Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 5: Sourcing

On the last day of summer before school begins tomorrow, this post is a reminder that those “done” libraries might not be completely done.

In my room, books now reside on shelves like this:

Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 5: Sourcing

Instead of all over the room like this:

Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 5: Sourcing

But still, things aren’t done. Now, I am sourcing. Ideas. Book lists. Wisdom. Experience. Preferences. So that as the year rolls out, I can add titles to our classroom library that my students will love.

How do I do this? A few ways . . .

Any kids who come into my vicinity get asked What are some of your favourite books? (if they are Grade 3 age-ish) Do you remember the books you loved a few years ago? (when they are a little older) If I am lucky enough to have children visit my library (usually the children of other teachers in the school) I drag them into my classroom and prompt: Look carefully at this library, it’s for a Grade 3 class. What do you think is missing? Are there books you think shouldn’t be here? What books would you be excited to read?  I spy on children at the bookstore and the library that look about Grade 3 age. What do they gravitate towards. What makes it into a pile? What is pulled off the shelf? Child opinion? It’s golden!

I also ask colleagues – teachers, literacy coaches, teacher librarians – those I know in person and those I know on line – about books their students love. I give lists of series and ask if these were read in Grade 3 classrooms. This helped me move some titles out of my library that my Grade 4s and 5s read. Some things I moved out and then moved back. Asking questions helps me learn from the experiences of others. What’s popular? What is constantly read? What books do kids ask for again and again?

I wander through bookstores and get the opinion of my favourite booksellers. What’s selling? What are kids this age often looking for? I love visiting bookstores with a friend who is a teacher librarian – we trade recommendations and I snap pictures as we talk. Later I look up titles and series we talked about and read reviews.

Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 5: Sourcing Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 5: SourcingSummer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 5: Sourcing

I also zoom in when other teachers tweet photos of their classroom libraries or share photos on their blogs. Are they teaching a Grade 2-4 age range? What books are in the bins, on the shelves and best yet, in students’ hands?

Another great source? The lovely organized book shelves of my friend’s Goodreads accounts. Many of us organize our books on book shelves so I check out those shelves titled Great for Grade 3, Transitional chapter books, Classroom Favourites, etc. I have scrolled through all of the posts about transitional chapter books that Alyson Beecher and Michele Knot post. These #Road2Reading challenge posts are a fantastic source for those teachers teaching primary classrooms! My reading community is my primary source for new titles. I read lots of blogs and pay attention on twitter to relevant books being discussed. Certain hashtags are really worth following: #IMWAYR, #nfpb2017, #titletalk, #WeNeedDiverseBooks.

Sometimes, I am looking for very specific books. Right now, I am paying attention to what is getting Caldecott buzz so I can begin to put together my Mock Caldecott list. Often, I come across books I love while at the bookstore but I also pay attention to what is tagged on Caldecott lists on Goodreads and love checking out the list that Margie Culver keeps adding to: Mock Caldecott 2018. Margie’s blog Librarian’s Quest  is an incredible source for book titles.

The most important source? My students. The students I haven’t yet met and so these recommendations have yet to happen. I am leaving physical and mental room for what our library will need. Once these children begin to read in my room, I will start to pay attention.

What will this particular group of students need? Love? Grow into?

More early series to build fluency? Chapter books with more complex themes? Nonfiction titles about . . . ? Titles with children who . . . ? Stories about places like . . . .?

This is what I will learn in the next months.

For our library to grow, all of these sources will be considered carefully and considered often.

Wishing everyone a happy reading journey!

Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 5: Sourcing

Note: This is the fifth and final 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

Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 3: Additions

Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 4: The details


Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 4: The Details

Why do we have books in our classrooms? So that children have books all around them that they want to read. Each and every reader. Lots and lots of books. But as important as the books? The organization and display. Those readers need to be able to find the books they want to read. While you are thinking about the amazing, diverse and relevant titles that should be in your classroom library, don’t neglect the organization piece. That’s what this post is all about.

Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 4: The Details There's a Book for That

Note: This is the fourth 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

Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 3: Additions

The most important thing to know here? There is not one magical organization system. What works in my classroom might not work in yours. It won’t match your class environment. Your space. Your books. Or your readers. So my systems are merely suggestions. Don’t get obsessed with tape colours or types of stickers. Instead, think about key things: display, rotation, access, organization, tours, systems.

During the summer, I have time to get to those bins of books that need to be labelled, think about book display and work on other organizational tasks.

Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 4: The Details There's a Book for That

First let’s get some important things established.

  • I have blogged about classroom libraries before and I stand tallest behind these words:

No, I don’t level the books in my library but yes, I know how to find the right books for the right readers when difficulty level is an issue. Students are readers and they need to feel like there are lots of possibilities, not lots of limits.

This means a few things

  1. You need to know your books.
  2. You need to know your readers.
  3. You need to watch your readers because they will grow and change and develop new interests and new needs.
  4. Your classroom library needs to grow and change along with your readers and/or have places for your readers to grow into.
  • Books need to be organized. So that your students can access them. So that you can find them. Finding a book on a shelf with no systems is about luck and it takes time. Locating a book on a shelf with a system gives readers the gift of more reading time.
  • Systems must be taught (more on this below)
  • New books need to go through a process before they become part of the library (more on this too below)
  • It’s okay to have a classroom collection and a read aloud collection (that you rotate through the classroom collection so students have access)
  • Putting systems into place takes time but setting up systems so that everything has a place saves time later!

Some questions I think about that might be helpful for you to ask yourself:

  • Are there specific areas of the classroom library for all the different kinds of books (fiction, nonfiction, graphics and comics, picture books, chapter books, other formats like magazines, etc.)?
  • Do students know how the classroom library works?
  • Can students put books back properly? And if not, what system is in place for this?
  • Is there a place in your classroom for new books to be housed before they are labelled, etc.?
  • What kinds of display spaces do you have available? Outward display is key! Where is there space for this in the room?
  • Can books rotate through display shelves or specific bins?
  • Where will students keep books they are reading? What are the systems and guidelines around this?
  • Who gets to read the newest acquisitions? How does this work?
  • Can students take books home? What kind of expectations does this involve?

Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 4: The Details There's a Book for That

Below are my answers to the questions above. I have included these not because these are the “correct” answers but simply to give you some potential ideas or to start your thinking:

  • Are there specific areas of the classroom library for all the different kinds of books (fiction, nonfiction, graphics and comics, picture books, chapter books, other formats like magazines, etc.)? I have spread shelves around the classroom so that everywhere you look, there are books! I have a graphic and comics shelf, a nonfiction picture book shelf and a set of shelves for fiction (chapter books and picture books) I also have bins of picture books in 2 other shelf areas of the library. In the photo below (taken in the fall of 2016) you can see that fiction shelves begin at the bottom with picture books and as you go up the shelves, the books typically become longer and more complex. I simply tell students that the books on higher shelves might take longer to read. 

Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 4: The Details There's a Book for That

  • Do students know how the classroom library works? I spend a lot of time in the fall helping orient students to the library. We explore particular bins of books to learn about genre. I book talk a large variety of books and explicitly show students where those titles or others like them “live” on the shelves. We learn that book spines have tape or stickers which correspond to genre and that books are grouped by genre on the shelves. This Browse by Genre idea came from this post by the thoughtful Tricia Ebarvia.

Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 4: The Details There's a Book for That

  • Can students put books back properly? And if not, what system is in place for this? For those students who struggle with remembering where to return books back on the shelves or for students in a hurry, I have a large bin labelled Book Return and students place books in this bin to be later shelved by keen library helpers or myself. Most students do know where to return books though because of spine or back cover labels. Chapter books have genre labels and stickers on the spine and so books can be placed back with other titles with the same label. Picture books and nonfiction picture books all have back cover stickers that correspond to bin label. With some series, books are housed in a bin with that series labelled on the front. Once this is taught, it is easy for students to navigate.

Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 4: The Details There's a Book for That

  • Is there a place in your classroom for new books to be housed before they are labelled, etc.? This is important! I have a few clear plastic bins that I place new books in when I acquire them. I try to tackle these new titles every few weeks – even if I have just 10 minutes and get through just a few books. When the bins fill up, that’s a clear message to me to devote an hour or so to getting those new books out into the collection. Each book is labelled before it becomes part of the classroom library system. My name goes on each book – either in the first few pages with a book label or on the back cover with a simple white sticker.
  • What kinds of display spaces do you have available? Outward display is key! Where is there space for this in the room? The photo below shows a few options. This was taken during our Mock Caldecott unit and all of the picture books we were considering were displayed on magnetic ledges on the whiteboard. I also have three low display shelves (purchased through Scholastic) which hold our #classroombookaday titles and other picture books I read aloud. Two shelves hold fiction titles and one holds nonfiction titles. I have another wire display shelf on the nonfiction shelf which displays nonfiction titles. 

Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 4: The Details There's a Book for That

  • Can books rotate through display shelves or specific bins? The display shelves above hold books that I read aloud to my students. When they fill up, I return the books to specific bins in the classroom or to my read aloud collection to make room for more. I also have recently book talked books displayed outwardly on the book shelves or in a basket for students to find.
  • Where will students keep books they are reading? What are the systems and guidelines around this? My students keep books they are currently reading in their book boxes. We have general guidelines that we shouldn’t have more than 3 novels/graphic novels in the box at a time but our book enthusiasm often means the boxes are stuffed. When this happens, we have a book box clean out and add titles to our “Books I Want to Read” lists and find them later on the shelves. With younger students, I had a guideline that we tried to keep no more than 5 books in the box at a time. I teach students to keep books spine out so that we can find books and not to jam picture books that don’t fit into the boxes.

Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 4: The Details There's a Book for That

  • Who gets to read the newest acquisitions? How does this work? When I book talk new books, I display them on the ledge of the white board and students who are interested in reading the book add their name to the list. I then make a list adding student names randomly onto a sticky note that is kept on the inside page of the book. Students pass it to the next person on the list when they finish reading the book. Some people do book draws to create even more excitement.  

Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library. Step 4: The Details There's a Book for That

  • Can students take books home? What kind of expectations does this involve? I don’t allow students to take books home at the beginning of the year while we are learning to care for books and keep them organized. At this point, I encourage students to take books home from our school library and to visit the public library on a regular basis. Mid way through the fall, I do allow books to go home and simply keep track on a notepad. I do have a few guidelines though. Graphic novels don’t go home because there is too much wear and tear. I ask students to only have one book at a time at home. If students can not be responsible about returning books, we have a conversation. I have a few books that didn’t come back in the last week of school but hopefully I will see those titles in September. Our “loose” system worked just fine. If a few books go missing but students are reading avidly, I am perfectly fine with that.

Key things I have learned

  • Scotch tape is your friend. I cover every sticker, label or spine tape with scotch tape to ensure everything stays put!
  • Devote teaching time to learning the systems. It will pay off when you witness your students using the library with ease and keeping things organized.
  • Always be thinking about new creative ways to display books and to work book talks into your daily schedule. Advertise, bless and love these books!
  • Every time you are sure you have it all figured out, you will get a new idea or new inspiration and start thinking about changes . . .

Up next? It’s all ready. Or is it? Reaching out . . . Summer Maintenance in the Classroom Library Step 5: Sourcing

Stay tuned!

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!

Process: Slice of Life

Yesterday was my first “summer” work day back in my classroom. Living so close to my school, I can go in and putter around for a few hours here and there or dedicate entire days to getting specific tasks done. I wandered around the room yesterday transforming it from its fairly tidy end of June state to a complete pulled apart mess.

This is always the beginning for me – making it look much worse before it gets much better. I watered and repotted plants, leaving some stranded on tables waiting for a larger pot or a perfect new spot or both. Some surfaces got wiped down. Unsorted papers were stuffed in a few places waiting for a dedicated day, an empty recycling bin and a very strong coffee. Some furniture was shifted. Needing a second or third look before finding a “new year, new spot”. Again waiting. I need to clear some surfaces and clear out completely for a few days when the building engineers do the summer deep clean. Then I can come back in and again pull things apart before putting them back together.

Every year. The same process. Pulling it apart. Settling on the new. Organization. Systems. Flow. This process needs to happen each year. Shake it up. Smooth it out. Wonder and shift.

It happens with my classroom library as well. Every summer the shake up happens. I take my carefully organized library, turn it on its head and put it back ready for a new group of learners. To honour that writing too is a process, today’s slice is all about these classroom library tasks. Not the details but the beginning of the details. I have been thinking about doing a blog series about the maintenance of the classroom library that needs to happen each year. Today my writing is the skeleton of that series. The very beginning. The just ideas stage. The lists and tasks are both my schedule to follow and the beginning of a series of posts. I think. Process: Slice of Life

How does a blog post or a blog series happen? Just like many pieces of writing. Shaking it out. Sorting and shifting. Making a mess. Lining it up. Flushing it out.

This slice is not a finished piece. It is the beginning of the process. Lists. Ideas. Thinking on the page.

Here we go.

Classroom Library: Summer tasks Maintenance

  1. Returning displaced (why is it where it is) materials: class collection, read aloud collection. What’s changing? Weed as go (not so much weed out but moving to new places) Talk about different collections and reasons for organization (bins, labels, stickers, areas)
  2. Weeding – What goes? (less this year because of major work done last year) What changes? More dramatic this year because of grade level change. Beginning the list of “holes”/what’s missing? How are other titles stored? Can I have a lending library? Where? How? (Are number 1 and 2 two posts or one?)
  3. What gets added? Books not yet labelled (deciding what part of collection they will go into) Reorganizing to make space. How do I store books that don’t immediately get put into the collection. Book talk bins. Bins not yet labelled.
  4. The big organization is full of the little tasks – genre labels, systems, switching out bins and baskets. What materials does this involve? (stickers, labels, etc.) Location, location, location. Big shelves. Little people. Literally accessing the books. Stools?
  5. What is missing? Wish lists. The beginning of the noticing.  Diversity? Who are my readers? Will the books provide windows and mirrors?
  6. Bookstore visits. What am I looking for? What am I purchasing? What remains on the wish list. Priorities (definite gaps, Mock Caldecott titles, expanding nonfiction collection)
  7. Seeking out help. What titles specific to this grade level are must have titles? Importance of reading community. Blogs. Goodreads. Direct questions on twitter. Continued thinking about future readers (this links to #5) #7 and #6 should be switched.
  8. The ongoing piece of things. Is this separate post? Woven within? The lists I keep as I complete all of these tasks. Ideas of books for specific themes? To complement units and inquiry. Possible directions. Art ideas. Read alouds?

My intent with this series is to talk about what’s involved in maintaining a classroom library that meets the needs of its readers. It is work! Fun work but work.

Feedback? If you are reading this post, I would love some feedback. Would this be an interesting series for classroom teachers to read? Should I write it? What would you be particularly interested in reading about? Questions? Ideas?

Bad Irony: Slice of Life

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.

Books, books, books, everywhere you look: Celebration and Slice of Life #19

Books, books, books, everywhere you look

My classroom is a library. You can’t miss this from the moment you step in the door. There are books everywhere. One child observed the other day, “No matter where I am sitting, I can see books.” This is intentional. I want our classroom to be a place where students immerse themselves in stories, in information, in any text that is going to enrich their learning and their thinking.

If you are a student in our classroom, you are a part of our reading community and you really know what all of these books mean. These books are yours. You have complete access. Everywhere you look, you see possibilities, opportunities, stories you love and stories you want to love. “It’s pretty easy to be a reader in this room,” a student told me recently. Yes. The books are here. The time to read them is made. The excitement is consistent. But it doesn’t happen by pure osmosis. We work on being readers. And sometimes the work is hard. But we become readers, surrounded by books.

I read Pernille Ripp‘s recent post about classroom libraries this morning: On the Need for Classroom Libraries for All Ages. She makes excellent points about the difference a classroom library makes for her Grade 7 students. It made me want to celebrate my classroom library because I believe pretty passionately in its existence. But some of the comments also compelled me to want to address how vital classroom libraries are – not in place of a school library, but as a complement. I wish, really, that the conversation wasn’t necessary but I know from comments I have heard over the years that some people believe that classroom libraries aren’t overly important. Or that they actually interfere or compete with a school library. The arguments include statements like these: classroom libraries are not all that well stocked, the books aren’t selected by a qualified Teacher Librarian, teachers don’t know how to weed, there isn’t enough diversity. Or the big concern: classroom libraries will mean less interest in the school library making school libraries unnecessary.

Books, books, books, everywhere you look

I would argue that the very people who have extensive, well-loved classroom libraries, are the very people who know there are never enough books and never enough expertise. We are the champions of well-funded school libraries. We revere our Teacher Librarians and seek out their recommendations and knowledge often, We ensure that our students get frequent time in the school library. We take out bins and bins of books and bring them into our classroom collections. We can’t imagine a school without a library. Just like we can’t imagine a classroom without a library. Just like we can’t imagine a reader without a book.

Classroom libraries mean each child is steps away from a book at all times. These libraries mean that we can get up when our mood switches – put down our novel and pick up a book of poems. We can immerse ourselves in a nonfiction text and come up for air five minutes before the bell rings to read a picture book. We can pass the book to the child next to us without any signing in, signing out time spent.

Classroom libraries are like a living, breathing, ever-changing creature. They reflect the interests, the questions and the passions of the readers in the room. Highlighted books will include favourite authors or illustrators, themes of study, books to inspire writing on a particular theme. In my classroom, we have a recently read shelf for both fiction and nonfiction books. If we read it, they can find it and quick. Often children want to visit those stories we have shared together again and again. A classroom library is an extension of its readers. It is their mirror. The bright shiny button on their favourite jacket. The delicious cookie in the jar almost, but not quite, out of reach.

There is an intimacy to a classroom. As teachers, we know our students. If we also know our books and have plenty to choose from, we can make those essential matches happen. My daughter wisely pointed out: “The teacher who owns the books knows you and so they know which book to recommend to you.” Of course, librarians know students too. Often very well. But remember this is not an argument for one library over the other. We are celebrating readers and access to books here.

I also think that those not in full support of classroom libraries, may not understand how workshop classrooms work. They may assume that reading happens during a silent reading block and then again in a reading period where the teacher supplies the material – a novel, an article, a reader. During silent reading, it is assumed, that students can easily be reading a book that they have taken out from a school library. During the reading lesson, students will be provided with reading material. While yes, this might be the case in some classrooms, it is not the way a Reading Workshop classroom works. During reading conferences, we leap up and make book recommendations, we help students select titles, we provide time to “book shop” in the collection. Peers recommend books to each other. We book talk titles and students make lists of what to read in the future. There is time to buddy read. There is permission to get up and abandon a book. All of this means books need to be available and organized – accessible in the moment for readers on an important reading journey.

This is hardly the first time I have talked about classroom libraries and it is unlikely to be the last. My classroom library is always changing because it needs to meet the needs of the students who use it. I keep writing about it and reading avidly all the while, because I want to offer my students the very best literacy experiences I can provide.

Today, I celebrate classroom libraries. I celebrate teachers who invest time, money and love into creating reading environments for the readers in their rooms. I know these teachers know books, know kids and keep reading and learning so that they can always learn more.  I celebrate those that invest in classroom libraries because they know how important that one book might be for that one child and that means many books for the many children who will pass through a room. I also celebrate the children who have classrooms that honour them as readers. Classroom libraries mean something. Something big.

If you, like me, are in the mood to celebrate classroom libraries, I include links to some of these other posts here.

Talking Classroom Libraries

How to Organize a Classroom Library: 20 points to consider

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, ten important features

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: A room full of nonfiction

Literary Nest Building 101


Bad Irony: Slice of Life

I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.

This is also a celebration post.

Thank you to Ruth Ayres and the #celebratelu community!

Being part of a community that regularly shares gratitude and celebrations truly transforms my weeks.