Sunday, June 5, 2011

My Classroom Library

We have the Accelerated Reader program at my school and for the last four years I have organized my books by AR level.  I don't love AR.  In fact, I loathe it.  Students choose books for the wrong reasons, as much as I try to teach them the I PICK strategy. Also, the quizzes are on the knowledge level of Bloom's Taxonomy, and many ask students to recall very small unimportant details, while I'm trying to teach them the bigger picture:  theme, making connections, etc.  I feel there are more important ways to get kids reading than to have them take a computerized quiz after every book.  I have decided that next year, although I am still required to use AR, I am going to make it as minimal as possible in my classroom, starting with my classroom library.  

While packing up my room last week, I took the time to take a good, hard look at the books I'm keeping in my classroom.  I have over 500 books, and I would say at least 50% were purchased by me.  I have an affinity for books.  Every year I always say I'm going to scale back on what I buy for my classroom.  This never includes books.  I was just at Ollie's on Friday and purchased about 15 books again.  I don't know if Ollie's is regional, but if you have one in your area, check it out!  Hardcover books for $3.99!  

Anyways, this week I had my class help me sort my books by genre.  Of course, the majority of my books are realistic fiction and fantasy.  I also sorted picture books, fiction animal books, fiction sports, science fiction, historical fiction (which, as a Social Studies teacher I had a ton of), biographies, non-fiction Earth & Science, non-fiction history, and non-fiction general.  I was pleasantly surprised at the broad selection my students have to choose from.  I didn't feel as though my classroom library was utilized this year as much as it should be, and I blame my AR leveled-sorting.  Next year, my classroom library will be sorted by genre.  I teach genre, why not sort the books that way?  

Organizational tip:  While packing up my books, I placed them in gallon sized ziplock bags and marked the genre on the bag.  When returning in the fall, I just have to put the pre-sorted books in their bins.  I also kept a list of the # of books I have in each genre, so if I'm out at half-priced books, Ollie's, or yard sales, I know what I should be on the lookout for. I know I'm definitely going to add some poetry books and folktales to my collection. 

What tips do you have for organizing your classroom library?  Do you organize by genre or level, or both?  Do you put color-coded stickers on your books to make sure they get returned to the appropriate bins?  How do you ensure your books get returned?  I would love to hear your input!  


  1. I am going to do a lot of work on my classroom library this summer as well. Right now my picture books are sorted by fiction, science, history, biography, poetry. My chapter books are sorted in many different ways: favorite authors have their own baskets, genres, and some by author's last name. I want to come up with a better way to sort the books. I do use color coded stickers so my kids can put books back where they got them (well that is my hope anyway). I am doing a new check out system this year. I am going to do a library pocket in the back of each book and place an index card with the name of the author and book in the pocket. On a piece of posterI will hang in the library, each child will have their own library pocket. When they check out a book they will place the index card from the book into their library pocket. Hopefully this will allows me to easily keep up with who is reading what! I will be blogging more about this later in the summer.

  2. I also LOVE having a huge library...the more choices for the kids, the better! In the past, I have organized according to AR level. We switched to Fountas and Pinnell last year, and I decided that this summer, I was going to organize by author or genre and call it good. It seems like we change our leveling every year, and I would rather teache IPICK and the Five Finger Rule then re-level every year. Plus, the kids are always asking where they can find certain series or authors, and so I hope it will work better. They keep the books they are currently reading in a book box (from Beth Newingham's site).

    I don't keep track of book check outs. I can easily see what is in their book boxes if I want to check. My kids do not have access to many books at home because their parents can't afford them or don't buy them, so it doesn't bother me if they take one home and then accidentally (or even on purpose) don't return it. Of course, I stress being responsible with the books a lot at the beginning of the year, and I found that I didn't have a lot go missing last year because of the book boxes. If a book is more special, I will take it out at certain times of the year during certain units and make sure I get it back. I just physically don't think I can handle the library pockets or the checking out!

    Another thing that helped is that I give them books for a Christmas present and an end of the year present using my Scholastic points. If there is a really popular book, I buy a bunch of those as a choice. Then the same books from my classroom library are less likely to go missing. Does that make sense?

    Good luck!