Tips for Developing a Classroom Library

Picture Courtesy of @heisereads
Recently, I was visiting a number of elementary schools.  As I walked through classrooms, I glanced around to check out the classroom library or reading corners.  To be honest, I was expecting that every class would have a library filled with books and the books would be well-tended and arranged in a manner that motivated children to read.  (Thanks Nerdy Book Club friends, you have spoiled me as to how a classroom library should look and be maintained.) However, that is far from what I discovered.  I was also, surprised to discover that the condition of the classroom libraries didn't seem to be related to the type of school (high performing vs. a struggling school) or the skill level classroom teachers or number of years that the teacher had been teaching.

Here are a few things I noticed:

* Classrooms with little to no library or book/reading corner - None, Zippo, Nada!

* Upper Grade Classrooms with little to no chapter books or novels - only picture books.

* Classroom libraries with no organization - books were displayed or shelved any which way.

This made me sad.  Really, really sad!  It seems that some teachers believe that a classroom library should be provided completely by the District. Others don't want to invest in a classroom library because the children won't take care of the books.  And others seem willing but maybe lack the understanding of how to organize books.

Here are a few tips for developing and organizing your classroom library:

1.  Develop your own classroom library. - You know your students and your curriculum and can do a more effective job at building your own classroom library.  Fill your shelves with books that will motivate your readers.   And don't forget to add a significant amount of nonfiction to your collection. 

Photo Courtesy of @frankisibberson

2.  Build your library slowly. - Don't expect to have 1000 books in your library overnight.  - When I was in the classroom full-time, I utilized things like Scholastic Book Clubs, and Book Fair Wishlists, and checking books out of the public library, and writing grants to develop my classroom library.  You will be surprised at how quickly your library will grow.

Photo Courtesy of @literacydocent

3.  Teach your students to care for the books in the classroom.  -  Many students are happy to come in during lunch or after school to help re-shelve books or to organize them.  By talking with students about the importance of caring for books, it will help you maintain books in good condition so that others can enjoy them too.

Photo Courtesy of @utalaniz

4.  Develop a system for organizing your classroom library.  - Bookshelves, baskets, bins, and more can be used to organize and display books.  Depending on the size and layout of your classroom, you might require several systems.

Photo Courtesy of @katsok

5.  Even Picture Books require organization. - Picture books belong in all classrooms from kindergarten on up.  However, it is important to organize them by genre, special interest, or author/illustrator in order to assist students in accessing the books that they may be interested in.   

Photo Courtesy of @katsok

6.  Classroom libraries need to span a wide range of readers. - In addition to picture books, classrooms require a variety of early readers, chapter books, and novels that will appeal to a wide range of students with various reading abilities.

Photo Courtesy of @utalaniz
7.   Access to books. - For some children, the only access to books will be the ones in your classroom.  If these students are going to develop into fluent and skilled readers, it is critical that they have books available to them to read. 
Photo Courtesy of @literacydocent

Since I am not currently a classroom teacher, I didn't have any classroom pictures of my own to share in this post.  I am forever thankful to @katsok, @heisereads, @frankisibberson, @literacydocent and @utalaniz for the contribution of pictures from their classrooms.  If there were any doubt, these are examples of what a classroom library school look like.    

Do you have tips to share about how to develop a classroom library?  Any helpful hints organizing the library?  Please leave a comment below.