Celebration: Talking classroom libraries

This week I spent some time in my classroom cleaning up and clearing out. I do this every summer. When the organizing is complete, I get to do what I love best: revamp and revitalize my classroom library. This is a job that is thankfully, never done. I always have books to add, books to weed, and new ideas about how to organize. Every summer, I save this part of my “summer work” for last. It’s like delicious dessert. Sweet, satisfying and something to savour.

Always, the reason my library needs to keep changing is so that it keeps meeting the needs of the readers who use it.

Celebration: Talking classroom libraries Thee's a Book for That

I think about bins, displays, organization, labels, access, etc. I think about the interests, skills and needs of the readers. All this is quite solitary work which is fine. But, it is always so rewarding when we can share our reasoning and talk with other teachers about why we do what we do. I find I learn as much when I share as when I get to be the one asking questions of someone else about something in their practice.

This week I had a friend visit my room for a few hours. She is returning to the regular classroom after years of doing work with gifted students at the district level. We talked about various things. But a large focus of our discussion was about Reading Workshop and classroom libraries.

Celebration: Talking classroom libraries Thee's a Book for That

Later that evening, I was still energized from our discussion. I was looking through some old notes in a notebook I keep and I came across a list that I had made a few years ago. I wrote it after I had hosted a literacy study group in my room. The group leader wanted to have me talk about my classroom library and so she held their regular biweekly meeting in my classroom. This was quite a quiet group and they mostly asked questions about where I purchased various bins. An important question, yes, but a classroom library is about much more than the bins the books are housed in! I had titled the list: Questions I wished I had been asked. Of course, as I talked to the group I did address some of these things but I had been curious why I hadn’t been asked to explain in more detail.

My list:

  • Where do you find your books? How do you keep current with what you might purchase?
  • Why are some books in the regular collection and some are kept in a teaching collection?
  • How do you decide how to organize the books? How do you teach this system to the kids?
  • How do you introduce books?
  • How do you ensure that students are reading widely?
  • How many of these books have you read? Where do you find the time?

When I read this list over, I realized that my friend had asked me each of the things on this list as well as many more questions. The reason for my excitement? Engagement – hers and mine.

This is what I celebrate this week – the ability to share and discuss something I am always changing and always passionate about – my classroom library.

In the next few weeks, I will have the chance to begin making my annual library changes. I hope to blog a little more about what I am doing and that others will join in the discussion with me.

Thank you to Ruth Ayres and the #celebratelu community! Being part of a community that regularly shares gratitude and celebrations truly transforms my weeks.


28 thoughts on “Celebration: Talking classroom libraries

  1. I love the list of questions! I’m doing some PD on this topic in the fall and may refer back to this post!
    I did a lot of weeding this year too. The new books that I purchase are checked out frequently. The PB I use for read alouds are also checked out. But since I’m not a classroom teacher, I don’t do as many read alouds as I would like. There are many PBs that don’t get a lot of love in my room. I hate to weed those but I haven’t figured out a way to have kids, who are striving readers, try some of these books, that are not shiny and new, and bring them home to read

    • It is so often all about the books we bless! Do you ever get a chance to do book sharing circles? (Passing the books every few minutes in a small group) It might give you a chance to highlight some of these titles.

  2. Oh…how I adore the summer library brainstorm! “Delicious dessert” is the perfect description, Carrie! My amazon wish cart has over $400 of updates (many thanks to your fantastic recommendations)…guess I need to weed some more. Your questions are brilliant and really dig deep at getting kids excited about books!

  3. Had to laugh at the one question you got about where you purchased those awesome bins. SIGH. But I have to say, the whole bin thing was also an epiphany for me: BINS! I’m out of room in my office library–even though I weeded in the spring. With bins, I could organize all my PBs in ways that make sense for how I use them, carry the right stacks to class much more easily, AND shelve more books! Love that you had an inspiring and invigorating conversation about your library with a colleague who gets it. Now I’m off to find some good bins to purchase, LOL.

    • I notice that those people who ask the most questions and want to learn a lot are often the same people who already know a lot. It’s interesting. And good luck with the bin hunt!

  4. I always love hearing your thinking, Carrie, and this year with a new group, you’ll be changing some books as you go, right? The questions are important, so glad that your friend asked them, and I do wonder about some teachers asking those more pragmatic ?s, like where are the best & cheapest bins? Sad to say I brought all my bins home, have given some away & kept a few for “special” books for Ingrid & Imi. I’m now struggling about how to organize my own collection for future writing. Thanks for sharing what you do & how!

    • Thank you Linda. I will be making changes, yes. This summer and then as I work with my students and see what they gravitate towards. It’s exciting to have a new group of readers but I will sure miss what my former class and I built. What a reading community we had!

  5. Wonderful post about your dessert – sweet, satisfying, and something to savour! So glad that you had the chance to engage with a colleague around this shared passion. I donated almost all of my classroom library to the 2nd year teacher who moved into my room when I retired. I brought home a few favorites and some that I’ve always wanted to read, but never did. After I read them, I take them back so they can receive book love from her students. The after school book club that I sponsor meets in her classroom, so I still have access to the books.

  6. The delicious dessert…books! Yum! Talking about how to curate the books for the classroom library is fun. I’m wondering if you let the kids have any say (you probably do) in how to organize the books? Have you heard of Tony Stead? He’s written a lot about organizing the classroom library. My friend Bev bragged on how great he was after she heard him in person…knowing you,you probably do…enjoy your dessert Carrie!

    • Hi Amy – great questions! I love Tony Stead for his work in nonfiction writing. I would love to hear him in person talking about classroom libraries! My students do have input as we acquire new titles and we have bins – like favourite read alouds, etc that change every year on an ongoing basis. But I don’t switch up my library each year with a new group because there are just too many books – already labelled and stickered to match specific bins.

  7. Can I hire you? I have too many books and have never quite figured out how to weed. I horde. Isn’t it wonderful to meet people who “get” you as a person and as a reading nut?

    • Yes! I would love to come and weed your library šŸ™‚ It might be a little too far away though šŸ˜¦ It is pretty wonderful to be able to have great conversations about books and all things literacy with someone else asking the same kind of questions.

  8. Your questions are so good. I think I have some responses but not necessarily the answers. Have you ever, would you ever host a discussion on libraries? It would be amazing!! We could share on twitter or another more long-winded format.
    Would love it!!

  9. Your enthusiasm for organizing classroom library is wonderful!! I find it such an overwhelming task and I am never confident in my choices. Thanks for your questions…I am thinking about them!!! LOVE this post! I look forward to more posts about your classroom library!

    • Thanks so much Michelle. I must admit it is always on my mind as I want my students to be fully engaged with reading and able to find books independently. With each new group, new needs arise.

  10. I just returned from school where I spent several hours getting new books ready for the shelves. I still need to weed and sort and look to see what I need to buy. That is my favorite part of working in my room during the summer. I love Julieanne’s idea about a twitter chat! Count me in on that one! šŸ™‚

  11. I loved reading this. Sometimes I wonder if people don’t ask questions because they don’t yet know what the questions are. What a beautiful list you created for people who are new to classroom libraries. Your post also makes me think about the profound connection we have to educators who care about the things we care about – books, instruction, students. It seems there is no greater connection than a conversation with a colleague who shares this passion. And finally, I love Julieanne’s idea about a twitter chat on this topic and will gladly jump in when you host one. It will be as close as we can get to sitting in your room!

    • I think you are absolutely right about the questions – if you haven’t really been reflective about something, then you aren’t wondering. And I agree – isn’t it so wonderful to have these meaningful conversations?! I am thinking about how to extend the conversation and will keep you posted šŸ™‚

  12. Your library! What a great reason to celebrate! Your questions will help many!
    I wish Canada was a little smaller so I could visit your room.

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