate books?
I have tried different ways to separate books. My last school used Fountas & Pinnell reading levels and so I did separate books that way, as well as by character, subject, or author. I would separate all the ones that have an “obvious fit” first. For example, all of my Fly Guy books should go together in a Fly Guy book tub. That’s an obvious fit. A book like More Spaghetti, I Say does not have an “obvious fit” (in my opinion- it’s your library so your rules!). The level is the less important way to separate (again, in my opinion) because I want my students to learn how to find “just right” books and books they enjoy without sticking to a level.
How do you keep your books organized?
Keeping my books organized is important. If they aren’t organized, the kids won’t find them as easily. When they aren’t organized, they also get destroyed. Every book in my classroom library has a sticker on the cover that matches the book bin label. I used to have a “Return Here” bucket, but that bucket often was overlooked and overflowing with books. Having a sticker on the cover that matches the book bin helps the kids organize the books and put them back in the correct place. It also means I have less work to do to keep it organized and put together. That’s a win-win for me. If you are interested in these labels, you can click here. The labels will help you build and organize your classroom library much easier!
Hold your class accountable
Hold your students accountable to keep your library organized. At the beginning of the school year, we have a lot of lessons about how to find good fit books, book shop, take care of books, and return books. We practice shopping for books, reading them, and putting them back correctly before we actually get to do the real thing. This is really important if you want your library to remain organized. I recommend practicing for at least one week and doing a status check every day with how you think your class did and how they think they did.
Routines to practice with your class
- Holding and carrying a book tub
- How to take a book out and put it back if it’s not wanted
- How to place a book in the student book tub
- What to do if a book is in the wrong place
- How to put a book back in the right place
- Make sure to put books back with spines going the correct way and books not inside other books
Your students can keep the library organized
Many people have said to me, “My students can’t do this.” I have used this system every year I have taught first grade. I truly believe that kindergarteners can keep the classroom library organized with a lot of routine and practice. You will have an organized classroom library when you practice routines!