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Back to the Top Teaching Blog
July 9, 2018

24 Tips to Help Set Up a Classroom Library

By Scholastic Editors
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    For many teachers, the heart of the classoom is the classroom library. The idea of creating that warm and welcoming space that children will naturally gravitate towards is almost as important as selecting the books. A great classroom library takes time and work, but there are tricks up the sleeves of most teachers and we have taken our favorites from the Scholastic Top Teaching bloggers. From questions of sorting books (reading level or theme?), to attaching labels (velcro? packing tape?), here are tips and strategies for helping you build a place where lifelong readers are born.

    Procuring Books

    Pile of books for sorting

    Instead of sweets to celebrate children's birthdays, I tell parents to bring in a new or gently used gift-wrapped book. The birthday child opens the book in class, I put a birthday sticker in it, and they get to write a dedication. The kids love to see birthday books from years past — some are even from their older brothers and sisters!

    Nancy Jang — "Ten Easy Ways to Get Books for Your Classroom Library"

     

    If you are a new teacher or you've changed grade levels, your classroom library might need a boost. Yard sales can be a teacher’s best friend. Make sure to tell the seller you are a teacher; often they will just donate the books.  

    Tiffani Mugurussa — "5 Steps to Organizing Your Classroom Library"

     

    Donors Choose helps us get connected with those who are willing to support a 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.

    Juan Gonzalez — "How to Build a Workable Classroom Library"

    Creating the Environment

    Adding lighting was key to creating a homey atmosphere. Many students have commented that they like the lighting much better than the bright lights. You can play around by adding dimmer light bulbs or a colored bulb.

    Mary Blow — "8 Library Makeover Ideas"

     

    Recently, our reading nooks received a beanbag chair. That chair is so popular that our teacher assistants created a rotation schedule so that everyone gets a chance to get lost in a book while sitting in it.

    Rhonda Stewart"Classroom Library Makeover"

     

    Novels, short story collections, sections of the classics, folklore, and poetry are housed in the fiction section in the center of the library with a rocking chair and carpet for students to engage in relaxed reading.

    Mary Blow — "Creating a Middle School Classroom Library"

    Labeling Your Books

    Yellow_bins

    On each book I used a clear mailing sticker to add the following information: title; color code to indicate section of library; bin location; level, if possible.

    Angela Bunyi — "Organizing an Intermediate Classroom Library"

     

    Once the books have been sorted into categories and put into baskets, I label the front of the basket with both title and a picture. To help my first graders with returning books to the proper place, I put a sticker on the back of the book that matches the one on the basket. I also include my name on the stickers.

    Michelle Sullenberger — "Organizing the Classroom Library"

     

    Before you start making and printing labels, consider the size and method for attaching. I use 8- x 5-inch index cards for the labels, and VELCRO® or packing tape for attaching them to tubs. Laminate your labels for durability.

    Tiffani Mugurussa — "5 Steps to Organizing Your Classroom Library"

     

    You can purchase mailing 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. Just create it, print it, and stick on the book. This process has saved me so much time and it’s oddly therapeutic.

    Juan Gonzalez — "How to Build a Workable Classroom Library"

    Leveling Your Library

     

    Once you look at all your book inventory, use Scholastic’s Book Wizard to help catalog your books. If the task of leveling your library seems too overwhelming, host a book leveling party.

    Meghan Everette — "Leveling and Labeling Your Classroom Library"

     

    One of the first things I decided when creating my classroom library was to not organize my books by level. Since a prominent goal for me as a teacher is to help students independently self-select books, I plowed forward with my idea to organize by theme. I even went to my local bookstores and noted their organization for inspiration.

    Angela Bunyi — "Organizing an Intermediate Classroom Library"

     

    Guided reading levels are written on the top edge of my books in permanent marker. Students can easily find their level when browsing through a basket without having to take the books completely out to look at the side or back.

    Genia Connell — "Simple Solutions for an Organized Classroom Library"

     

    About a third of my classroom library contains leveled books that are kept in separate bins, labeled with a colored dot sticker on the cover of the book: green for emergent, black for novice, yellow for apprentice, and red for developing.

    Tiffani Mugurussa — "5 Steps to Organizing Your Classroom Library"

    Displaying Books (and Magazines)

    As a lover of inspirational quotes, I was excited to find free printable Quotes for Each Week of the Year from Scholastic Teacher. I printed them on white cardstock and laminated them. They are sprinkled throughout my bookshelves using photo holders.

    Mary Blow — "8 Library Makeover Ideas"

     

    After many of my students have read through a series, I swap out those books for another series, usually on a higher level. I refresh my series and author (blue) baskets at least three or four times throughout the year.

    Alycia Zimmerman — "Organizing My Classroom Library: The Never-Ending Story"

     

    I display books throughout the entire classroom. Star author books line the chalkboard ledge, weekly read-aloud books are displayed around the easel, and favorite titles and themes are arranged in baskets on the bookshelves.

    Michelle Sullenberger — "Organizing the Classroom Library"

     

    My books are shelved inside of book bins and by book spines. Book bins are great because they allow me to store more books and create multiple topic bins for the readers. Books are also displayed using the spines because when browsing their library or local bookstore, my students are going to encounter spine shelving and I want them to be prepared.

    Juan Gonzalez — "How to Build a Workable Classroom Library"

     

    I swap nonfiction baskets every two to three months throughout the year to keep the topics fresh. I've also set aside a shelf for large-format nonfiction picture books. These don't fit in my library baskets, but they are some of the most popular books.

    Alycia Zimmerman — "Organizing My Classroom Library: The Never-Ending Story"

     

    My magazine section is massive. It is located in the reference and nonfiction area. Current issues are stored in the magazine rack. Past issues are stored in magazine files on the bottom shelf.

    Mary Blow — "Creating a Middle School Classroom Library"

    Maintainance

     

    I created a book hospital for damaged books. I use a basket labeled "Book Hospital" and place on one of bookshelves. I tell my class that if a book gets torn up, do not interrupt my guided reading lessons, do not blame your friends, and do not pitch a fit. Place the book in the book hospital basket.

    Brian Smith — "Book Hospital"

     

    I assigned every single student one or two baskets that they are in charge of for the entire year. Handing over “ownership” of the baskets has made a world of difference. Students do not want anyone “messing up” their basket. It’s not uncommon now to overhear students saying things like, “Hey, who put a Geronimo Stilton in my Magic Tree House?”

    Genia Connell — "Simple Solutions for an Organized Classroom Library"

     

    In terms of checking out books, 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.

    Juan Gonzalez — "How to Build a Workable Classroom Library"

    In a Nutshell

    If a picture is worth 1,000 words, a moving picture is worth volumes. Take a virtual tour with third grade teacher Alycia Zimmerman to see strategies she has developed for her ever-evolving library.

    For many teachers, the heart of the classoom is the classroom library. The idea of creating that warm and welcoming space that children will naturally gravitate towards is almost as important as selecting the books. A great classroom library takes time and work, but there are tricks up the sleeves of most teachers and we have taken our favorites from the Scholastic Top Teaching bloggers. From questions of sorting books (reading level or theme?), to attaching labels (velcro? packing tape?), here are tips and strategies for helping you build a place where lifelong readers are born.

    Procuring Books

    Pile of books for sorting

    Instead of sweets to celebrate children's birthdays, I tell parents to bring in a new or gently used gift-wrapped book. The birthday child opens the book in class, I put a birthday sticker in it, and they get to write a dedication. The kids love to see birthday books from years past — some are even from their older brothers and sisters!

    Nancy Jang — "Ten Easy Ways to Get Books for Your Classroom Library"

     

    If you are a new teacher or you've changed grade levels, your classroom library might need a boost. Yard sales can be a teacher’s best friend. Make sure to tell the seller you are a teacher; often they will just donate the books.  

    Tiffani Mugurussa — "5 Steps to Organizing Your Classroom Library"

     

    Donors Choose helps us get connected with those who are willing to support a 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.

    Juan Gonzalez — "How to Build a Workable Classroom Library"

    Creating the Environment

    Adding lighting was key to creating a homey atmosphere. Many students have commented that they like the lighting much better than the bright lights. You can play around by adding dimmer light bulbs or a colored bulb.

    Mary Blow — "8 Library Makeover Ideas"

     

    Recently, our reading nooks received a beanbag chair. That chair is so popular that our teacher assistants created a rotation schedule so that everyone gets a chance to get lost in a book while sitting in it.

    Rhonda Stewart"Classroom Library Makeover"

     

    Novels, short story collections, sections of the classics, folklore, and poetry are housed in the fiction section in the center of the library with a rocking chair and carpet for students to engage in relaxed reading.

    Mary Blow — "Creating a Middle School Classroom Library"

    Labeling Your Books

    Yellow_bins

    On each book I used a clear mailing sticker to add the following information: title; color code to indicate section of library; bin location; level, if possible.

    Angela Bunyi — "Organizing an Intermediate Classroom Library"

     

    Once the books have been sorted into categories and put into baskets, I label the front of the basket with both title and a picture. To help my first graders with returning books to the proper place, I put a sticker on the back of the book that matches the one on the basket. I also include my name on the stickers.

    Michelle Sullenberger — "Organizing the Classroom Library"

     

    Before you start making and printing labels, consider the size and method for attaching. I use 8- x 5-inch index cards for the labels, and VELCRO® or packing tape for attaching them to tubs. Laminate your labels for durability.

    Tiffani Mugurussa — "5 Steps to Organizing Your Classroom Library"

     

    You can purchase mailing 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. Just create it, print it, and stick on the book. This process has saved me so much time and it’s oddly therapeutic.

    Juan Gonzalez — "How to Build a Workable Classroom Library"

    Leveling Your Library

     

    Once you look at all your book inventory, use Scholastic’s Book Wizard to help catalog your books. If the task of leveling your library seems too overwhelming, host a book leveling party.

    Meghan Everette — "Leveling and Labeling Your Classroom Library"

     

    One of the first things I decided when creating my classroom library was to not organize my books by level. Since a prominent goal for me as a teacher is to help students independently self-select books, I plowed forward with my idea to organize by theme. I even went to my local bookstores and noted their organization for inspiration.

    Angela Bunyi — "Organizing an Intermediate Classroom Library"

     

    Guided reading levels are written on the top edge of my books in permanent marker. Students can easily find their level when browsing through a basket without having to take the books completely out to look at the side or back.

    Genia Connell — "Simple Solutions for an Organized Classroom Library"

     

    About a third of my classroom library contains leveled books that are kept in separate bins, labeled with a colored dot sticker on the cover of the book: green for emergent, black for novice, yellow for apprentice, and red for developing.

    Tiffani Mugurussa — "5 Steps to Organizing Your Classroom Library"

    Displaying Books (and Magazines)

    As a lover of inspirational quotes, I was excited to find free printable Quotes for Each Week of the Year from Scholastic Teacher. I printed them on white cardstock and laminated them. They are sprinkled throughout my bookshelves using photo holders.

    Mary Blow — "8 Library Makeover Ideas"

     

    After many of my students have read through a series, I swap out those books for another series, usually on a higher level. I refresh my series and author (blue) baskets at least three or four times throughout the year.

    Alycia Zimmerman — "Organizing My Classroom Library: The Never-Ending Story"

     

    I display books throughout the entire classroom. Star author books line the chalkboard ledge, weekly read-aloud books are displayed around the easel, and favorite titles and themes are arranged in baskets on the bookshelves.

    Michelle Sullenberger — "Organizing the Classroom Library"

     

    My books are shelved inside of book bins and by book spines. Book bins are great because they allow me to store more books and create multiple topic bins for the readers. Books are also displayed using the spines because when browsing their library or local bookstore, my students are going to encounter spine shelving and I want them to be prepared.

    Juan Gonzalez — "How to Build a Workable Classroom Library"

     

    I swap nonfiction baskets every two to three months throughout the year to keep the topics fresh. I've also set aside a shelf for large-format nonfiction picture books. These don't fit in my library baskets, but they are some of the most popular books.

    Alycia Zimmerman — "Organizing My Classroom Library: The Never-Ending Story"

     

    My magazine section is massive. It is located in the reference and nonfiction area. Current issues are stored in the magazine rack. Past issues are stored in magazine files on the bottom shelf.

    Mary Blow — "Creating a Middle School Classroom Library"

    Maintainance

     

    I created a book hospital for damaged books. I use a basket labeled "Book Hospital" and place on one of bookshelves. I tell my class that if a book gets torn up, do not interrupt my guided reading lessons, do not blame your friends, and do not pitch a fit. Place the book in the book hospital basket.

    Brian Smith — "Book Hospital"

     

    I assigned every single student one or two baskets that they are in charge of for the entire year. Handing over “ownership” of the baskets has made a world of difference. Students do not want anyone “messing up” their basket. It’s not uncommon now to overhear students saying things like, “Hey, who put a Geronimo Stilton in my Magic Tree House?”

    Genia Connell — "Simple Solutions for an Organized Classroom Library"

     

    In terms of checking out books, 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.

    Juan Gonzalez — "How to Build a Workable Classroom Library"

    In a Nutshell

    If a picture is worth 1,000 words, a moving picture is worth volumes. Take a virtual tour with third grade teacher Alycia Zimmerman to see strategies she has developed for her ever-evolving library.

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