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One of my favorite parts of my classroom is my library. Growing up my sister and I were surrounded by books. Every day our mom read to us; we had weekly trips to the library; books were everywhere. There is something so exciting about sitting down in a soft comfy chair or rug, surrounded by books.
When I first started as a teacher the task of building my classroom library was daunting. How was I going to accumulate all these books? How was I going to organize them? Should I be selective about the books I put in my library or just try to get as many as possible?
Throughout my first year of teaching I dug through goodwill bins and garage sales to accumulate more books for my library. However, I insisted on looking for high-quality, award winning books.For example, Imagination Library books can often be found at goodwill (50 cents on first Saturday’s and teacher discounts!) and they are in good shape and usually high quality books.
Another one of my favorite resources for books is Amazon. They have bestselling books for low prices. When I was lesson planning I would check Amazon for texts. Oftentimes I was able to find a used version of the book I was looking for. I was able to get some great books for less than five dollars! My prime shipping made sure they came faster too, Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial. It has easily been one of the best purchases I have ever made. I have saved hundred on shipping costs on classroom supplies and children’s books.
Even if you have been teaching for awhile, I feel quite strongly that it’s important to buy high quality texts every now and then.
It refreshes the library. You don’t want to keep reading the same books and neither do your kids. Getting new books every now and then keeps things exciting for all of you.
When you are excited to buy books and share them with your students, your kids are excited to read them. The more passion you display about literature the more passionate your students will become about reading too.
Sometimes books fall apart, or get lost, or just become a bit dated (students don’t seem to resonate with the 50s illustrations, they want to see colorful pictures, children that look like them and talk about what life is like today). You need to keep your library current and up to date to show your students that reading is meaningful and relatable.
I’m not saying buy a new book every week. Start small if your budget limits you. Check the sales at goodwill, find deals on Amazon. Just make sure you stay excited about literature and your kids will too.
Of course, once you have your books, you may be asking, now what? How are you going to organize your library? By grade level? AR? Lexile? DRA? Suddenly you’re getting heart palpitations and wishing you had some clear manual to tell you how to do this.
There is not a one size fits all solution. Different age groups and content areas demand different things of classroom libraries.
Younger students resonate with libraries that are organized by their favorite characters or genres. While older students may want books sorted by AR level or subject area. You have to decide for yourself what works for your classroom and your students. I decided to use generic topics and characters.
I strongly recommend that once you know how you are going to organize your library you make a list of the categories. Just trust me. I tried to casually throw my books into bins in the beginning and wasted a lot of time and effort. With a list, you can look at your books and determine if those categories are the best fit. Don’t be surprised if you thought you had a lot of “plant books” and only have three.
It’s okay to go back to the drawing board and change up your categories. Furthermore, once you have your categories listed, you will always have a record of them. If you go to a book sale, you now have a better idea of what you need to buy.
Once the categories for your library are selected, now it is time to to decide how you will display your books. Younger classrooms benefit from tubs so that students do not have to try and *jam* the books back into place. However, older students can handle rows of books on shelves.
Tubs can be found at Dollar Tree (click the banner below) or at Amazon. I used these containersbecause they were neutral and able to hold larger picture books.
Now you need labels to organize your library. If you are stacking your books on a book case you can use colored tape on the spine of the books and have a color coded system. For example, green could be science books, yellow could be art books, etc.
I found some labels from Natalie’s Nook on Teachers Pay Teachers to organize my library. I printed out the labels I planned on using and laminated them. BUT the best part of this packet (and something you should look for in any library label packet) are the individual labels that go inside each book. Now, students can open the book and check out the label to determine where to put the book.
In the picture above, there is a label for the tub “amphibians.” On the inside of each book in this tub, there is another, smaller label. Now students can select any book and simply check out the smaller label stuck to the inside cover to return it back to its rightful place. Any early elementary teacher will tell you that this is a big deal. I can send a student or two at the end of the week to check the tubs and make sure everything is in the right place. If you need these labels check out this link.
I have set up a library system that is able to stay organized. When students are looking for a book about dinosaurs, they know where to find it. Students can explore genres and experience a variety of texts. Without organization, they are not able to locate their interests or return to favorite books.
Now that concludes this post about classroom library organization. I hope you now have a better idea about finding magical books for your library and organizing them in an efficient way. In my next post, I will share with you how to create a welcoming environment for reading. Don’t forget to download the free category list and be sure to comment or share images of your own libraries below or on Instagram (@learningismagical)!