Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

12 Essential Questions to Help Expand Classroom Libraries

Blog Series:  Prep Your Library! 

With back-to-school around the corner, we are excited to share a series of blogs offering valuable tips and thought-provoking questions about building and organizing school/classroom libraries. 

By Laura Scott

Fantasy, informational text, graphic novel, biography, poetry…expanding and improving your classroom library is a never-ending journey—and it should be!  It may seem like a daunting task, but jump in; you will find it reignites your love of exploring books, which you can then share with your students.    

Where to Begin?   

Start with the favorite books you already have.  Which books do you rely on to spark a reluctant reader’s interest or boost a struggling reader’s confidence?  Do you have picture books or chapter books you look forward to reading aloud year after year because they make you laugh, touch your heart, or share an important message?  Would it be helpful to have more books similar to these?  Begin a book needs list and add any titles or types of books that come to mind. 


Get Curious About Books You Have

Next, dive deep into your library…review the strengths and areas of improvement in your library.  Try asking yourself these 12 questions…

  • Is my ratio of fiction to nonfiction books 50/50?
  • Do I need more books at specific reading levels to meet the needs of all students?
  • Do I have books that engage students in further learning science, social studies, and math topics? 
  • Can my students see their race positively represented?
  • Do I have stories that allow students to identify with their cultural background?
  • Are there positive role models?
  • Do I have books that expose and educate students on diversity—other races, cultures, and communities around the world?
  • What books will ignite student conversations?
  • Are social and emotional needs addressed?
  • Is there a wide variety of genres represented?
  • Do I have humorous books?
  • Are my books high-quality and well-written; do they have engaging photographs, text features, and illustrations?

If you find books that are not high quality or outdated, do not keep them.  Donate or send books home to avoid an overflowing and cluttered library.  Then reread through the questions above and add to your book needs list.  Your list does not require specific titles; it can include topics, book levels, or genres.    

 Finding and Purchasing the Books You Need

Browse websites, talk to other teachers, and check out the local library or bookstore for book title ideas that fulfill your needs.  You can create a Wishlist on Hameray’s website that is easy to share with school leaders and parents.  Here is another blog post that shows you how to use Donor’s Choose to create a project asking for books to be donated.

Be patient and remember that this is a journey; your book needs list is a working list.  As you continually work at keeping your library up to date, diverse, and appealing, involve your students.  They will fall in love with reading as you share your excitement of discovering new books. 


Laura taught English Language Learners of all ages for twelve years and spent three years as a bilingual coordinator and co-teacher in dual language K-1 classrooms.  She is a part of the Hameray team.  Laura values giving a voice to all students by supporting teachers as they bravely try new approaches to learning in their classrooms.