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Organizing the Classroom Library

Really Good Classroom Library System Kit

The library, or reading nook, is one of the most important areas of any classroom. Students need to be able to find books that are at their reading level quickly and easily. They also need to be able to put them back in the appropriate spots. As you start the new school year and worry about your reading area organization, try some of the tips below to help the classroom library stay neat and tidy.

Sort and Separate

Begin by separating your classroom library books into reading levels. While most early elementary grades primarily use leveled readers,there are always the book club books and donations that come in. Take a look at each book and determine where it falls in terms of the reading level. If you are not sure, check the back cover, as many early childhood books come with a grade level or reading level designation on the back. Once you have all of the books sorted by level, separate them by subject if there are enough of each level. Create a separate pile for science, math, history, readers’ theater, etc. for each. By having this two-step sorting process, it will be easier to keep the books organized and easier to find them when needed.

Establish a Coding System

There are a number of different coding systems that can be used to organize the separated books. You can organize them by color, by number or by letter. For kindergarten, color may be the best choice, while older grades can use a number or letter organizing system. After you have chosen a coding system, assign each pile a different color, number or letter. Using labels marked with the appropriate number or letter, or colored circles for a color coding system, label each book.

Teacher Space Organizer Kit

Baskets or Bins

After all of the books have been sorted, re-sorted, and labeled with a coding system, it is time to put them on the library bookshelf. While it may be tempting to just place them on the shelf in order, the odds of them staying that way for long are slim to none. The easiest way to keep the books organized is to place each group in its own basket or bin. If you have color coded your books, use different colored baskets to store each group of books. If you have used a number or letter system, label the baskets or bins with the appropriate letters. This will make it much easier for students to put the books back where they belong.

Maintenance

After taking all of that time to prepare the reading area, the last thing you want is for your hard work to be destroyed in a week’s time. To avoid chaos in the classroom library, take the time to thoroughly explain and demonstrate the system you have set up. Do not assume that your students will automatically know what to do; explain it to them. It is also a good idea to assign a class librarian who will sort and re-organize any out of place books every week. By making your students responsible for the class library, they will take better care of the books, as well as the organization of the space.

How do you organize your class library? What are some of the challenges you have faced with keeping it organized? What advice would you give others?

Share with us! We’d love to hear your ideas!


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17 comments
Draper
Draper

I buy the rummage sale circle tags to coordinate with my book tubs. I put red stickers on the books that belong in the red tub, blue stickers on the ones that belong in the blue tub, etc. My first graders are really good about putting the books back where they belong. Each color of tub represents a different reading level as well!

detra jernigan
detra jernigan

I have spent the last 3 days labeling and sorting my classroom library, it was a daunting task with the help of others. We are using the DRA letter system to sort out the books. Our district bought us book carts to store the books. I plan use a check out system to keep track .

Maria Smith
Maria Smith

this is great but I have over 3,000 books. Any ideas for a large collection? it's too big to separate like this. I have them sorted by author's last initial right now - that's as organized as I can keep it with 65 3rd-5th gifted kids. HELP!!!!

Laura
Laura

I have started using the baskets but do not have them color coded. I still need to level my books too. Does anyone recommend a really quick and site to use for leveling the books according to lexile level? I teach 5th grade so a lexile system will work best for me. I find I run out of room too. I hate to get rid of books, but it might be time to do so.

Jana
Jana

I use the AR book levels in my classroom. I have taught 1st, 3rd, 4th, & 6th. This has been the best way of organizing my books. In first grade I used colored book baskets that matched the AR book levels. That worked really well. In 3rd-6th grade, I used the color stickers on the binding of the book. It works really well.

Sarah C
Sarah C

What awesome ideas! One thing I've learned is that students don't want to spend a lot of time searching the books they don't like to find the books they want to read. If everything is labeled and organized, they can go to the section for their book and find it easier! This should help promote literacy!!

Heather Soucy
Heather Soucy

I have my books labeled by the DRA level and whether they are an AR book or not. They are then placed in labeled book boxes in my library. My problem is that the students place books within books because of the book boxes. I am looking forward to using book bins such as these to organize my library.

Kelly
Kelly

Gee Kim, our book boxes sound so much alike! Since I have been able to organize my student's books for their boxes better, the time it takes for students to get their books, has decreased so much and now they get to actually spend their time reading. The one thing I would definitely love to have is a set of baskets like the ones you have shown. Ditto to Laura when she said to take your time and do what is right for you. It can be an overwhelming process so do it a bit at a time if you are running low on time! Hats off to Really Good Stuff for their wonderful teaching supplies they come up with!

Kim King
Kim King

In my first grade classroom, each student has a book box that they read out of for 20 minutes daily (we practice building our "stamina" at the beginning of the year). Their book box has their student number on it. At the beginning of each week, they choose 7 books at their level. I have my books sorted into file boxes by Guided Reading Level. The kids are really good at putting back their books into the correct boxes. They have all had the chance to be the library helper (in charge of checking the boxes) and they get really annoyed if a book is put back wrong. They have kept each other accountable. It is not a problem at all anymore! In my classroom library, I only have room for about six tubs at a time to be out. I rotate the books and change out at least one tub a week. I have put labels on the back of each book with a picture and the category. So fiction books about dogs are labeled as DOGS FICTION and have a cute picture of a dog. On the front of each tub, I have a clear c.d. pocket that is adhesive. I can slide a 4 X 6 index card with a matching label on it into the pocket. It works so well. After centers each day, the library helpers quickly check the buckets to make sure the books are all back in the right spots and facing the right way. Like I said before, they have kept each other accountable. They like seeing the books back the right way and neat.

Lisa Miller-Henline
Lisa Miller-Henline

I am student-teaching currently but will be purchasing this wonderful baskets for my future classroom library. I am hoping my library can some day look as good as Beth Newingham's.

Heather L
Heather L

I love that organizer! My classroom library is color coded and in baskets. It is organized by AR level and fiction/nonfiction. I need more space though...I am running out of room!

Sharon M
Sharon M

I love these ideas but my school uses the Accelerated Reader (AR) program in the school library. I would love to see where my books fall on that system but not sure how to do it. If I can find a way to do that, then I could arrange my books based on that system. I have never thought about organizing my library by level but love the idea. Any ideas on where to find the AR levels of my books?

hrivera
hrivera

Every year I unpack my books to put in my library. First our school system has what we call AR (Accelerated Reader) program. They are certain books with color coded stickers on the binder by levels and are able to take tests on them. I put those in separate piles by levels. In another pile I like to put holidays or special events, another pile information books, a pile for easy reading books to place in baskets for group tables to read for "when I am finished activity", then another pile for everything else. As I put each pile of books separately on the shelves, I also put them by how far they may stick out, how tall they are, and if it is about the same character; it looks neater that way. I label my bookshelves according to what the pile contained. In order to keep them in the right place, I use paint stirrers from a local store (free of charge). I write their names on the stirrers; one for each child, then put them in a bucket. I explain and model how I would like for them to check out books and keep the library neat. A student is to take their paint stirrer, find a book that they would like to check out, and put the stirrer where the book is (between other books)on the shelf and leave it there until they return the book back in to my library.It may seem like a lot of work at first but it keeps the library neat all year long.

Molly
Molly

I have changed my library so many times over the years. Last year I decided to write the AR level in each book and then sort them by different categories. Each basket/bin has a number and in that basket the books also have the number. For example I put all the fairy tales in basket number 1 and in each book there is the AR level. It worked! Very easy to maintain for first graders.

Lisa
Lisa

Great article! Simple and straight forward. Thanks!

Cheryl s
Cheryl s

I like the color coding idea but I have always had a hard time getting the students to put books back where they belong. I need ideas on how to teach the students how to put the books where they belong. They are in kindergarten and I feel like they get so much information and the book corner falls to the wayside.

Laura
Laura

I've done it almost exactly how they've mentioned here. I've created a leveling system based on Lexile levels. I've created a level from 50-200,201-400, 401-600, and then higher. I've used a color code for each group, green-easy (green on a traffic light, means go, everyone should be able to "go" to these books.) Yellow-medium (yellow on a traffic light, means yield or make sure these aren't too hard, just watch.) Red-hard (red on a traffic light - STOP; most likely these will be too hard for you.) Finally I've also added blue-really high readers (blue for the sky, above the traffic light.) After color coding them and putting in library pockets, I've then sorted by color and by genre. I have genre posters http://hill.troy.k12.mi.us/staff/bnewingham/myweb3/Genres.htm If you want to see an incredible classroom library check out Beth Newingham http://hill.troy.k12.mi.us/staff/bnewingham/myweb3/library%20Organization.htm Here is a link to her book basket labels http://hill.troy.k12.mi.us/staff/bnewingham/myweb3/basket_labels.htm Honestly, I could sit and read through all of her stuff for hours. We are switching to an IDR model this year and as a reading specialist who still teaches in a classroom, her IDR video and notebook stuff is great. The whole purpose is to get them hooked into reading. YES, I won't lie, it takes a REALLY LONG time to set up a good classroom library, but it does make it so worth it. The kids love being able to pick from a great assortment of books. Take your time, and do what works for you, but remember that students need to have a choice, but should be reading at their level. You have to have a way to determine their level that easily coordinates with how you organize your classroom library.