By Sarah Maze, M.S. Ed., Guest Blogger
Your students don’t have to wait for a weekly library time to find a book on their reading level. Instead, you can build a classroom library that they can access every day of the week. How do you start? What are the best procedures to establish that maximize efficiency? Keep reading for easy tips to promote literacy by creating, organizing, and decorating your classroom library. We will also examine routines and procedures.
1. Collect books
The first step to creating your classroom library is to collect books. There are many ways to build your library economically with quality narrative and informational texts. Thrift stores have many books in good condition at a reasonable price. Retiring teachers are often looking for a good “home” for their classroom books. You can also collect leveled books in classroom library sets, which Hameray has organized by ranges of guided reading levels and genre.
2. Level Your Books
Your classroom library will be most helpful when it is organized. The organization makes it easy for students of all abilities to find books that interest them and are at their independent reading level. There are several sites you can use to find book levels, and Hameray has an excellent level list that provides details about text type, guided reading level, and intervention level for each title.
3. Label Your Books
Once you know the level of each book, it’s helpful to have a labeling system that students understand. In my classroom library, I chose to label books by grade level using colors. When I taught first grade, I included leveled readers that were appropriate for kindergarten through third grade. If your school library has a system for labeling books, use the same system to keep your library consistent and make it easier for students to understand.
I labeled books by taping a colored piece of paper on the spine of the book. You may also choose to organize books by separating informational and fiction books. You could do this within each reading level tub.
I had a rack with tubs for each level. Each tub had an index card labeling the color and level of books. This made it easy to make sure that books were in the appropriate tub. I also made a list of all the colors and so that students knew from which tub they could choose a book.
One idea to help students know which books they can choose is by giving students their own bookmark. On the bookmark, you can write the reading levels and colors that each student can choose. Allowing students to choose a book that they enjoy reading, and can read, builds confidence and a love of reading.
4. Organizing Content-Area Read Alouds
Another way to organize books is by topic. The easiest way to do this is to create a section for each content area, such as math, science, and social studies. I used books that were usually beyond my students’ reading levels for read alouds.
In the math section, I grouped books according to similar skills and standards they addressed (addition, subtraction, telling time, shapes, fractions, money, etc.). In the science section, I organized books according to life science (plants and animals), earth science (weather), and physical science (matter), etc. Then I grouped social studies books by American symbols, maps, communities, etc. Depending on your grade levels and standards, you should use a sorting strategy that works best in your classroom.
5. Develop Rules and Procedures
It’s important to develop rules and procedures for a classroom library to maximize its efficiency and to ensure students know how to find books that are at their levels. Every teacher has their own style of doing this, but here are a few suggested rules and procedures to start:
- You may take one (or two) books at a time.
- Return one book to get a new book.
- Read books that are on your reading level.
- You may look for books if you have completed your work early or during station time.
- Only one (or two) students can be in the library at a time, so quietly look for a book.
- Assign one student to be the classroom librarian. This student should check the library daily to make sure books are neat and in the correct tubs.
6. Decorate Your Library
Once you have organized your classroom library, you should add decorations to make the space inviting and appealing because a space that encourages reading also promotes literacy. Here are a few ideas to consider:
- Add a few posters of books or authors.
- Create a reading nook with rugs or beanbags.
- Add stuffed animals that students can read to.
- You may want to put up a bulletin board where students can review or recommend books they’ve enjoyed to their classmates.
Students of all ages enjoy the freedom to choose a book they are interested in. Tips in today's blog post will not only help you create an organized library where students can easily find appropriately leveled books at their levels, but will also set students up for success. Continue to check back for more tips on encouraging reading within your classroom!
You can also read The Importance of the Classroom Library by another guest blogger who shared great images of the space she created for reading!
Sarah is an elementary school teacher who has taught kindergarten, first grade, second grade, and fifth grade. One of her most unique experiences was teaching orphans in Tanzania, Africa for a year. If you like what you read here, be sure to read more by Sarah on our blog.