Since our school doesn't have a library, I was under a great deal of pressure to have an amazing classroom library, to expose my kids to a wide variety of reading material. Luckily, throughout my internship and two years of teaching experience, I have managed to get my hands on a great deal of books. It's funny, when I was starting out, I was thinking, oh my gosh, its going to be impossible to get so many books to fill my classroom! But really, I felt like they just sort of fell into my lap!
Anyway, I wanted to organize my books in a way that supported my students of learning the skill of choosing their own level of book. All too often you wander into a classroom where all of the books are already leveled, and the child does no work in choosing a just right fit book. He goes over to the "J" basket, looks through it, and takes whatever one that looks the most interesting. Well unfortunately, life doesn't really work like that in the real world. Libraries do not have leveled books; it is up to the reader to decide if they can understand the words and meaning. Same for bookstores, garage sales, etc. I want finding a just right fit book to be something that is automatic. It will take practice, sure. But somewhere in there, they will learn the confidence to walk into any place with books, open one up, and decide for themselves whether or not it is suitable for them.
I ended up just going through my mountains of books and throwing them into piles. A pile for bugs, a pile for space, a pile for Clifford, Arthur, Dr. Seuss- I had so many piles! But when I was done, it felt like a much more organized space than just putting them into crates, like I see some teachers doing. I did end up actually throwing in my leveled books from Journeys just so that I could know what level they were really reading at. (They like knowing what level they are at too!) I kept them in separate containers from the other books though.
As I had said previously, my room was so small that I needed to really be careful of how my library was set up. I had so many books that I needed a lot of room, but didn't exactly have the room for it. I had an idea to set up my library like a book store, with "isles" for convenient and space saving shopping. Here are my "isles" from a side view.
The top bins hold the Journey's leveled readers. They go from A to L. Under those are the categories of books. I got those book bins from the Dollar Tree!
I ended up having some books that I didn't know how to categorize. I put them in that crate. Still not sure what to do with them, but they are still available for book shopping.
No doubt, all these categories and book bins would be really confusing for any teacher, much less a first grader. But I created a management system for these books so that all kids can put these books back where they belong EVERY TIME. I put a colorful garage sale sticker (just the little circle one) on the back of all the books, then covered it up with tape. Then I wrote a number on each one that corresponds to which book bin it belongs in. I wrote the number OVER the tape because, if need be down the line, you can get the marker off the tape to assign it a new number. (Color over it with white board marker, and it wipes right off!) Now at this point of the year (March) the numbers are starting to come off the books, but by now, everybody can guess where each book belongs. I'll have to go back and rewrite some of the numbers though... =/
Now, as for categories, I wanted to give my kids something to look at when shopping for books. A sort of reference for all the categories of books that I had. I came up with this list that I posted inside the library in both isles.
All in all, I have 36 categories. I catch my kids standing there, just looking at this list, thinking of the possibilities! I love it.
If you would like to download my category list click here!