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Setting Up and Maintaining Your Classroom Library

Updated: Oct 24, 2023

I don't know about you but I love a good library. In fact, I love any collection of books.

Usually, when I visit someone's home for the first time, I take a peek at the bookshelf. It is an easy way to gain a better understanding of my new friend. A classroom library works in a similar way; is more than just a collection of books. It is a gateway to endless adventures for our students to explore, imagine, and learn and sends the message that we are a community of inclusive, diverse learners.

Each year, I review and revamp my classroom library in the hopes continuing to foster a love for reading and enhance language skills.

Here are the steps I take to create an inviting classroom library:

Step 1: What do I hope my students take away?

The first step in setting up a classroom library is to envision what you want it to be. I consider the age and interests of my students, the curriculum, and any specific themes I want them to explore. I work in Ontario, Canada and recently, our Language curriculum changed. When I think about my vision, I aim for diversity in genres, cultural representation, and reading levels to cater to a wide range of reading abilities, interests and curriculum expectations.

Step 2: Assess and Curate

I'll start by looking over the books I already have in my classroom. Are any damaged, old or contain messages that are not inclusive or culturally responsive? Next, I will use the resources I have including to fellow educators, parents, and community members for book donations. Thrift stores and online resources such as Facebook Marketplace are also great places to find affordable books.

Step 3: Organize with Care

It's time to organize! How do you want to create a system for categorizing books? Based on genres, topics, or reading levels? I love colorful labels or stickers to make it visually appealing and easy for students to find the books they want. My classroom library is housed in a (refurbished!) IKEA bookshelf and old rotating tower a retiring teacher did not want. Baskets are labeled with series titles or alphabetical keys to help guide students and keep it neat. I also keep two comfy chairs, pillows and mats available for students to feel cozy in comfortable seating when they are curled up with a good book.

Step 4: Make it Interactive

Engage your students and make the library space interactive. Create book recommendation cards, where students can write brief reviews or share their thoughts about a particular book. This will not only encourage other students to read but also foster a sense of community within the classroom. Another idea is to have a "Book of the Month" display. This is often our read aloud but it can also be a new addition to your classroom library to build interest.

Interested in FREE Book of the Week, Book of the Month and student Book Recommendation cards? Subscribe below to gain access to my Resource Library for your instant download!

Step 5: Promote a Reading Culture

Set aside dedicated reading time during the day, where students can freely choose a book from the classroom library and immerse themselves in the joy of reading. Model reading behavior by sharing your favorite books and reading alongside your students.

One awesome way to build excitement about reading is to invite authors or community members for reading sessions or book talks to inspire students further. Don't let the logistics of doing this stop you! I often use YouTube to find pre-recorded book talks from popular authors that students can watch.

We Are Teachers has a blog post dedicated to virtual author activities to get you started :)

Step 6: Maintain and Grow

Maintaining the library is crucial to its success... and respecting your efforts. It is frustrating when books I purchased or those that were kindly donated disappear or are damaged. Therefore, I encourage students to handle books with care and respect. At the beginning of the school year, when I introduce and explain the library, students write an individual pledge in their journal about what it means to take care of the books and the space. Also, (classroom job alert!), designate student librarians who can help organize and keep track of borrowed books.

But wait! Please don't think, "Oh no, more paper and things to keep track of!" One great way to stay organized is with Classroom Booksource - an online catalogue system that you can use to keep track of book check in and outs. Stay tuned for a blog post about how I use Classroom Booksource, coming soon!

A well-designed classroom library is not just a physical space; it is a place to share new worlds and endless possibilities with your students. Don't be discouraged if you are just starting out! It took years for my classroom library to grow and it will continue to grow as long as I continue to teach to the needs and diversity of my students :)

Do you have any tips or tricks that you want to share? I'd love to hear them! Comment below!

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