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March 5, 2018

How to Build a Workable Classroom Library

By Juan Gonzalez
Grades 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

      

    They say that the kitchen is the heart of a home. I say the classroom library is the heart of our rooms. Today I’m going to share how I set up my library in hopes that it sparks some inspiration for your classroom. There is not one way to create a library, but ideas with multiple solutions can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming. So, as you read this, take what works for you and your classroom. What is most important is that you have an area in your classroom that gives access to books for all students.

    Growing Your Library

    I wish that schools came equipped with classroom libraries but that is not our reality . . . yet. Growing a classroom library takes time. To my first-year teachers or someone looking for a fresh start, remember that this is a process that is forever evolving. Here are a few ways to start getting more books on your shelves:

    Scholastic Book Clubs

    Scholastic Book Clubs are a great way for us to get books on our bookshelves and into the hands of our students. Every time a student orders a book from their catalogs, teachers earn points to buy books. The best part is that these catalogs have amazing price points that can meet the needs of all of our families. I can't say enough great things about Book Clubs.

    Donors Choose

    People want to help teachers and Donors Choose helps us get connected with those who are willing to support a classroom. This organization allows a teacher to create a wish list of items they need. Then, willing donors help fund the project and the items get shipped to the classroom. All the teacher needs to do is write why they need these items and send notes of gratitude to their donors. It’s a beautiful process.

    Donations

    When I first started teaching, I used social media to ask for books from family and friends. There is always an amazing teacher retiring and looking to give their books to a good home. When you receive these donations, be sure to look through the books and select ones that will work for your classroom and pass the others on.

    Buy Books

    I make a budget for myself to spend on book purchases. Not only do I love books, but they are also my number one resource for instruction. It’s not a surprise that teaching is a profession that requires us to buy things for our classroom, so when looking at things to add to your room, make books a priority.

    Organizing Your Books

    Book Bins or Book Spines?

    My library is sectioned into genres and topics. This is the best way to get the students into the library because they can easily find titles they’re interested in. The picture below shows that my books are shelved inside of book bins and by book spines. It’s organized in two different ways because it saves space and it teaches my readers how to browse for books in a library outside of my classroom.

    Bins

    The classroom I’m teaching in now is beautiful, but small. When it came time to figure out the placement of my library I had to get creative. The original purpose of the shelf system you see pictured above was to house student backpacks. I decided to move our backpack storage to a secure area outside of the classroom and turned this space into our library.

    Book bins are great because they allow me to store more books and create multiple topic bins for the readers. The deep shelves give my library a unique feature that allows me store multiple bins on one shelf. This also means that when I teach my students about our library, I have to model how to remove bins from the shelf and browse the bins in the back too.

    Topics/Genres in Our Library

    • Fiction
    • Nonfiction
    • Horror
    • Animals
    • Graphic novels
    • Informational texts
    • Read alouds
    • Favorite series
    • Student favorites
    • Sharks
    • Holidays
    • Fantasy
    • Humorous
    • Poetry
    • Reference books
    • Science
    • Biographies
    • Autobiographies
    • History
    • Mysteries
    • Blast from the past (these are books that students might have seen in previous grades. I code them with a fun name so that all readers feel confident to browse this section)
    • Some bins stay open for students to create a topic

    Spines

    Books in our library are also displayed using the spines of the books. I recently started converting some of our books to this organization system because I wanted the readers in my classroom to experience searching for books in a “real world” way. When browsing their library or local bookstore, they are going to encounter spine shelving and I want my students to be prepared.

    The label system I use came from my friend Molly Maloy that was featured in Scholastic Teacher magazine. In her article, Maloy shared how she uses a color-coding system for her books that is easy and aesthetically pleasing too. The colors on the spines of our books represent genres. This system makes it incredibly easy to shelve new books.

    Labeling Books

    Mailing labels have changed my life! You can purchase labels online in bulk. Also, Scholastic has an awesome free labeling/word card tool called Word Workshop that allows you to create your own lables customized with fonts, borders, colors, etc. All you have to do is create it, print it, and stick on the book. This process has saved me so much time and it’s oddly therapeutic. Maybe that’s just me.

    When tagging my books, I only put my name on the cover to help the books find their way back home. I have seen teachers also put their room numbers but I say skip that part. You might not always be in the same classroom, so just stick to your name.

    I use small labels to tag the spines of my books. Rather than using text on the template, I fill in the blocks with color to go with my shelving system. Books that are tagged on the spine have the same name labels on the inside but the bin numbers are left blank because it doesn’t belong in a bin.

     

    Checkout System

    I keep the checkout system as simple as possible. If I try to control it too much I will overwork myself. I purchase books for my library with the understanding that some will walk away. It happens once every so often, but not enough to cause me to rethink my process.

    The honor system is the driving force of my library and it has worked for many years. By allowing the students to know that the library is theirs just as much as it is mine, they take pride in the heart of our classroom.

    When returning a book, I train students to use the bin number or spine to reshelf the books themselves. Some weeks, they take care of my library like professionals. Then other weeks, we need to have mini-lesson to get back on track.

    Think Beyond Books

    Readers need to have different types of reading experiences. My own reading life does not only consist of books. I read blogs and articles too. This is why I have a shelf in my library that is dedicated to various types of magazines. This helps my readers explore different topics and writing formats.

    Here are some ideas on how to start building your classroom magazine section:

    • Visit used bookstores. These sellers sometimes have different magazines that are current and inexpensive.
    • If your local grocery store carries magazines, talk to the store managers. Simply let them know that you're a teacher and looking to get magazines for your classroom. My local store took my information and told me they would contact me when they have donations available. They still call me every couple of months with various kid-friendly magazines that are left behind by the workers who set up the displays.

    The magazines in our classroom are stored in plastic magazine boxes. The boxes are not labeled because I never know what kinds of magazines I’ll have every couple of months. To get my students started with this section of our library, I train them to pull out the boxes and browse by reading the front covers.

     

    For more great ideas on building, funding, and organizing your classroom library, check out these posts from fellow Top Teaching bloggers:

    "8 Library Makeover Ideas"

    "Reorganizing Your Classroom Library: Book Bins Out!"

    "Classroom Library Makeover"

    "Organizing My Classroom Library . . . Again!"

    Classroom libraries can be a major task but it’s worth the work because books never fail our kids. So, if your library needs an update, get on it! You’ll be happy you did.

      

    They say that the kitchen is the heart of a home. I say the classroom library is the heart of our rooms. Today I’m going to share how I set up my library in hopes that it sparks some inspiration for your classroom. There is not one way to create a library, but ideas with multiple solutions can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming. So, as you read this, take what works for you and your classroom. What is most important is that you have an area in your classroom that gives access to books for all students.

    Growing Your Library

    I wish that schools came equipped with classroom libraries but that is not our reality . . . yet. Growing a classroom library takes time. To my first-year teachers or someone looking for a fresh start, remember that this is a process that is forever evolving. Here are a few ways to start getting more books on your shelves:

    Scholastic Book Clubs

    Scholastic Book Clubs are a great way for us to get books on our bookshelves and into the hands of our students. Every time a student orders a book from their catalogs, teachers earn points to buy books. The best part is that these catalogs have amazing price points that can meet the needs of all of our families. I can't say enough great things about Book Clubs.

    Donors Choose

    People want to help teachers and Donors Choose helps us get connected with those who are willing to support a classroom. This organization allows a teacher to create a wish list of items they need. Then, willing donors help fund the project and the items get shipped to the classroom. All the teacher needs to do is write why they need these items and send notes of gratitude to their donors. It’s a beautiful process.

    Donations

    When I first started teaching, I used social media to ask for books from family and friends. There is always an amazing teacher retiring and looking to give their books to a good home. When you receive these donations, be sure to look through the books and select ones that will work for your classroom and pass the others on.

    Buy Books

    I make a budget for myself to spend on book purchases. Not only do I love books, but they are also my number one resource for instruction. It’s not a surprise that teaching is a profession that requires us to buy things for our classroom, so when looking at things to add to your room, make books a priority.

    Organizing Your Books

    Book Bins or Book Spines?

    My library is sectioned into genres and topics. This is the best way to get the students into the library because they can easily find titles they’re interested in. The picture below shows that my books are shelved inside of book bins and by book spines. It’s organized in two different ways because it saves space and it teaches my readers how to browse for books in a library outside of my classroom.

    Bins

    The classroom I’m teaching in now is beautiful, but small. When it came time to figure out the placement of my library I had to get creative. The original purpose of the shelf system you see pictured above was to house student backpacks. I decided to move our backpack storage to a secure area outside of the classroom and turned this space into our library.

    Book bins are great because they allow me to store more books and create multiple topic bins for the readers. The deep shelves give my library a unique feature that allows me store multiple bins on one shelf. This also means that when I teach my students about our library, I have to model how to remove bins from the shelf and browse the bins in the back too.

    Topics/Genres in Our Library

    • Fiction
    • Nonfiction
    • Horror
    • Animals
    • Graphic novels
    • Informational texts
    • Read alouds
    • Favorite series
    • Student favorites
    • Sharks
    • Holidays
    • Fantasy
    • Humorous
    • Poetry
    • Reference books
    • Science
    • Biographies
    • Autobiographies
    • History
    • Mysteries
    • Blast from the past (these are books that students might have seen in previous grades. I code them with a fun name so that all readers feel confident to browse this section)
    • Some bins stay open for students to create a topic

    Spines

    Books in our library are also displayed using the spines of the books. I recently started converting some of our books to this organization system because I wanted the readers in my classroom to experience searching for books in a “real world” way. When browsing their library or local bookstore, they are going to encounter spine shelving and I want my students to be prepared.

    The label system I use came from my friend Molly Maloy that was featured in Scholastic Teacher magazine. In her article, Maloy shared how she uses a color-coding system for her books that is easy and aesthetically pleasing too. The colors on the spines of our books represent genres. This system makes it incredibly easy to shelve new books.

    Labeling Books

    Mailing labels have changed my life! You can purchase labels online in bulk. Also, Scholastic has an awesome free labeling/word card tool called Word Workshop that allows you to create your own lables customized with fonts, borders, colors, etc. All you have to do is create it, print it, and stick on the book. This process has saved me so much time and it’s oddly therapeutic. Maybe that’s just me.

    When tagging my books, I only put my name on the cover to help the books find their way back home. I have seen teachers also put their room numbers but I say skip that part. You might not always be in the same classroom, so just stick to your name.

    I use small labels to tag the spines of my books. Rather than using text on the template, I fill in the blocks with color to go with my shelving system. Books that are tagged on the spine have the same name labels on the inside but the bin numbers are left blank because it doesn’t belong in a bin.

     

    Checkout System

    I keep the checkout system as simple as possible. If I try to control it too much I will overwork myself. I purchase books for my library with the understanding that some will walk away. It happens once every so often, but not enough to cause me to rethink my process.

    The honor system is the driving force of my library and it has worked for many years. By allowing the students to know that the library is theirs just as much as it is mine, they take pride in the heart of our classroom.

    When returning a book, I train students to use the bin number or spine to reshelf the books themselves. Some weeks, they take care of my library like professionals. Then other weeks, we need to have mini-lesson to get back on track.

    Think Beyond Books

    Readers need to have different types of reading experiences. My own reading life does not only consist of books. I read blogs and articles too. This is why I have a shelf in my library that is dedicated to various types of magazines. This helps my readers explore different topics and writing formats.

    Here are some ideas on how to start building your classroom magazine section:

    • Visit used bookstores. These sellers sometimes have different magazines that are current and inexpensive.
    • If your local grocery store carries magazines, talk to the store managers. Simply let them know that you're a teacher and looking to get magazines for your classroom. My local store took my information and told me they would contact me when they have donations available. They still call me every couple of months with various kid-friendly magazines that are left behind by the workers who set up the displays.

    The magazines in our classroom are stored in plastic magazine boxes. The boxes are not labeled because I never know what kinds of magazines I’ll have every couple of months. To get my students started with this section of our library, I train them to pull out the boxes and browse by reading the front covers.

     

    For more great ideas on building, funding, and organizing your classroom library, check out these posts from fellow Top Teaching bloggers:

    "8 Library Makeover Ideas"

    "Reorganizing Your Classroom Library: Book Bins Out!"

    "Classroom Library Makeover"

    "Organizing My Classroom Library . . . Again!"

    Classroom libraries can be a major task but it’s worth the work because books never fail our kids. So, if your library needs an update, get on it! You’ll be happy you did.

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