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’e 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.

celebrate-link-up

Celebration: Literacy to fill the year (2015)

I have been writing and planning numerous posts on the blog all about best and favourites of the year. Looking back through blog posts is such an interesting process – whether it is searching for books or searching for moments. I find the summarizing strangely comforting. So, I am going to do it again. This time? I am capturing a year of literacy thinking in the posts that highlight my passion: all things literacy connected to all things children. 🙂

Today, I celebrate what I feel are the ten “best of the year” posts on this blog related to reading, readers and #booklove.

In no particular order . . .

# 1 All author visits are all kinds of amazing. This one, from Calef Brown, was particularly out of this world. We were as excited to share the land we had created in his honour as Calef was eager to share his new book of poems with us. Read more here: Celebration: Calef Brown Land

Celebration: Literacy to fill the year (2015) There's a Book for That

#2 Camp Read – a day when everything is about reading and books. The absolute best! I highlighted this amazing day at my school here: Celebration: Camp Read Meeting author Dan Bar-el was an absolute highlight of the day!

Celebration: Literacy to fill the year (2015) There's a Book for That

#3 My first #MockCaldecott was in January of 2015. What a beautiful, literacy rich experience! I shared it here: Celebration: Mock Caldecott Results and Feedback

Celebration: Literacy to fill the year (2015) There's a Book for That

#4 I believe so strongly in the importance of sharing nonfiction titles in our classrooms. Part of that is exposing students to titles they want to read on their own and expanding their knowledge of the huge variety of nonfiction titles out there. I blogged about this here: Nonfiction conversations: Book sharing circles – What nonfiction titles are we drawn to and why?

Celebration: Literacy to fill the year (2015) There's a Book for That

#5 And while we are still talking nonfiction books? A nonfiction tour of my classroom: A room full of nonfiction

Celebration: Literacy to fill the year (2015) There's a Book for That

Talking about classroom libraries has been a bit of an obsession this year. I have it right for about twenty-two seconds before I change things again. All through the process, I share.

#6 My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features 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. Reader statements from my students are an important part of our learning.

Celebration: Literacy to fill the year (2015) There's a Book for That

#7  I began this post, explaining that my classroom is a library: How to organize a classroom library: 20 points to consider Through various images and some brief thoughts, I tried to capture some essential parts of building, organizing, maintaining and using a classroom library. Labels are key!

Celebration: Literacy to fill the year (2015) There's a Book for That

#8 In this post Talking Classroom Libraries, I shared a list of questions we might begin with when thinking about how our classroom libraries work for our students.

Celebration: Literacy to fill the year (2015) There's a Book for That

#9 What are the goals for my readers? I started with some questions. Sunday Reflections: Goals for my Readers

Celebration: Literacy to fill the year (2015) There's a Book for That

#10 Literary Nest Building 101: in this post, I expressed my goals for growing passionate readers during this 2015/2016 year

Celebration: Literacy to fill the year (2015) There's a Book for That

Today, I celebrate all of my literacy learning and thinking in 2015. Sharing it here means I learn from my own reflections and the readers who join in the conversations.

Thank you to Ruth Ayres and the #celebratelu community!

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

celebrate-link-up

Celebration: From Here

If you read this blog, you know I am a reader who shares. I am a teacher who believes in the transformative power of stories. I spend thousands of dollars and endless time filling, organizing and thinking about my classroom library. Recently, I have shared details about it here and here and here.

This year, I moved from a grade 3/4 class (mostly 4s) to a grade 2/3 class (mostly 2s). This summer, I spent time switching out books that would likely not be at the reading or interest level of my new students. I thought a lot about how to ensure I “switched on” the reading love with this new group. I even wrote a post about it: Literary Nest Building 101. Two weeks in, some of my instincts were bang on. We are reading a lot of humour filled silly stories. Read aloud time is joyous! It often ends with “Read it again!” We read multiple times a day. Every afternoon we begin with a #classroombookaday and on Friday we vote for our favourite. The children love this. One of them has even figured out that I will share the news with the author if I can.

“Ms. Gelson you have to tweet Cece Bell! I Yam a Donkey is the winner of the vote this week! Tweet her so she knows.”

Celebration: From Here There is a Book for That

We have connected books with celebration. We read the amazing story The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds and made a dot of dots. This dot is now hanging in our room and we broke out a fancy felt pen to have each of us sign our names around the outside.

Celebration: From Here There is a Book for That

Our first chapter book read aloud was the perfect pick for many children who have never listened to a chapter book read aloud. It is illustrated, it is full of kid humour and fun and it works a little bit like magic. As soon as I start reading it, these little bundles of energy and distractibility start to calm as they inch closer and closer to me to listen at the carpet. I think some of them even hold their breath as they listen. I feel little hands on my arm, on my shoe, on my leg as if touching me can bring them further into the book. When Dory explained about ketchup monster noises, there was a whisper, “So that’s what that noise is.” When Dory shot Mrs. Gobble Gracker in the butt with a sleeping dart, there was pure joy that their teacher said “in the butt” out loud! They laughed and giggled but they also shared knowing smiles that said, “How cool are we?” I hear them heading home at the end of the day debating whether Mary, the Monster is really a monster, really even real or some strange talking dog. 🙂 I will be forever in your debt Abby Hanlon for Dory Fantasmagory!

Dory Fantasmagory Celebration: From Here There is a Book for That

We started our first nonfiction read aloud: Guess What is Growing Inside this Egg by Mia Posada and the children love listening for “specific” words to add to our vocabulary list. Words like swamp, water-proof and instinct. Many of them were delighted when I explained to them that they could take their new knowledge home to share with their families. I am sure a lot of Moms and Dads and Grandmas heard about how alligators, despite all of their teeth actually don’t chew their food but swallow it whole. “I guess their teeth are just there to look scary,” suggested one child.

guess what is growing inside this egg Celebration: From Here There is a Book for That

These children love books. They love stories. They love to be read to. They love to sit with a book that we have read together and in twos or threes retell or reread the story. I think I have heard Chris Haughton‘s Shh! We have a Plan about thirty times. I might have it memorized! Such an engaging fun book to read and feel successful.

“Ready one . . . ready two . . . Ready three . . . GO! “

Shh! We have a plan Celebration: From Here There is a Book for That

And . . . (I am not going to write but) many children (more than half) in my new classroom are not reading even close to grade level “expectations.” This, I was not fully prepared for. Not to this extent, not so many children. Expectations, levels, proficiency are all descriptors that can officially name what is happening for these students. I am going to name it this way: they aren’t independent. (“Can you read this to me?” “I wish I could read this book.”) They desperately want to be. (“I really need to learn to read more words.”) They don’t identify as readers. (“I can’t read.” “I don’t know how.”) They can’t self select titles that correspond to their levels. (filling book boxes with chapter books because this is what they want to read when they can’t read 90% of the text on the page.) They need to be reading and they aren’t and this is not okay.

I feel a lot of things as I have discovered this. I feel angry and I am not going to elaborate on what I know has gone wrong. I feel worried. I feel little moments of desperate. This isn’t grade 1 where my task is to grow readers from non readers. This is grade 2 and 3 where I must now grow readers and play all kinds of catch up. I feel responsible. But most importantly, I feel urgent. And this is what I celebrate – the urgency of my task. The advocacy that needs to happen. My determination. It is fierce. My fear. It is motivating. My breath. It keeps me grounded. Somehow, someway, we are going to change things for these children.

I began sharing wordless titles in “tell aloud” experiences to make the point that we can read with or without words. That the pictures tell a story. That our own experiences and inferences fill in the missing pieces. That we have a sense of stories that is in us and we bring it to the books we read.

hank finds an egg Celebration: From Here There is a Book for That

Friday afternoon, I packed up books from the classroom library into three rubbermaid bins. 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.

Celebration: From Here There is a Book for That

I filled display shelves with titles we have read and loved together. We need to look around and see our reading experiences in our environment.

Celebration: From Here There is a Book for That

I went to the library and brought up bins of levelled readers and have them available not to start labelling a child with a number but to have titles to place into book boxes that match reading ability and a “ladder” to climb. I filled some other display shelves full of books that many of us can read with success. Displaying titles honours them. It screams, “Hey you! Read me!” It says these books are for us.

Celebration: From Here There is a Book for That Celebration: From Here There is a Book for That

I celebrate that I must get my students reading. I acknowledge the fear and the worry. I accept the challenge. I celebrate the necessity, the urgency and the will.

From here . . . here we go.

Thank you to Ruth Ayres and the #celebratelu community! Happy 100 celebrations! I haven’t shared 100 times yet. But, in the future, I will get there. Every celebration gives me more.

Being part of a community that regularly shares gratitude and celebrations truly transforms my weeks. This week, knowing that I must celebrate allowed me to frame this challenge in the most positive way possible. Healthy for me, necessary for my students.

celebrate-link-up

How to organize a classroom library: 20 points to consider

This is not a comprehensive “how to” list because it has been my experience that when people begin with, “I need to work on my classroom library . . . ” they have, at the most, a twenty minute attention span before they can’t absorb any more. There is a lot to consider and time to process is necessary.

How to organize a classroom library: 20 points to consider There's a Book for That

*I am often asked to share a photo of my classroom library. The thing is . . . my classroom is a library. Where is the library within the classroom? Where is the classroom within the library? Who knows? Throughout this post, I will share various photos from my classroom library. Will I capture every part? Probably not.

Thinking classroom libraries? Have 20 minutes? 20 points to consider

#1 Read the books in your classroom library for pleasure, just like you want your students to read them. Appreciate the illustrations. Giggle. Reread amazing lines. Fall in love with the stories. Don’t just read with lessons and themes in mind.

#2 If you haven’t read the books or you don’t know about the books (familiar with the author, series, have read detailed reviews, etc.) you won’t be able to talk about the books. Unless your students are familiar with particular titles already, they won’t read them. They need your blessing, your expertise and eventually, your guidance in cultivating their own ability to be each other’s reading community.

#3 Book talk, book talk, book talk. And then book talk some more. Read an excerpt. Rave. Show a book trailer. Have students or guests share what they love.

#4 Organize your library like you love it (and don’t you?). All of those special books need special places to be.

How to organize a classroom library: 20 points to consider There's a Book for That

#5 Weed your collection. If it’s old and falling apart, it needs to go. If it is never read and you wouldn’t want to read it, pass it on. If it is well loved, falling apart and still circulating, try and replace it.

#6 Reflect your readers. Their interaction and use of the books is what makes it a functioning library. It can be beautiful. It can be organized. If nobody is reading the books, none of that matters. This year, I will have a younger group so I spent some time moving some titles more suited to intermediate readers into temporary storage bins. If I notice that my new readers are crazy for a particular genre, author or series, I will try and add more of those titles into our collection. The library is not fixed, it’s fluid.

How to organize a classroom library: 20 points to consider There's a Book for That

#7 Give a library orientation. Make sure your students know how to find the books they are looking for. They won’t know by osmosis. Bring out the bins, do mini tours, give them time to explore and then lots of time to read what they find.

How to organize a classroom library: 20 points to consider There's a Book for That

#8 Systems matter. The labels, the bins, how to put books back, how to borrow books (if they go home) how long you can have one particular book, etc. All of it matters so everyone has access and the library runs smoothly. A few of my “tricks”: stickers on the back that correspond to stickers on the bins, lots of review with how to use the system and a “chapter book return” and “picture book return” bin in case the students don’t remember where to put the books. There is no one way to do it. Figure out what works for you and your readers.

#9 Match bins (if you use bins) for a visually less busy look. Some people have all uniform size and colour for bins. Others have one kind for picture books and another for novels. I ended up with numerous bins – some with multiple sections that are quite expensive so I don’t want to toss them all out and start new. In my library, colour is connected to genre. Red is fiction (picture books). Yellow is for buddy reading and beginning titles. Blue is for series. Green is for comics and graphics. Clear is nonfiction. There is no reason for this other than it worked for the books and the bins I had.

How to organize a classroom library: 20 points to consider There's a Book for That

#10 The importance of outward display can never, ever, be over stated. The covers can be seen? Those books will be read more often. Guaranteed. If possible, have multiple book shelves where you can display the covers. Ledges, mounted rain gutters, tops of white boards – all of these things work too!

How to organize a classroom library: 20 points to consider There's a Book for That

#11 Keep track of what books in a series you have. When you are in the bookstore and there is a sale, you will not remember if it is Baby Mouse #14 or #15 that you still need. You really won’t. I have a little notebook where I keep lists of titles I have and titles I need and throw that notebook in my bag whenever I go book shopping.

#12 Sometimes when a reader finds a series, it is meant to be. While they are hooked, make sure they can find what they are looking for. Keep series together where they can easily be accessed.

How to organize a classroom library: 20 points to consider There's a Book for That

#13 Students don’t have to have access to all the books all the time. It’s okay to have a read aloud collection.  Just don’t store those books and forget about them. Share them. Keep them circulating.

How to organize a classroom library: 20 points to consider There's a Book for That

#14 Know books – not just the books in your collection, but the books that could be a part of it in the future. Keep current! Read blogs that book lovers keep. The #IMWAYR and #nfpb2015 community (follow those twitter hashtags) will keep you in the know. The Nerdy Book club blog (you are following this blog right?) also has a list of blogs on its site.

#15 Add to your collection. Everyone loves new books! It is always exciting to share them. New titles bring renewed life to your library. Unveil them and bring them in with some kind of ceremony and lots of gushing and students will be rushing to read them.

How to organize a classroom library: 20 points to consider There's a Book for That

#16 A classroom library requires ongoing upkeep. It’s like a garden. You can’t plant it and expect it to flourish all on its own. It will take time both during the year and possibly on some school breaks to keep things running smoothly and to make necessary changes.

#17 Spend the time being reflective and thinking about organization – as your library grows, you want to still be able to lay hands on a title you are looking for. If your organizational systems makes sense (to you) this will always be possible.

How to organize a classroom library: 20 points to consider There's a Book for That

#18 A library is an investment. It takes time. It takes money. If it takes less money (outright spending), it will take more time (sourcing titles, dealing with donations, writing wish lists, visiting garage sales, etc.) There is no way around this.

#19 You will never be done. Creating a classroom library is a labour of love. Enjoy it. Tinker. Fiddle. Sit in the middle of the floor and read a book. Make new favourites. Revisit old favourites. Move things around. Watch your readers to see what’s working. Get back in there and change some things again.

#20 Whenever you feel a little bit of book shopping guilt, think about the number of readers who will love each title. Each book, really, is priceless.

How to organize a classroom library: 20 points to consider There's a Book for That

There are some things I didn’t touch on here that I often get asked so let’s make it 25 things 🙂

  • 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.
  • Yes, I do spend a lot of my own money. When I can, I access donations, gifts, books passed on. Sometimes, I am blessed to receive books for my room from a variety of generous people. There can never be too many books and I do my best to pass on books to other classroom or school libraries when I can. But I believe in very big ways in having a room full of books for students to access and I don’t ever regret investing in making this happen for the children I teach.
  • Yes, I do make changes to my classroom library every summer. Sometimes, minor, sometimes more extreme. I do have it all figured out for about five minutes every year and then I get some new ideas or learn something new and . . .
  • No, there is no perfect book purchasing list out there for you. It does exist, but you have to make it and realize that it will change over time to reflect your readers and their interests.
  • Yes, I would love to hear from you! Anything to add? Your own helpful hints? Please share in the comments so that we can continue the conversation.

You may also enjoy:

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, ten important features

Celebration: Talking Classroom Libraries

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: A room full of nonfiction

Literary Nest Building 101

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: A room full of nonfiction

I have written many times about how important I think it is to have students to have books in their environment – books that they can interact with, books to read, books that are read to them and books to look at from across the room and think, “Hmm, I’d really like to read that!”

Nonfiction titles are especially wonderful because they spark curiosity, are the perfect thing to enhance and inspire learning on various topics and can be picked up and put down when there are a few minutes here and there to read.

I decided to do a little bit of a nonfiction book tour of my room and sneak in a few favourite titles here and there. Nonfiction books everywhere you look!

For starters, I have a vast personal collection of titles that I read aloud, pull out when we are studying specific topics and use for reference texts to support certain students who have specific questions about their world.

 Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: A room full of nonfiction There's a Book for That

There are four bins of books here like this one below 🙂 I have organized these by theme for easy access (like Ecology, Mammals, Science Concepts, Water, etc)

 Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: A room full of nonfiction There's a Book for That

A few favourites that I have recently added to these bins:

Water is Water written by Miranda Paul and illustrated by Jason Chin

Water Is Water- A Book About the Water Cycle Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: A room full of nonfiction There's a Book for That

Wandering Whale Sharks by Susumu Shingu

Wandering Whale Sharks Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: A room full of nonfiction There's a Book for That

Weeds Find a Way written by Cindy Jenson-Elliott and illustrated by Carolyn Fisher

 Weeds Find a Way Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: A room full of nonfiction There's a Book for That

In this same area I have a bin of picture book biographies.

 Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: A room full of nonfiction There's a Book for That

I love to share biographies with my class. One title I plan to read early in the year is Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah written by Laurie Ann Thompson and illustrated by Sean Qualls

Emmanuel's Dream- The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah

On another book shelf I have other reference material – both nonfiction and fiction.

 Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: A room full of nonfiction There's a Book for That

In the wonder/nature section are titles like these.

 Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: A room full of nonfiction There's a Book for That

When we are in the full swing of things, the “recently read/booktalked nonfiction shelf” might look like this:

 Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: A room full of nonfiction There's a Book for That

And always, climbing up our walls are book jackets and relevant vocabulary.

 Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: A room full of nonfiction There's a Book for That

In one corner by the sinks is a bin of interesting fact and reference books that I change up every month or so. There is empty counter space here to open up the books and begin reading.

 Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: A room full of nonfiction There's a Book for That

I just pulled some titles out of the nonfiction section of the library so that it reflects the reading and interest levels of the new students coming in – younger readers than last year. If I am wrong, I have some texts in bins ready to pull back out.

We have lots of nonfiction readers.

 Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: A room full of nonfiction There's a Book for That

And a large collection of titles for independent and buddy reading

 Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: A room full of nonfiction There's a Book for That

In some bins, dividers help students who are looking for a particular topic.

 Nonfiction in the Room There's a Book for That

Hugely popular series in these bins include:

Creepy Creatures titles by Valerie Bodden

Mites Creepy Creatures Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: A room full of nonfiction There's a Book for That

The Grow with Me series

Grow with me Butterfly Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: A room full of nonfiction There's a Book for That

Scholastic Discover More titles

Scholastic Discover More Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: A room full of nonfiction There's a Book for That

That was a mini tour of the nonfiction in my room. Where can nonfiction titles be found in your classroom/library?

Thanks to Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy for the inspiration to read and share more nonfiction picture books in 2015. Follow the link to Alyson’s blog to read about more nonfiction books you need to read!

#nfpb2015

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?