For elementary-age students, a well-organized classroom library can spark a love of reading that will last a lifetime. If the idea of setting up a classroom library seems intimidating, don’t worry! Here are our favorite tips for organizing and maintaining your library so that it’s easy to use (and keep track of) for years to come.
Categorize Your Books
The first step in organizing your library is deciding how to categorize your books. You can choose to sort by genre, topic, theme, reading level, and more. You might choose to sort by author for younger students because it’s a straightforward system that they can understand. There’s no wrong way to categorize — you know what’s best for your classroom and students. Just be sure to consider grade level and how many books you have.
Provide Comfortable Reading Areas in the Classroom
One of the best ways to encourage students to read is by creating reading spaces in the classroom. For silent reading time, make cushions, bean bag chairs, or even small rugs available for students to use. By letting students leave their desk to read, you are showing them that reading is an enjoyable treat!
Keep Track of Your Books
Whether you choose to create a spreadsheet, Word doc, or some other catalog is up to you, but you should be able to update your list as you add/remove books from your collection.
Label Your Books
Labeling your books is a smart way to make sure they don’t get lost. You could use a stamp with your name and class number on it, or a color-coded system.
Store Your Books
Next, it’s time to decide how you want to sort your books. For elementary-age students, bins are useful because they can store large picture books and are easy to organize. Bins also let students see the book’s cover without removing it from a shelf. If possible, match the color on the label to the color of the bin for added organization! This makes it easy for you to see if a book is out of place.
Design a Checkout System
This is another way to make sure books don’t get lost. For younger children, a simple approach is best. Having students sign out books on a posted checkout list or in a checkout binder is easy for them to remember. Next, decide if you’ll let students take the books home, or if they should stay in the classroom for in-class reading time. Finally, figure out how long students can keep books. A week is a good place to start.
Determine the Consequences for Losing or Damaging Books
Teaching students the proper way to handle library books is important at the elementary level. You can make a poster with rules such as using a bookmark, turning pages carefully to avoid tearing, keeping books off the floor, and more. Of course, keep in mind the ages of your students when deciding rules and consequences.
Designate Time for Reading
It’s no secret that studies link stronger reading skills to better test scores. Set aside time every day, or even a few times a week, for students to read a book of their own choosing. This encourages them to make it a part of their routine at home also.
Center Class Activities Around Library Books
Incorporating books into class activities is another great way to make the most of your classroom library. Book reports may not be ideal for younger students, but there are other options: Scholastic suggests having them write a letter to their favorite character, design a new cover for the book, or dramatize an alternate ending.
When you use these simple tips, you’ll be able to set up a classroom library that encourages your elementary-age students to truly enjoy reading. For even more ideas on how to organize your classroom, click here. And for an in-depth look at proven organization methods, check out our course, Operation Organization: Establishing Order in Your Classroom . It guides you in creating an organization plan that makes sense for your students and instructional goals, so that you can focus on helping your students learn.