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The kid-friendly, kid-maintainable classroom library

If you’re a teacher reading this blog, you likely devote significant attention to carefully selecting literature to add to your classroom library. And, if you’re like me, you want your students to have access to these books, but also to not spend hours after school reorganizing and looking for titles that have mysteriously disappeared. Last year, I found a solution to keeping my classroom library well-stocked and maintainable, but before I share it, let me explain the rationale behind it.

When I was in elementary school, there were always books out on display in my classrooms, but there were also many, many titles hidden away in cupboards and closets that my teachers would search through after exclaiming, “Have I got just the book for you!” This practice always struck me as odd and restrictive — I loved going to the library precisely because the number of titles was overwhelming and it seemed that there were treasures to discover as I explored the shelves.

In my own classroom, I am committed to making sure that my students have constant access to as many titles as possible. However, it is essential to me that the books can remain organized without much effort from me — which is something of a challenge when you work with second graders.

The solution that I’ve come up with for my own classroom library is pretty simple. I started by drawing up a list of categories into which I could sort all of the books in my classroom library. Current categories include biographies, world cultures, biology and chemistry, and, my favorite, “Books Miss Hewes loves.” Next, I assigned each category a specific color-code, using dot and star stickers. For example, biographies have a yellow dot with a green star, while easy readers have just a silver star. Then, I bought bins and clearly labeled them with the proper codes and category names.

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The next step was the most labor-intensive — putting the proper labels on each and every book in my library. While I was doing this, I also used the free tools available at Book Source to create a digital catalog of my library, which came in handy during the year as I wondered whether or not I actually had a certain book. (You can check out the organizer at  http://classroom.booksource.com/). Finally, after labeling the books, I put them into the appropriate bins and then put all of the bins on display in my classroom.

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This system proved to be an overwhelming success last year. It allowed me to saturate my students in books without needing to go find a perfect book that I have tucked away somewhere in my room. Additionally, when I looked through the bins over the summer to check on them — something I faced with trepidation after having seen my students’ cubby area — I only found four books out of place. Most importantly, I am confident that my students found books to treasure as they independently navigated the bins — something I hope helped steer them towards becoming lifelong readers.

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Nicole Hewes About Nicole Hewes

Nicole Hewes is currently serving as an impact manager at a public elementary school with City Year New Hampshire. She previously taught second grade in rural Maine for two years and received an M.Ed in language and literacy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

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Comments

  1. Wherever you are in rural Maine, Nicole, they’re lucky. This sounds like a lot of work to start out, but in a great cause, for the kids to have full use and view of a wealth of books. Hooray for books loved and shared!

  2. Robin Smith Robin Smith says:

    I completely cataloged my grade two classroom library over the summer.
    1. Got rid of the stuff that no one reads or books that were in bad shape. I did note books I needed to reorder, but I tried to be vicious. I have a father who’s an honest-to-goodness hoarder, so I try to fight the urge to hoard.
    2. Labeled mine just like you did. Every single book has a label that matches a basket. It took forever with about 2500 books in the classroom library. I did not know about Booksource; I am a little afraid to look because it might make me cry.
    It was totally worth it and my kids are getting better and better at taking care of the library now.
    I love the way you have yours sorted–especially “books Ms. Hewes loves.”

    Thanks for the great post. I will share it with others at my school.

    One of my favorite teachers shares your last name and used to live in Maine. Just thinking of him (and you) made me smile.

    Robin Smith
    Nashville, TN

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