Monday, September 1, 2014

Building A Classroom Library

Setting up a classroom library can be an overwhelming task.  Here are a few pointers to help.

You're going to needs lots of them!  So, where do you get all of these books? There are several options for teachers who are building their classroom library.
  • garage sales
  • teacher retirement sales
  • used book stores
  • thrift stores
  • Scholastic book club
  • PTA wishlists
  • magazine subscriptions
  • public library
  • school library
Chapter books organized by F&P level.
My public library has a special card for educators which allows me to check out a whole slew of books at a time.  Many times, I have taken my big rolling tub, filled it up with books, and checked them out for my class.  It's wonderful! It is especially helpful when you're teaching on a certain topic and needs LOTS of books.

Your school library may let you check out a cart of books for your classroom. Just get with your media specialist to find out what resources your school has for you and your students.  At our school, students can check out up to three books a week.

I also encourage students to check out books at the public library.  At "Meet the Teacher" and "Back to School Night", I always have extra copies of library card applications on hand for parents.  If a student has an e-reader, many libraries check out books for those too.

With all of these options, students are never short on books!

You'll want to have a variety of books in your classroom.  
  • fiction and non-fiction
  • genres:  science fiction, mystery, poetry, fairy tales, fantasy, folk tales, biographies, historical fiction, realistic fiction
  • comic books and graphic novels
  • picture books and chapter books
  • reference materials (dictionary, thesaurus, atlas, maps, almanac)
  • magazines
  • student-created books- your new and upcoming authors!
 Magazine display in classroom.  Some of the magazines include
 Time for Kids, Scholastic,  Zoo Animals,  Kids Discover, and American Girl

Once you have your books, how will you plan to make them accessible to your students?  Many teachers use baskets, bins, shoe boxes, magazine holders, and tubs.  There are tons of ideas out there.  Be creative!

How do you plan to organize them?  By level, by genre, by topic?  

In my classroom, students are assessed according the The Teacher's College benchmarks.  Students are placed on an F & P  (Fountas and Pinnell) reading level and read books within that level until they grow into a new reading level. The levels range from A to Z.  I organize my books according to F&P levels. Most of the readers in a fifth grade classroom are well beyond an M level, so the majority of my books are in those levels. If you're teaching younger elementary students you'll want books to fit your readers.

If you have a stack of books and you're not sure what level they are, you can type the title of the book into the Scholastic Book Wizard:  It will tell you the level, grade level, and interest level.  It's easy!
Scholastic Book Wizard.  
Once I find out the level of a book, I just put a sticker or piece of tape on the book and write the level.  Nothing fancy or time-consuming.  Some teachers make special labels.  It's up to you how much time you want to spend and the look that you like the best.

These are books that I use for small reading groups and book clubs.
They are organized by F&P level.
Now that your books are organized, how do you display them?  If you are lucky, your classroom will already have bookshelves that you can use.  Some teachers have to purchase bookshelves on their own, or even use their carpentry skills to make them.  After 18 years of teaching, I have a TON of books, so I always need quite a few bookshelves.  

One large bookshelf that I have in my classroom is devoted to just chapter books. The books are in plastic baskets that I found at Big Lots, a local discount store.  I tag the baskets with levels, so students can easily dig through the baskets to find a book on their level.  

For non-fiction and picture books, I have a separate shelf.  Books are also organized in tubs by levels and non-fiction topics with categories like "People", "Places", and "Animals" to name a few.
Tubs for picture books and non-fiction books.
Now that your books are organized and on display,  your students are dying to get their hands on them!  This is great!  You want them to be excited about books and reading.   You'll need a way to manage a check-out system.  I've tried many things over the years and this works the best.  I have a binder with four tabs for each of the sections I teach.  Students sign their books in and out, according to their section.  One of the classroom jobs that I have for students is "Media Specialist".  This student helps other students check out books.  At the beginning of the year,  I always have a talk with students about respect and responsibility for books.  We respect books by taking care of them.  We show responsibility by returning them in a timely manner.  I tell them it is really an "honor system" and that if they borrow it, they must return it. Sure, I lose a few books every year, but I always want my students to have access to books.

Binder used for classroom library check-out system.
If you have a great tip for organizing a classroom library, please write it in the comment section.  I'd love to hear your ideas!

- Karen

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