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Classroom Organization: Classroom Library

One question that comes up on social media a lot is about classroom organization, specifically the classroom library and book organization. After years of trying things and being overwhelmed with our organization, we finally found a system that works for me and the kids!

 

I recently revamped our classroom library. To do this,  I got rid of books (duplicates and old, worn-out books, etc), and more importantly, I re-did my categories and organization.  I split a lot of categories into more narrowed-down categories.  This allowed me to align our classroom library more closely to our themes and units.  For example, instead of 5 boxes of “holiday” books, we now have holiday-specific boxes.  There’s a Halloween box, a Christmas box, etc.  This means more categories, but things are much more organized!  

classroom organization classroom library

Classroom Library: The Books

Before we dive into the classroom library organization, we have to discuss the contents of your classroom library.  Here’s a question we all need to keep in mind when considering our library:

Do our students see themselves and their families in the books in our library?  Can they see their cultures, traditions and customs?  Do the students see different people, cultures, customs, etc in the books in our library?  

Our ethical responsibility is to ensure that our library reflects our world and our students.  There are many resources out there (Book Wrangler Mike, The Tutu Teacher on Instagram) that share inclusive books.  We share our book collections, which we constantly work to make more inclusive.  I get it.  Some topics make us uncomfortable, but including those books and topics in our library is still necessary.  And it’s important to have this discussion with your teammates, your admin, and the school librarian.  In fact, we had this discussion with Adelynn’s school, and they were so appreciative of our conversation that they immediately filled their classrooms with more books that represented same-sex families.  All that said, making our classroom library inclusive is a MUST!

 

Classroom Library: The Space

 

Your classroom library should be a major part of your classroom space. It shouldn’t be stuck in that dark corner where pencils, glue lids, and scissors go to die. Incorporating the space into your classroom gives students visual clues to the importance of reading.

Make sure the space is open, well-lit, and inviting!

Here are some pictures of our classroom library spaces from the past few years:

Classroom Organization: Organize The Books

You need a system to keep your library and all of those books organized. This system needs to be user friendly for you AND the students.

I use a user-friendly system that allows me to tell other teachers exactly which box to look in when they ask to borrow a book or request books on a topic. So, how does our system work?

It’s as easy as 1.2.3….34.35…..44..45….60.61.62. We use a simple numbering system.

Each box in my library is numbered. I started at 1 and went until my boxes were numbered. As I added books and boxes, the numbering will stay the same. So, if I add another box for feelings and emotions (#5), I would number that box #5 because the topic or theme is the same. This means all of the books in each theme/topic stay the same number. So when we need a book about feelings, I can say “box #5” and not “boxes 5, 34, and 36.” Remember, keep it simple.

classroom library organization tips

Every book that belongs in a box is numbered with the same number. In the picture above, this is box 5. All of the books in that box are numbered 5. To number the books, we use dot stickers.

how to organize your books
 

This makes returning books SUPER easy for me and for the kids. And it serves as constant number recognition practice!

Our books are sorted by author, theme/topic, and genre. There is no rule or checklist for sorting books; it’s kind of just what my mind says at the moment!

 

NOTE: All of the books are in the library. Even the books we use for read-alouds. They are all in the library.; I don’t have a separate set of books for me and a set for the kids. The books belong to us all.

 

Classroom Library: Containers

If you’re going to be organized and have a fantastic system in place, you need containers to contain the books. Slowly, over the years, I’ve transitioned to one type of container. In the past, I had a bunch of containers, AND THAT IS TOTALLY AWESOME AND OK. I’m not one of these teachers who needs the containers to match or be a pattern…I like a little spice in my life…a little variety! They don’t have to be the same or match. Really, it’s ok.

 

I use plastic ice bins from Wal-mart. They cost about $1.50, so they’re cheap and hold up well.

classroom library tips and ideas
 

You also need good, strong shelves. Mine was custom-built by this organization here in Nashville called Nashville Tools For Schools! They build classroom furniture cheap or free! And it’s great stuff!

classroom organization how to organize books in your classroom library
 

Classroom Library: Routines And Expectations

You’ve spent all of this time, energy, and money setting up your library. Now, you need to spend just as much time and energy teaching the kids how to use and care for it.

Things to think about teaching:

  • how to take a book off the shelf
  • how to take a book out of the box
  • how to push the books to one side when putting a book back
  • what to do with the book if you can’t find the box
  • what to do with a book if the sticker is missing
  • what to do with damaged books

Classroom Library Tips And Tricks

VARIETY! The more books, the better! We currently have thousands of book and we’re always adding to our collection. This variety ensures that every child can find books they enjoy. And when we are in the library, it’s free choice. They can get any book and read it! I want the classroom library to be a place of fun and joy and a place where my kids develop a love of reading!!

Where to get books:

  • Goodwill/thrift stores
  • yard sales
  • Ask family and friends to donate books (used or new)
  • Donor’s Choose
classroom library topics and themes

Oversized books (usually hardcovers) don’t always fit in the bins. They are still numbered but go on the bottom shelves without bins. They’re organized in number order (or at least we try!).

Here is a list of my classroom library topics! Click to download the PDF.

We have blog posts for many book collections. To find a specific collection, use the search function and search for “March books” or “back-to-school read-alouds.”

For more ideas and resources, check out these posts:

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