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?

Celebration: Books, books, books and reader whispers

This week, one of my expressive students exclaimed, “You’re one crazy book lady!” I can’t remember what exactly inspired this comment but I think I was searching intently for a book in one of many piles in my teacher resource area. Piles have grown. Some looked more like towers. Towers at risk of toppling. A recent donation meant some book shopping for early chapters and graphics (see photo below) and my children had let go of some series they were ready to pass on to my classroom. There were still unlabelled and unorganized books that I should have been able to deal with in the summer but the teacher strike meant limited time for classroom setup. Books, books, books.  🙂

Celebration: Books, books, books and reader whispers

Friday was a professional development day in my district and I decided to use it to 1) dive into these book piles 2) pull out titles from book bins that my now Grade 3 and 4 readers are ready for and 3) to talk books and strategies with some of my colleagues. This week, I celebrate, this much needed and very useful time.

Armed with stickers, notebooks, tape and bins, and of course, caffeinated reinforcements, I began. Before I book talk books, I like them to have stickers on the back (sealed with tape to ensure they stay there) so that students can return them to their correct bin.

Celebration: Books, books, books and reader whispers

I was able to get an entire bin of books ready to be book talked. Many titles landed in my specific themed baskets for future read alouds or writing mentor texts.

Celebration: Books, books, books and reader whispers

I made lists of new labels to make for bins being switched to accommodate new titles. Some series went into storage and some came out to be part of the classroom library.

Celebration: Books, books, books and reader whispers

But the best part? As I worked in the room and interacted with the books, ideas kept coming. Ideas for mini lessons in Reading Workshop, ideas for record keeping, ideas for new titles to add to our collection (of course!) and ideas about books to suggest to specific readers. Usually, I do all of this classroom library organization in the summer when students won’t be in the room for weeks and weeks. Yesterday, it was like my current class was right there with me and nudging me to think about things specifically for their particular reading needs. It was like I had little voices reminding me. Whispers of interests, ideas and needs:

“We need more chapter book fantasy stories because I am getting into that genre.”

“You should tell me about Iris and Walter stories and Mercy Watson titles because I am ready for early chapter books.”

“Find a place to hold and display some of the big fact books we can share for buddy reading.”

“Are there books in our classroom library that fit for me as I am transitioning to more challenging titles? I really like Fly Guy books!”

“I read lots of series last year but I think I am ready for some stand alone chapter books. But, where do I start?”

“We need a recording sheet to reflect how we are reading widely and exploring book boxes but make it simple and fun.”

“Display our Reader’s Statements in a new spot so we can refer to them as we browse books.”

“We forgot to add more ideas to our What kind of mood are we in? sheet last week. Let’s do more of this.”

Celebration: Books, books, books and reader whispers

This week,  I celebrate time to be in my room, organizing and thinking about ways to make it more responsive for the readers that inhabit the space Monday to Friday.  Yes, I do this daily with all of the students there with me. But, with the gift of a full day, time to reflect and just wisps of reader energies surrounding me, I accomplished so much. I can’t wait for another week of growing passionate and devoted readers in my room.

celebrate-link-upThank you also to Ruth Ayres, for the inspiration and her Celebration Link up that she hosts each week. I love how being a part of this #celebratelu community reminds us weekly to look for the positive and take some time for gratitude.

Getting ready for a year of reading

Reading in our classroom is hugely important! There is so much research that supports the benefits of reading in all of its forms: independent reading, buddy reading, shared reading, listening to read alouds, etc. How do we prepare our classroom community for a year of reading together? It’s not just filling the room with books and children that ensures we will create passionate readers. A few other things need to happen . . . .

#1 Book Organization. Everywhere you look, there must be books! But, we need to be able to find what we are looking for. Accessible bins, clear labels and an organization that makes sense entice children to explore.

Getting Ready for a year of Reading: There's a Book for That!

We have books labelled by genre (i.e. Adventure, Mystery, Rhyme and Repetition etc.), by favourite authors (Steve Jenkins, Mo Willems, Melanie Watt, etc.), by theme (Sea Creatures, Friendship, Folktales, etc.) and by popularity (i.e. Popular Graphics, Favourite Read Alouds, Recently Read). There are a lot of bins in our room! Books, books, books everywhere you look!

Getting Ready for a year of Reading: There's a Book for That!

Important for me as the teacher – to have a system that helps get books out into bins and into the hands of students. So I have a bin for books that need to be labelled, bins of books to book talk, bins of read alouds for specific times of year/themes, etc.

Getting Ready for a year of Reading: There's a Book for That!

I also like to be able to access mentor texts, books we use for Reading Power, specific non-fiction titles easily so my teacher area has books organized for easy access. Below are all of the Reading Power titles (Connect split into early/mid/late, Visualize, Question, Infer, Transform).

Getting Ready for a year of Reading: There's a Book for That!

#2 Keeping Students Organized During independent reading, it is great to have “go to books” so that students can settle right into the reading rather than spend the whole time searching for books. Students  stash titles they want to read/are currently reading in their book boxes. Next week we will begin a schedule of adding new books to our boxes so that there isn’t a mad rush to exchange books during independent reading time. This is also time for the adults in the room to assist students with book selection, to introduce new genres, to set reading goals, etc. As you can see from the boxes below, Mo Willems is trending right now in our class!

Getting Ready for a year of Reading: There's a Book for That!

While most books have stickers on the back that correspond to specific bins or author bins that we are familiar with, I ask students to put books into “Book Return” bins if they are not sure where to return  them. I have a “Book Return: Picture Book” and a “Book Return: Chapter Book” bin for students to use. This ensures that books get back to their proper “homes” when the next person is looking for them!

Getting Ready for a year of Reading: There's a Book for That!

#3 Book Promotion Books are book talked daily in our room! Students  are often unfamiliar with both the book organization sytems and the wide variety of titles and authors we have in our classroom when they arrive in September. I  book talk books in our current collection, often highlighting specific book bins and we also book talk books new to our classroom, books from the library, books that have gone unnoticed, etc.  There is a bin in the teacher area specifically for books that need to be book talked but I also spontaneously highlight specific titles when interest in an author is there or when connections are made in our learning to specific books.

Getting Ready for a year of Reading: There's a Book for That!

#4 Time for reading is paramount. Readers need to read. Readers of every level grow their skills best when they have time to read self selected titles that they are interested in! In our classroom, there is daily time dedicated to independent reading. Soon we will also begin buddy reading with our kindergarten buddies!

Getting Ready for a year of Reading: There's a Book for That!

At this age and stage of reading, independent reading often is interrupted by sharing of interesting parts, questions about what someone else is reading, or reading a part aloud to a neighbour. I encourage this as it helps build a “buzz” about different titles and encourages student recommendations. This is how we learn about new books and begin making talking about books an important conversation!

Getting Ready for a year of Reading: There's a Book for That!

#5 Building stamina as readers: Currently, during part of every block of independent reading we are spending some time book talking, sharing titles, and exploring different book bins. It takes time to build up our ability to sit and read for an extended time period no matter how excited we are! Eventually, we will be able to read for longer sessions and for some of us, experience that lovely feeling of “falling into a book” and not even realizing that the bell has gone or that everyone has cleaned up to go for recess. A favourite activity to introduce new books at the beginning of a reading period is to do a book sharing circle. Every two minutes pass the two books you are looking at onto the next person and at the end of the sharing, read quietly on your own (maybe a new title you discovered or a book you had on the go). This activity is pictured below with my  reading group from last year who are exploring some non-fiction titles.

Getting Ready for a year of Reading: There's a Book for That!

#6 Exposure to great titles! Along with our reading stamina, we are building up our listening stamina. Reading aloud happens in our room every day. We read poetry, excerpts from non-fiction texts, picture books, chapter books, etc. For many students in the class this year, listening to a chapter book is a new experience. Sara Pennypacker to the rescue! We have started our first classroom read aloud: Clementine and the Family Meeting (written by Sara Pennypacker and illustrated by Marla Frazee). We have only read Chapter One but we are very intrigued. Students are already wondering about Clementine’s friend Margaret and her germ phobias. They are worried about where the rat Eighteen has gone. And of course we are very curious about why a family meeting has been called in Clementine’s family. Reading aloud gives me wonderful opportunities to model my thinking aloud.

Of course, many other things go on in our room as part of reading instruction: direct instruction with phonemic awareness for those who are building decoding skills, fluency practice, reading comprehension strategies, opportunities to respond to what we read, etc. This post highlights book interaction and independent reading. 🙂

It is going to be a wonderful year of celebrating reading!  

How do you set up for reading success in your classroom?