Top Tips to an Organized and Successful Classroom Library by Becky Elmuccio
During my years of teaching and private tutoring experience, I have observed that having an organized and full classroom library is a major part of running a successful elementary level classroom. Having plenty of books on each reading level and in each genre, giving clear expectations for how students check out books, and establishing positive work and reading habits are the main tenets of running a reading workshop with great potential.
As we reach the end of the school year and we pack up our classrooms, it is an opportune time to reflect on the organization and pros/cons of your classroom library. Checking to see how many books you have is an easy place to start. If you feel like you need to flush out your collection, be sure to check in with any teachers who are retiring or changing grade levels and may not need their library anymore. Summer yard sales and thrift shops are great spots to shop for deals too. Finally, setting up an account on Paperback Swap is a great way to trade books.
Once you have your collection, organizing it in a positive and logical manner is key. Debbie Diller’s book Spaces and Places offers some great suggestions, and it was a big help to me. I used mutli-colored bins, such as those pictured above, and labeled them with genre titles like Cousins of Harry Potter (for similarly themed fantasy books), Wondrous Ms. Wilder, Fabulously Famous Folks, and WhoDunit? Each book was arranged so that the covers faced forward and allowed for easy flipping. Each bin had a specific color-coded and/or labeled circle sticker so that books could easily be returned to the correct bin. Since we used the Daily Five workshop model in my class, students knew their instructional and independent reading levels. Therefore, in addition to the circle sticker on the cover, each book was labeled with its guided reading level on the inside front cover (as shown below).
One option for checking out books in the classroom library is a library binder. The teacher can assign each student a page in the binder and he/she can write the title as he/she checks it out. Then, the student can put a check mark next to it when it is returned to its bin. This allows the teacher a quick and easy way to see what everyone is reading.
An alternative to a binder, and the system that I used, is to assign an individual book bin to each student. These sat atop the bookshelves that ran the length of my room. The library was right there for easy access and the kids could keep their desks simplified by having these in a second location. Each book bin held a folder (for worksheets or project directions), a composition book (for reading responses), the student’s current guided reading book and up to 4 books for independent reading. These bins are quick and easy ways to brighten up your classroom and their slim width is very helpful in keeping things simple and uncluttered.
Before you pack up for the summer, step back and take a moment to evaluate your library. Do you have enough books in a variety of genres? How do you have the books organized and categorized? How are the students’ materials stored? Asking yourself these questions allows you to recognize your successes and areas for improvement. Good luck with all of the goals that you set for your classroom library and have a great summer!
About the Author
Becky Elmuccio is an eleven year elementary level teaching and tutoring veteran. She has recently become a stay at home mom and blogs about eco-friendly lifestyle tips and gardening at Crafty Garden Mama. You can also find her sharing eco-friendly kids’ gear, toy and clothing reviews, environmental news and her organic gardening endeavors on Facebook and Twitter.