So, when I started teaching in 3rd grade, I knew I wanted to have a HUGE classroom library. Truth be told, I wasn’t a big reader as a child. I went through hoops to avoid it. I even cut little holes in the cover of my books so I could fake looking at the words but really just looked through the paper to see what was going on around me.
I really believe that if I enjoyed reading more at a young age, I would have learned more and learned faster later on in my education career. However, even still as a child who did all she could to avoid reading, there are specific books I remember to this day enjoying to read. I was truly interested and sad when that book was over. None of these were books popular with my friends or teachers, but just books I found and liked.
Because of my experience, I am a huge believer in having an expansive classroom library to maximize the chances that all 25 of my little learners will find books that they individually connect with both in terms of level and interest. I hope they will leave 2nd grade being able to point to books they feel like they had a relationship with or created a memory reading!
When I got my classroom library set up my first year of teaching, it was enough of a feat to go through every book and categorize. I made genre labels and sorted them into their baskets. However, it was left to the third graders to be able to remember which basket they got their book from or match it to the genre to put it away properly. It wasn’t a complete disaster, but it required some on-going maintenance to keep it organized.
When moving to second grade, I knew younger students would need more guidance with helping keep the library organized. I did a lot of research on what was better between a LEVELED library or a GENRE library. Both library set-ups have benefits, so I decided to go ahead and put in the hours to level my entire library. (We use the Fontas and Pinnell Guided Reading Levels). I like how it gives the students, assistants, and me a chance to just glance at the level to check the appropriateness of a book. I decided to have about 70% of my library be organized by GENRES - I personally think it’s more engaging and more real-world. However, the leveled bins are great “go to” bins for kids who are changing books all the time or frustrated trying to find that just right book.
Here is the organization system that keeps it all organized and saves me time in the long run:
I put labels on each basket – genre or leveled.
On my genre bins, I put a little sticker with a number on that basket.
I put a number on the back of those books in the top right corner.
I left the leveled books unnumbered. So, if the students flip the book over and do not see a number, they know to look at the level and return it to that leveled bin.
Yes, it did take me a while to be okay with writing on my books. I was hesitant to do so because I was always wondering, what if I change my mind or need to re-organize? I got over that, and I’m glad I did. Worst case, put a sticker over it!
I also train a “Classroom Library Leader” who will check the library every so often or help students, if needed.
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