Rethinking Your Classroom Library: Getting More Books into Students' Hands

By Megan Power on August 14, 2009

 Several years ago, as I was moving classrooms again, I noticed how many books I had tucked away in my teacher closet. Looking through these books I further noticed how many I just didn't get to read with my students. By the way, these were great books by amazing authors with fascinating stories to tell just sitting "safely" in my closet. They were books just waiting and begging to be plucked and shared. This is where my journey of rethinking and reorganizing my classroom library began.

Luckily as a newer teacher, my library was full of books. Most were random donations or books left over from my mother's classroom. But the reality is that the kids' books were in their area of the classroom and all of my shared reading and read aloud books were in my own area. The two did not intermingle much. At the time I would take a book out of my teacher's closet, read it or use it in a lesson, leave it out for student's to read for a short amount of time, and then tuck it back into my closet. Back safely away from sticky hands and sneezing noses. The very ones I was trying to teach.

What message was I sending to my students? Why wasn't I putting these books in the hands and hearts of my young readers? What was I afraid of? Is it because they might know what happens in the book before I read it with my unit in April? Was I afraid that my good books would get ruined?

I challenge that thinking with a quote I once read that put this in perspective for me. "There is no greater death for a book then to be read to death." (unknown)

My main goal behind my classroom library is that I want my students to see me using our class library. I want them to see me physically take a book from one of the baskets, read it or use it in a lesson, and place it right back. The message this modeling has given my students has made a huge difference. Not only are they learning the correct way to find and care for books, they are discovering that this part of our classroom is available to them and is important for our learning. Our library has become a hot spot in our classroom.

I encourage you to look through your teacher closet and see what books you can get out to your students. Every year I find more and more that get moved over to the classroom library for all to enjoy. After all what good are they doing closed up in my closet?

Please comment to share how your classroom library is organized and how that makes it a success in your classroom. Fresh ideas and thoughts about our blog are always encouraged and welcome!

Keep reading,

Megan Power


Love it! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for sharing.
Have you published a list of the books in these libraries??
If so, please do share! (Especially the Write traits library)

:) love2teach

Hi Megan, Thank you for sharing your wondrous library. I have been trying for two years to level all of my books and have become frustrated due to the lack access to older book titles. I have even paid for the Fountas and Pennell site. Do you have any further sites that pertain to hard to find books? Your many ideas of organization gave me additional jobs that I am looking forward to do :) Happy Reading, Donna

Donna, Thanks for your comment. I am glad that you found the blog entry helpful. Take a look at the Scholastic Book Wizard and A to Z Teacher Stuff These have both been helpful for leveling my books. I also have leveled many that I couldn't find by myself. These might not be exact but they are very close if not. You can always have a child that you know is at that level read and help you determine the level. Happy leveling!!! Smiles, Megan

I do not yet have my own classroom, but I would dearly love to set up my home library as you have done. I am especially interested in the 6 traits library, as creative writing in the classrooms here is not given the time it deserves. What are the specific traits you have focused on, and what are your favorite books for each trait? I'd love an excuse to find more books!

I am sorry I am getting back to you so late. Thank you for your wonderful comment. We focus on ideas, organization, word choice, conventions, sentence fluency, and voice. Most of my books are in the first 3. You can look at any book and see where the writer excels. For example all of the Fancy Nancy are great for word choice. I love Harold and the Purple Crayon and The Squiggle for ideas and using details in writing. I hope this helps and happy book hunting! Smiles, Megan

Hi! Megan, I really like the video. I'm so happy i met upon this site. Now I have a wide range of ideas to go share with my class. Truthfully, my classroom size can never be compared to yours,it's really a little bit a space i have here, but i truly plan to do what i can. thank you for youre inspiration. Keep giving all the ideas you can when you can.

You are doing a great job! I have taught in some portable trailers during my years and I understand the space issues. I am glad you found our blog. Please comtinue to come back and visit and contribute what you are doing with your class. We would love to hear more from you! Smiles, Megan

Hi Megan, I am so excited about all of your ideas. I'd like to create a library like yours, but I was wondering where you ordered all your book bins...did you get a good bulk rate? My school doesn't have too much $, so I'm being very careful. Thanks for sharing all of your wonderful ideas!

Cindi, I am glad that you found this video helpful! One of my favorite parts of my classroom is our library. I actually bought my book bins from Walmart. They are in the container eisle and only cost about $2. I have had them for a few years and just last week ordered some new ones that are a little skinnier from These ones are clear and are about $5 dollars each which are a lot more expensive. The reason I am changing is that being skinnier I can fit more of these on my shelves. You can also try Really Good Stuff because they have bulk prices. I hope this helps. My ones from Walmart held up well and they work if you need to go the cheaper route.

I am looking forward to hearing more from you! Smiles, Megan

Megan -

Great organizing tips - I now know where to begin with sorting our my books. Love the coloring and letter coding. I am trying to find some of the colored letter stickers you show in your video. Any idea where you might have purchased them? Also how do you deal with leveling your library? I teach 4th grade and I have such a wide range of abilities I need to help kids find books that are appropriate for them. Thanks.

Bernadette, I am glad that you found this video helpful. I used Avery Print or Write Color Coding Dots from Office Depot. I just used their template and typed in letters that cooresponded with my book categories. It was very simple to do but really helps to keep the library organized.

For leveling your library Scholastic has a wonderful tool called Book Wizard. There is also that will help you level your current books. Here is another website that tell levels of books you might have already.

Once my library is leveled I start out with telling students which level they need to read in. The students have book choices within that level. I am always asking how does that level feel? Students start to be more aware of their reading and can very quickly begin to judge their correct level. They assist in decision making about moving up or down in levels. Especially in 4th grade they need to be moving towards being able to tell a correct level for them. A good rule of thumb that many teachers use is teaching their students the five finger rule. If they open uo to a page in the book and have difficulty reading 5 of the words on the one page, it might be too difficult. I know this works great in the younger grades and I am sure it can work in 4th grade. On a side note, I feel that it is important to allow students to not finish a book. As readers we all do this. I have started books and have just not found myself interested in them. Of course you have to make sure this doesn't happen all the time. make sure to ask the student why they think this book is not interesting to them. This will help them to analyze the writing which will assist them with their writing. Thanks again for your comment! I would love to hear more from you! Megan Power

Is there a way you can tell us how to get the pictures of the authors? What an inspiration to students to see them!

Julie, I am glad you liked that idea. I created labels using pictures from the internet. The Scholastic website has some great photos of authors with biographies. You can copy and paste these onto labels and add their names. Go to this link and type in an author's name. Let me know if you need a little more directions. Sending smiles, Megan Power

Hi Megan, Last spring I realized through a project based learning experience with my Kindergarten students that I needed to relinquish space in my room and to reorganize and expand my classroom library. Thank you for all your help through our conversations, your very informative video and excellent write-up. I have now undertaken this project. Your ideas along with color-coded dots and coordinating labels are easy to do and will work well. I did wish to share how I arrange my 'Kids Borrowing Library' It is on a separate shelf No time management involved for me No sign out... 'Honor System' Students independently exchange their book each morning as they unpack It is up to them how long they keep it Must return one before getting a new one Quick and easy never a traffic jam Teaches responsibility Gives students an opportunity to take home and read an additional 175+ extra books throughout the year So easy and kids love it Happy Reading To All, Mary :)

Mary, I am so glad to hear about your hard work in your classroom library. You will love seeing the results with your students this year. Please make sure to share your experiences with you improved classroom library once your students use it. Thank you for sharing about your borrowing library. You have great ideas on how to make that area function with little to no teacher involvement! Thanks for sharing and we look forward to hearing more about your kindergarten classroom! Sending smiles, Megan Power

Megan- What a great organization system you have. The skills of self-selection of reading materials, organization and knowledge about authors and genre you are facilitating within your students are a strong foundation upon which continued literacy learning will be built. I'd love to know more about how your kids use the mentor texts in your 6 traits library. Great job!

Charlene, Thank you so much. I feel as a teacher we are forever organizing to help our students. When I do mini lessons or individual writing conferences I always use mentor texts. This helps students to understand the purpose and reasoning as well as gives them examples of how other writers do things. For example, when looking at the word choice writing trait students can relook at stories such as Fancy Nancy to see how the author adds better word choice. I might have a student in an individual conference that is ready to add onamonapia so I can pull out a book from the word choice basket and use it as an example. That student now has a resource in the classroom library they can go back to whenever they need an example of that skill. Another example is for conventions, either as a mini lesson or writing conference, using the story Beach Day by Patricia Lakin. It is a great way to show the use of quotations for dialogue. Students always have this a a reference to go back and see how the author did it.

I have found that by having these books out and using them as mentor texts for minilessons or writing conferences students pick up so much. I love when students start adding "About the Author" or dedication pages because they see it in other books. Mentor texts really helps them to see that they are writing just like the authors in our library. It is wonderful and magical to watch!

Thank you for your comment and I hope you continue to contribute to our blog!

Sending smiles, Megan Power

Hello Mrs. Powers,

I absolutely love your classroom library video -- you have so many great ideas! I especially like the idea about putting the authors picture on the book basket so that children know authors are writers just like you and me. Thanks for sharing.

Ekaterina, Thank you so much. I am glad the video gave you some ideas. It was amazing how the students' awareness of authors hightened just by placing the pictures on the baskets! Please continue to contribute to our blog! Is there anything in particular that you would like more ideas on that I can post in future blogs? Sending Smiles, Megan Power

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