A library is an essential part of any elementary classroom. To run an effective Reading Workshop, it is necessary to stock your classroom library with books of a variety of genres, topics, and levels. Teachers who use the workshop method know that readers need lots of books in a single year, as they are given time to read self-selected texts independently on a daily basis. For this reason, it's important to organize your classroom library in a way that allows students to easily find "just right" books that they are interested in reading.
Read on to watch a video about how I organize my classroom library and how I use it as a tool to help my students evaluate their own reading progress throughout the year. You will also find ideas for collecting more books for your own classroom library and additional photos of my library.
Take a Virtual Tour of My Classroom Library!
Using Colored Baskets to Organize My Books
All baskets have a unique label that tells a reader what type of books they can find inside. The basket labels vary based on the section of the library in which the basket is located.
How I Level My Books
I do not level my books just so that I can assign students a color code (level) and then make them read only at that level. I make certain that my students are involved in the process in every way. They read books from the classroom library and try to determine what levels seem "just right" for them. I meet with each student individually to decide upon a comfortable "just right" level (JR level) so that students can start choosing appropriate books that they can read independently. (Watch my library video above for more information about how this process works.) Once a student's JR level is determined, he or she can refer to the basket labels as a guide for finding books that are "just right" for them. As the school year progresses, students are constantly reevaluating what levels feel "just right" for them and reading trial books at a higher level before deciding to regularly read books at that level independently.
The color codes in my library correspond to Fountas and Pinnell's guided reading levels.
I use Scholastic's Book Wizard to level my books. It provides a variety of levels including guided reading level, grade level equivalent, DRA level, lexile level, and interest level. A description of each book is also provided along with its genre, common themes, and topics you will find in the book. The Book Wizard also allows teachers to create, print, and even exchange book lists with other teachers. You can also use Book Wizard to help you find "just right" books for your students using the Book Alike feature.
Collecting More Books for Your Classroom Library
It's common knowledge that an effective classroom library has a large variety of books at many different levels, about many different topics, and of many different genres. That sounds great, but where can you get more books?
One of my favorite ways to collect additional library books is to ask my current students to donate books from home that they have already read. To provide them with an incentive, the donated books are given a special label with the child's name and the date that the book was donated. Students like to know that their book will forever be part of the Newingham library.
Another idea to consider is a read-a-thon. Students can collect pledges from family and friends for each book they read in a month (or a certain period of time). Students can count the books they read in class and at home. Not only are students motivated to read lots of books, but the money raised can go to the purchasing of new books for your classroom library. The kids then get to enjoy reading the books they earned for the class.
Keeping Track of Your Books
Once I began collecting a good number of books, it became important to me that I had some sort of inventory of the books I own. This is helpful when choosing books to read aloud, when suggesting "just right" books for students, and for keeping track of all my books. Since I was using the computer to look up the levels of my books, it made sense to also add the book title, author, level, and library location to an Excel file that I could access when searching for a book.
In the past couple of years, I have been using IntelliScanner with my book collection. An IntelliScanner is a device used to scan the barcodes on your classroom library books. The information is collected and stored on your computer. You can choose to add your own categories to the collected information as well. For example, once a book is added to my collection, I add categories for book level and library location.