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Organizing Your Classroom Library

It's that time again: preparing your classroom, unpacking boxes of books, notebook paper, and students' journals, and of course, attending faculty meetings. I'm also hoping that you've been collecting books for your classroom library, as access to books is crucial for developing readers from K to 12. My eighth graders tell me that they love "having books at their fingertips." I couldn't agree more. Here are some tips for using your library to showcase books and advertise to students that reading is great fun!
  • Organize books on your shelves by genre because that's the way students shop for books: fantasy, suspense, adventure, realistic fiction, historical fiction, biography and autobiography, science fiction, informational texts, graphic novels, magazines, newspapers, short stories, folk tales, etc. Tape an index card printed with the name of the genre onto the appropriate bookshelf.
  • On each shelf, place one or two books with the cover facing out so students see the inviting illustrations and titles. Change these featured books each month and call students' attention to the changes.
  • Feature a genre or author every six weeks. Place these books on your desk, on windowsills, on the chalkboard tray, and book talk one each day. A book talk can simply be reading the first two pages, or sharing the back cover matter with students. You don't have to read every book you add to your library. Challenge students to go on the author's web site and share information with the class.
  • Have a sign-out notebook for students to complete: students write the title and their name when they check out a book. Students cross out the title when the book has been returned to its shelf or the specific place you've designated for returned books. Older students can put books back according to genre. It’s your choice, but I'm always looking for ways to save my time.
Classroom libraries mean your students can check out books any day; they don't have to wait for their scheduled library period.
Laura Robb


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Hi Laura,

As usual, I love your specific and practical suggestions...I'm about to start the third week of school...doing Reading and Writing Workshop...still working out kinks...but I asked students (4th graders) to do a reading response journal yesterday (Friday)..."What was the best thing about reading class this week?"...many, many of them said it was the chance to read books independently because they got to read what they wanted to read.

The genre we're working on is mystery. I ordered over 50 books from the public library as I didn't have a wealth of them myself. One boy who is a bit squirrely was TOTALLY engrossed in an Avi book...another girl told me that I'm the one that got her into mysteries...she is a student whom I purchased some of her school supplies for at the beginning of the year because I'd had her brother last year and I know there is little to no money for food sometimes, much less supplies and books...she has finished one book already and is currently working on her second book that she plans to read over the weekend.

So while I haven't crossed all the t's or dotted all the i's with Reading/Writing Workshop (far from it!), these are very encouraging signs for me.

Keep giving suggestions...I love it!



Brynn Oliver

Have you created a template that helps teachers organize their mentor texts into categories? (what mini lessons this book could be used for, etc.) I thought I had seen one on your website at one time but cannot locate it now.

Brynn Oliver

Have you created a template that helps teachers organize their mentor texts into categories? (what mini lessons this book could be used for, etc.) I thought I had seen one on your website at one time but cannot locate it now.

Laura Robb

Dear Brynn,

I dont have a template that does that. However, I would place my mentor texts in folders, and on separate paper, note the mini-lessons each could be used for. This way, as you reuse texts and develop new ways of incorporating them into your curriculum, you have a place to jot your thoughts. If the mentor text is a picture book, then just note the title and author on the file folder tab.

I think youre idea is excellent; I will work on this for my First hand Project on units of writing for middle school.

All best,

Laura Robb

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