Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 3: Additions

I continue working in my classroom library preparing it for the Grade 3 class I will have this fall. Books that have homes have returned to them. Books that had homes may have lost them as I have reorganized. Books yet to have homes are stacked ready to get labels and stickers and then will find a place. Books have been weeded and are in process of finding new spaces or being temporarily stored. What now? I am thinking about what my current library might need.

Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 2: Additions

Note: This is the third post in a series. Missed the previous ones?

Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 1: Relocate

Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library Step 2: Weed

Additions are not simply about a shopping list. Or even a wish list. Additions begin from the noticing. What’s missing? What series do I need to expand? What do I need to be thinking about to best meet the needs of the readers in my classroom? The readers I haven’t even met yet.

I sit in various sections of my classroom and look at the shelves. I am looking with my eyes and I am looking with the potential eyes of future students.

I don’t have #3 of Anna, Banana. When is the next Piper Green title by Ellen Potter going to be released? Do I think this new group will enjoy the Violet Mackerel series?

Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 2: AdditionsThe Heidi Hecklebeck series has a number of new titles. Should I be expanding the collection? Of course, I need the next Princess and Black titles! What am I missing?Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 2: AdditionsDo I know when the next Bad Guys title is out? Is the 65th Story Tree House title in soft cover yet? Arnie and the Donut? Will there be another title?

Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 2: AdditionsThese kind of noticings are simple. What series has recently been adored and should I expand it? Am I missing specific numbers in a series so that the gaps will frustrate readers wanting the next book?

The next questions are a little more complicated. I am thinking about questions like the following as I put myself in potential reader shoes:

  • If I am a kid who loves fantasy, are there books for me here? What if I am devouring thick chapter books? What if I am just beginning to read novels? What if I want to stick with picture books?
  • If I like a particular kind of picture book, are there chapter books that I might also like? Can I find them easily?
  • Can I find a bunch of funny books to read?
  • If I am a series reader, are there a range of series at a range of levels about a variety of things for me to get lost in?
  • If I find an author I love, are there more books that he/she wrote in the library?
  • What if I want to read about things I might be experiencing? Like friendship struggles? Or having a new sibling? Or my parents breaking up? Feeling lonely? Different? Discriminated against? Can I find books that will help me understand more about myself? Are there books that can act as mirrors for me?
  • Do I need to read about things that have not yet touched my life? Learn more about the world? Learn more about the lives of my peers? My parents? My neighbours? Are there books here that will be windows into other worlds and lives?

Putting my teacher hat back on, I need to think about questions like:

  • Are my organization systems student friendly?
  • Can children navigate the shelves independently (after some initial instruction and practice)?
  • Can students help keep the library organized so that we can all use it with ease?
  • Is there room for a range of readers in each genre?
  • Are there obvious gaps in specific genres?
  • Am I missing books that might have huge kid appeal but might not attract me? Can I make room for those books in our library?
  • Is there a way for children to tell me, “Can we get books about . . . ?”
  • Does my read aloud collection contain books that will allow us to laugh together? Learn together? Cry together? To be inspired? To be incensed? To shake up our thinking? To allow us to view things from new perspectives?
  • Are there books in the library that tell the history of our country? Of neighbouring countries? About the world? What really happened? There needs to be titles about residential schools. About immigration. About racist policies that have changed or persist. Books that allow us to talk about discrimination. Rights. Fear.
  • Do I have a wide range of picture books? Various genres? Lots of diversity? Short reads? Wordless titles? Longer reads? Great books to share together?
  • Does my nonfiction collection contain books about a wide range of topics? Does the organization system make sense? Are there a variety of formats? Expository?Narrative? Fact books? What are the topic gaps?
  • Graphic novels? How will we organize these books? Are popular series missing any titles? What is missing at the Grade 3 level? The graphic/comics shelf below is in process of being organized.

Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 2: Additions

All books on the shelf should be invitations to read. The shelves need to call: “Hey you reader, you belong here! Have I got something for you!”

This is just the beginning. The start of some lists, of noting gaps, of wondering what else I might need. Further sourcing and list making will come later.

I don’t have endless book buying dollars so lists will remain wishes and over time, hopefully I will fill the gaps as I add to the collection. There needs to be room for the interests, passions and needs of this new class. I am repeating this again – this classroom library is fluid not fixed and will reflect the readers in the room. So there is a big unknown still to come as I get to know my new students. The most important additions I make to the library will happen when I begin to know these children.

But I need to know directions. What might be next? This allows me to find treasures here and there when I visit bookstores or sift through a box of books that a neighbour is giving away. I keep lists and notes about series in this little notebook and throw it in my bag when I remember.

Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 2: Additions

My lists have begun.

Up next? How does everything stay organized as it moves into the library? I explain bins, labels, shelves and systems in this next post: Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library Step 4: The Details

Stay tuned!

Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 2: Weed

My classroom library is “in process” right now. It is mid-transformation – from a Grade 4 and 5 classroom library to a Grade 3 classroom library. This is a definite process. The shelves go from full to empty, to temporary stacks and piles to full again before I pull it all apart.

Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 2: Weed There's a Book for ThatNote: This is the second post in a series. Missed the first one? Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 1: Relocate

I have been going through novels genre by genre and removing books that might not fit this group of readers. Graphic novels teeter in various piles with imagined labels: perfect for primary, too mature, maybe/not sure/appropriatish.

Here’s the thing: I don’t know what this group of readers will need. I can only make an educated guess. I could be mostly right. I could be very wrong. My library is always fluid not fixed. Books line the shelves or get removed from the shelves according to the needs and interests of my readers. I learned this lesson in a big way two years ago. I was going from teaching a Grade 3 and 4 class to a Grade 2 and 3 class. I switched out some books and let many remain, thinking that the books in the collection would meet the needs of the readers. I was so off! So very, very off. Within about three weeks, I binned up a chunk of the library. I wrote about it in this post. My developing readers weren’t ready for many of the titles I thought they might be ready for and it was taking away from their ability to find books they could read and wanted to read. Some of my thinking at the time:

This wasn’t about taking books away. It was about removing titles that are currently not relevant and are actually, distracting. I left about 7/8 of the books still out. There are a lot of books. But now, we can focus on surrounding ourselves with books that we can read or might grow into in the near future. Some people thought this made me sad. Only very briefly. Until I thought about it: I love books because I love that they are read by readers. I adore the readers (and the readers to be) and these readers are my priority. These books will be back. When we’re ready.

I hadn’t messed up in terms of choosing relevant, age appropriate titles for Grade 2s and 3s. I messed up because I put together a library for imagined readers and I hadn’t yet met the readers I would be working with that year. I didn’t know the needs and interests of this particular group of children. And they were the most important readers I would know that year because they were my students. Our classroom library needed to be all about them.

And so, this work I am doing now is tentative. I am making best guesses. I am placing some books away in easy to pull back out bins. I have a stack of bins ready to be filled up if need be once the readers enter the room. This is the weeding for now stage. I hardly feel like I am finishing anything.

I am sifting through books. Pulling out. Putting aside.

Out means books will go to a new space, a new home, or retire. I give these books to other classrooms, to students, to other teachers I might know. Some titles are not up to being passed on. They have been loved enough and are worn out and need to be discarded. I have very few books that I am pulling out of my collection this summer. When I moved schools a year ago, I did this very thoroughly. I was not about to pack any book I wasn’t fully committed to keeping in the collection.

Putting aside – this is all about temporary storage. I am looking at books that might not be right for these readers coming in September. These titles are placed in baskets and bins for now. Maybe I will go reaching for them for one particular reader. Maybe, I will pull titles to lend to my students from last year. These books are kept close but out of the way.

Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 2: Weed There's a Book for ThatSome sections of my library now seem like they might be right. I think . . .

Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 2: Weed There's a Book for That

In answering the question: Will I keep it in the collection? I am thinking about

  • Are the themes too mature for my learners?
  • Are the story lines possibly too complex?
  • Is the book better suited to a younger classroom?
  • Is the title or series outdated?
  • Do I think this is a book or series students still want to read? I have a few stacks of series I am not so sure about. (like this stack here)

  • Are the books a format I want to introduce before I make it available? (i.e. novels in verse)
  • Are the characters vastly different from the age of my students? I struggle with this one – are my seven and eight year olds going to be wanting to read about middle school themes like crushes and dating? This is tricky.
  • Does a book or series just not feel like a fit for reasons I can’t quite explain?

I am working at this stage here and there over days as it involves a lot of thinking and decision making. Sometimes, it is much easier to go shopping at Ikea 🙂

As I look through my books, I am also thinking about what my library might be missing. This is what’s next: Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library Step 3: Additions

Stay tuned!

 

Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 1: Relocate

So this section of my classroom library looks ready to go.

Don’t you think?

Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 1: RelocateUnfortunately, it isn’t. This mostly fiction area is all set up for Grades 4 and 5 and in September, I have a class full of Grade 3 readers walking in the door.

Add that to the regular summer tasks that happen in the classroom library and I have some work ahead!

This is Part 1 of a blog series about maintaining a classroom library and all of the summer tasks that might be involved. I am using my classroom library as an example but I hope that these reminders will be helpful and/or applicable to your own classroom library.

It all starts with returning items to where they belong and deciding if that is where they are going to stay.

These empty shelves are where all of our picture books that I read aloud rested. All of these (fiction and nonfiction) needed to be returned to their spots on my read aloud shelf. Other books from around the room from book boxes and display shelves also need to find a place.

Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 1: RelocateLet the sorting begin!

Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 1: Relocate

Returning to a place on the read aloud shelf. Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 1: Relocate

As I returned books, I realized I was out of space (there may have been some new books acquired over the year . . . ) and so some of my read aloud titles were put in yet more piles to be relabelled and moved into the classroom collection.

Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 1: Relocate

Every book has a home, even if it is getting a new home, each one has a home. This means, organization, space and thinking about how books are used in the classroom.

I differentiate between a read aloud collection and a classroom collection of books (more on this below)

Here are some things to think about:

  • Do you want a place for a read aloud collection where the books are rotated into the classroom for students to access?
  • Do you need a place for mentor texts for writing inspiration?
  • Do you want to have some books organized by theme? For both fiction and nonfiction?
  • What about the general collection of books? How is this organized? Think about picture books (fiction and nonfiction) graphic titles and chapter books.
  • What kind of shelf space do you have? Do you need? Can you source?
  • Do you have space for a read aloud/theme books collection? Can you easily access it?
  • Do you want to/need to rotate books in and out of your classroom collection?

This is my system and works for my collection of books. In order to make something work for your collection of books, you will need to sort books into sections of your room so that all books have a place and you have easy access.

Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 1: Relocate

In my read aloud collection I have:

  1. Some shelves filled with bins of books organized by theme. Some of these themes include:
  • Death and Grief
  • Peace and War
  • Mindfulness
  • Emotions
  • Hope
  • Kindness/Generosity
  • Place
  • History
  • Discrimination
  • Refugee experience
  • Moving
  • Relationship
  • Friendship
  • Bully/Bullied/Bystander
  • Literacy (reading)
  • Literacy (writing)
  • Poetry
  1. A tall read aloud shelf divided into fiction books (organized alphabetically by author) and nonfiction books (organized by topic) My nonfiction topics are here along with book lists which I update a few times a year.
  2. Some bins of teaching books which hold Reading Power themed titles and mentor texts for writing (again organized by themes like word choice).

Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 1: Relocate

In my picture book collection (in bins or on shelves around the room), books are also organized into themes (and all have coordinating stickers on the back that match the bin) At this point, my bin/shelf  titles include:

  • Rhyme and Repetition
  • Fairy Tale/Myth/Legends
  • Realistic Fiction
  • Poetry
  • Humour
  • Animal Stories
  • Buddy Reading Bin
  • Favourite Authors (which keeps expanding)
  • Picture Book Fiction (for when they don’t fit in another bin!)

I am in the process of changing my nonfiction bins again . . . So more on these later.

I also have a shelf for graphics and comics. Chapter books are organized by genre and series.

At this stage of organizing (the mostly putting all of the books back stage) I am thinking about these things:

  • Does this book belong in the general access or read aloud collection?  Will it get lost in a bin and never looked at? Is this a book that my current students are likely to discover on their own? Is this a book that I want to read for #classroombookaday?
  • Is this a book that needs to be weeded out? Why? Is it beyond the normal wear and tear? Is it damaged? Is it never looked at?
  • What books have I forgotten about? Should I keep a list of a future theme for #classroombookaday? Do I see a book that will inspire a future art project? A science lesson? Is this a must read title?
  • What seems to be missing from the collection? Do the picture books in the classroom represent our learners? Are they windows into other experiences? Do chapter books and transitional titles include enough diverse titles? What’s missing?

This is the easy stage in many ways. Piling. Relocating. Thinking. Musing. List making. I am now moving on to the weeding and the temporary storage stage as titles that are more suited for my Grade 4s and 5s need to be somewhere else when my Grade 3s arrive. A temporary somewhere else as some may make their way back into the collection for specific readers I haven’t yet met.

Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 1: RelocateStay tuned for Part 2: Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 2: Weed

Please share any questions or ideas in the comments!