Classroom library ideas and classroom library organization are both frequently overlooked in the beginning of the year frenzy. A classroom library is a key component in any language arts or self-contained classroom. Consider how you want your classroom library set up and what type of check out system will work for you. Having this in place before the first day of school is ideal, but we all know it can be tough to do “all the things” to get ready for your students. Here are some simple tips and things to consider when thinking about your classroom library.
The most important classroom library ideas include
1. How will you organize your classroom library?
How will you organize books? By genre? By reading level? By topic? Will you keep books on shelves or in baskets? Will you have a chart on your wall indicating how your books are categorized? Will you have some indicator (like a colored dot) on each book to showing either genre or reading level?
There’s a lot that goes into your library, and you’ll have it for years. Pick a system that works for you, and more importantly, works for your students. You want to encourage reading, so keep it simple. Check out this blog post on 6 ways to improve reading skills in upper elementary and middle school classrooms.
2. How will students check out books?
One of the most important elements to add to your classroom library ideas is a book check out system. In order to check out a book, I create a pocket from an envelope cut in half. I tape it into the inside cover of the book, leaving an opening at the top for a card.
3×5 cards work perfectly as library cards. Turn the card vertically. Write the name of the book along the top. Below the title, create a spot for students to write their names. (This is a great job for a parent volunteer or a teacher assistant.)
On the wall above my bookshelves, I have card pockets for each student. I found the pockets at a dollar store. They are flimsy, so I glued them in a row to sturdy poster board and then laminated the board.
With an Exacto Knife or blade, I cut the lamination just at the pocket opening. Since each student has a number in my classroom, I number the pockets. I taped up the poster board near the bookshelves so students can easily check out books.
When a student wants to check out a book, they simply take the card from the book, write their name on it, and put the card into the numbered pocket on the poster board. Since I have more than one class coming through, this method still works. Multiple students can put cards into a pocket.
3. How will students return books?
With the system above, returning books is simple. Students take the card from the poster board pocket chart and return it to the pocket I’ve taped into the front inside cover of the book. They then return it to the shelf, preferably where it fits categorically.
Of course, you’ll need to train your students on this system. The great thing is that after you’ve trained them, you do not have a role in the process. It’s independent!
4. Best classroom library Idea EVER…
Create a library box filled with items that are needed to maintain your classroom library. I call it the Book Repair Kit. I even have instructions taped to the inside lid so that volunteers, aides, or assistants can independently work on the library. Some items I keep in the box include scissors, 3×5 cards, tape, ball point pens, markers, white dots for coloring, envelopes, and a chart indicating the color associated with each reading level. You see a small version here. I also have a larger repair kit box with a handle.
5. A Book Hospital is a great classroom library idea.
Have a basket for books needing attention. If there’s an issue with a book, I tell the students to put it in the repair basket. It’s always visible, and you’ll probably have students in your classroom willing to work on the books in the hospital. For efficiency, keep the basket near the repair kit.
Pick your library system, get it set up, and you’ll reduce your workload during the year while providing reading material for your students. I use my library on the second day of school because my goal is to get books in the hands of students as soon as possible. I love using book clubs during the first 8 weeks of school. Here’s a great blog post on using book clubs in the classroom.
How will your students respond to their reading? I love having reading response graphic organizers that provide students a variety of options to show their understanding and provide teachers with a targeted reading goal. I use both digital and printed organizers, and I’m so happy to have them at my fingertips.
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