My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features

Summer in my world means bright early mornings, family vacations to the ocean, long afternoons of reading and classroom library tinkering! Sometimes the tinkering is a full out overhaul like this reorganization two years ago that involved moving shelves, switching bins and massive weeding.

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

Other years, it is a lot of adding to the collection and rethinking organization. This year, I am about to embark on some more big changes. I will likely have a Grade 2/3 class this year after teaching Grade 3/4 last year. Some series will go into storage and displays will change. I have more weeding to do and many books to label and add to the collection. I also have some donated books to sort through – some will become part of my classroom library, some I will share with other teachers and some will make their way home with readers.

I LOVE this work. Interacting with the books reminds me of titles I need to promote and stories that must be read. I also love the time to think about how Reading Workshop will roll out this year with a new group of students. Always, I want our library to be well used, well loved and working for all of the children in the room.

As I work this summer, I plan to share some of my thinking. Maybe it will be helpful to someone out there and it is always a useful process for me. Sharing, after all, promotes the best kind of learning there is.

I believe in a room full of books and time to read them. I also celebrate lots of book displays, incredible illustrations, an organization system that makes sense and a place for student voice.

Today’s post? Ten important features in my classroom library, beyond the books.

What are they and why are they important?

Book Jacket Wallpaper 

In my teacher resource area live lots of books and a wall of book jackets. This photo shows three layers of jackets. The “wallpaper” actually goes up another four rows. The message? That books are important: they are treasured, they are beautiful and they impact everything we do.

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

Behind the Scenes Organization

Every book that makes it into the collection is labelled with my name and “stickered” with the bin code. The trick to keeping the sticker on? Scotch tape. Labelled books mean that they can all find their homes when not being read.

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

Reader Statements

In January of 2014 I had the opportunity to hear Pat Johnson and Katie Keier authors of Catching Readers Before They Fall here in Vancouver. One of my take away pieces of learning was about using Reader’s Statements to communicate what readers do. For example: Readers think about what they read or listen to or Readers make sure what they read makes sense. I now record Reader’s Statements that come out of student conferences and post these up with the name of the child that talked about the idea. We refer to these often!

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

Book Return Bins

Some students put books away really well after learning the system. Other students find this more difficult. These big bins allow students to “return” books to a central area and a student volunteer of one of us working in the room will return the books at a later time.

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

Book Boxes

Each of my readers has his or her own book box. It is supposed to be for the books we are currently reading. But often our book joy overflows and many many books end up in these boxes. We work on prioritizing, keeping lists and letting books back out to be read by others. As one brilliant student always reminds us, “The books aren’t going anywhere. They are here all year for you to read.”

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

20 Beautiful Books Shelf

I have many special books in my collection. Some might be a signed copy. Others might be saved for specific read alouds. Some were important gifts. But, it doesn’t feel right keeping them all away from the readers in the room. So, this year I started using this shelf and we call it the 20 Beautiful Books Shelf because it always has 20 books on it and well, they are beautiful! Each of these books has a green sticker on the back and must be returned to the shelf after reading. I switch the titles here every few weeks.

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

Recently Read/Book talked Fiction Shelf

If I read a book or book talk it, it goes onto this shelf. These titles sometimes go back into my “resource” collection and get circulated when they take a turn on the “20 beautiful books shelf.” Other titles are library books and get returned to the library. Some books end up in our class collection. But after we have all enjoyed them together, they hang out here for a while so that they can be located easily when a reader wants to read one of them again. This shelf gets a lot of love!

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

Recently Read/Book talked Nonfiction Shelf

And if fiction books are loved? So are nonfiction! And equally so! So I have a shelf for our nonfiction titles too. See the explanation above for fiction.

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

Favourite Read Aloud Bin

Sometimes, our recently read shelf gets full and I need to move some books out. When I try, there is often loud protesting! “No, we are still reading that one a lot!” (Rereading is celebrated in our room!) Sometimes, a book needs to go here so it can be found easily and that it gets a special place of honour. The bin is empty in September and slowly fills up throughout the year.

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

These titles came out of the Favourite Read Aloud bin at the end of the 2013/2014 year.

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

Book Jacket Vocabulary

I love to highlight the nonfiction titles we have read and all of the learning that happened through our reading, writing and discussions. I post book jackets with key vocabulary and leave them up all year. Students often refer to the word lists and I use the words as prompts for review.

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

The most important part of all of this?

That my students feel that they learn in a “wonderland of books.”

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for thatAll of these books and all of the organizing means that it often looks like this in my room. This is buddy reading with the Ks – lots of reading, lots of engagement, lots of literacy.

Exactly how it should be.

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

In this recent post, I talk about questions to think about when setting up a classroom library.

What features in your classroom library make it work for your readers?

30 thoughts on “My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features

  1. That’s a lot of ideas! I especially like posting the book jackets with the vocabulary words.It’s a new idea to me and will help when I advocate for reading picture books aloud to every age.

  2. So much to love about this post and your Classroom Library structures & practices. I’m going to borrow the “20 Beautiful Books” and “Book Jacket Vocabulary” among other things. Thank you for sharing this, Carrie!

  3. Talk about taking classroom libraries to the next level! The book jacket wall is an incredible idea. What a way to honor reading. I love that you highlight the vocabulary by posting the words on the book jackets.

  4. Wonderful post; I have shared it with teachers at my school. There are so many ideas that elevate the importance of literature in our classrooms. Literacy begins in the heart. (Glad to know there is someone else who enjoys the “summer process!”)

  5. I wanted to use book boxes for my students. Do you have any suggestions how I can implement it with 46 students? I have 23 first and 23 in the afternoon. I only teach reading and social studies.

    • I am guessing it is an issue of space? It really is great for each child to have individual boxes. Mine are on top of back to back shelves and 24 easily fit. If you can fit two class sets of book boxes in the room that would be ideal. I would think that the students would be curious to see what others are choosing to read as well. You may need to have stricter guidelines about how long titles can remain in book boxes to ensure that titles are circulating. We would do regular “book box clean ups” if students weren’t moving books out quickly enough.

  6. Carrie,
    Just love getting a look inside your classroom. I just got back in my classroom and the first thing I start with is my class library. My library never stays the same. I’m always tweaking it. I laugh because I think I’ve wrote several posts on my class library and was taking pictures as I worked in my classroom on Thursday because I know I will be writing another! And, Yes, I get so much from reading other’s posts about their class libraries!

    • Please share when you do write the post! I agree – there is so much learning when we get to peek into other classrooms and learn about organization systems, etc. I have a lot of work to do this summer but I am excited about it. I have already done most of my other organization and clean up so that I just have book “work” to do. My favourite!

  7. Pingback: Links I Loved Last Week: A Round-Up of Online Reading 8/9/15 | the dirigible plum

  8. Such great ideas, Carrie. So simple in one aspect (simple meaning that anyone can do this as well), but so inspiring. Thank you for sharing. I would love to be a student in your class – or a fly on the wall. However I can get in. 🙂

  9. Such a fun post with fantastic ideas! Can beautiful books go in student book boxes…or do they automatically return to the special display shelf? I’m planning on more book talks this year to rotate treasures that haven’t been given much love in the last few years. Also need to do more frequent “book box clean ups” as I notice certain books lingering in boxes…(a sign of book love for sure!). Do you have multiple copies of favorites? I can imagine at least half the class coveting Ballet Cat in their boxes for daily rereadings!

    • Hi Lisa – great questions. Thank you for visiting! I don’t have multiple copies of favourites – occasionally yes but not often. I find that another book is a favourite quite quickly so we have single copies of multiple books! No, I ask the children to return the “beautiful books” to the shelf when they are finished reading them – if they go into book boxes, they tend to get damaged so we are extra careful with these. The students accept this easily.

  10. Thanks for this post Carrie. I went into my classroom yesterday with an armful of books wondering where on earth I’ll fit them! Realistically I need another bookshelf. (I have ziplock bags of theme books tucked away)I was wondering how to best organize my vast collection and have thought of using stickers. Your blog post confirmed that stickers is the way to go, and to make a key for all to see how they are organized.

    • I am so pleased that this was helpful for you. Having the sticker on the outside of the bin seems to be enough to keep things organized. Different kids need more support learning the system but we all get there.

  11. Pingback: Reader Statements | Stop & Jot

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