Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Classroom Library

How do you organize your classroom library? How do you introduce the library to students in the first days of school so that students are able to use the library with ease?  How do you keep track of all those books?

The classroom library is a popular resource in most elementary schools today.  These small teacher-managed libraries offer students ready access to books of many genres and reading levels. Organizing the library with care serves a classroom teacher and students well throughout the year.  

Each year I must say that I dread the library organization effort--it's an intense multi-day effort during the summer when I go through each and every one of my approximately 1,000-book classroom library.  The effort reminds me why we have librarians and apt systems to organize and keep track of books in our school and local libraries.

This year, I'll try again to organize the books in a more effective way--a way in which students can easily find books and put them back thus keeping the library organized and welcoming.

First, I'll get rid of old and damaged books as students typically won't choose those.  Then I'll separate the collections and place them throughout the classroom in nooks and crannies.  My collections will include the following:

  • Easy Reads: leveled beginning readers of all topics.
  • Book Groups/Partner Reading: multiple copies of the same book
  • Informational Text: a large book case organized by subject.
  • Picture Books: buckets of picture books organized by the way I use the books for teaching specific units including folk tales, personal narratives, classics and specific author series.
  • Fiction Series: buckets of books such as the Magic Treehouse books organized by series.
  • Fiction Genre: fiction books organized by genre including mystery, sports, adventure, fantasy, and realistic fiction.
  • Poetry
  • Fiction by Author: collections of fiction books organized by author.
  • Unit Collections: collections of books for specific units stored in tubs and brought out when we focus on that unit of study.
  • Digital Books: the tech center for books on iPads and iPods, eventually I want to use QR codes for this center.
In each collection corner, I'll post a few friendly signs about the collection including what to look for, when those books make a good read and suggestions for new titles.  I'll make signs for each bucket or books and use velcro to secure the signs to the containers. 

Then during the first days of school, I'll assign each classroom team (a small group of students) to a collection center.  I'll ask the teams to explore the center signs, books and organizations, and make a 5-w's welcome sign that includes the information students should think about when using that book center.  After that I'll let each team introduce their reading center to the class. Next, we'll make time to practice using the centers, reading and placing books back where they belong.

Making the time to organize the classroom library with care and providing students with time to practice using the library are first days of school lessons that lay a strong foundation for reading/writing workshop and independent learning.  Rushing through these steps hinders optimal efforts in the literacy studio.

I know that teachers grapple with this detail of classroom organization and work.  What are your successful strategies related to the classroom library?  What organizational tools and furniture work to make this process and endeavor more successful? Would you be willing to share an image of your classroom library?  If so, I'll post it on this blog crediting you.  Thanks for your help with this important task.