Photo: A selection of books from Irene Farmer's classroom library.
As a teacher, one of the most important things you can do is encourage your students to love reading. I still remember the excitement I felt when I saw the comfortable reading couch in my sixth-grade English teacher’s classroom, and that was more than 40 years ago! That lumpy couch signified that reading was a special activity, one to be cherished. My classmates and I would do whatever it took to earn “free reading” time.
Whether you’re a new teacher or nearing retirement, seeing a child learn how to find and enjoy a book can be magical. Since we’ve already tackled the best ways to build your collection, we thought it was time to offer advice on organizing and setting up your classroom library.
One caveat: There is no perfect classroom library. What works well one year might not be ideal the next, depending on your classroom makeup. Many teachers redo their libraries every few years, whether it’s because of an inspirational Pinterest post or finally getting that grant money. Shaped reached out to educators Andrew Wallace and Irene Farmer to pick their brains on how to make your library a go-to spot.
Best Ways to Organize a Classroom Library
1. Customize your collection
You know your students better than anyone and have insight on the individuals in your room. Be sure to include books that represent diversity in subject matter, authors, and illustrators.
“Make sure your students can see themselves in your book choices,” says Andrew Wallace, director of technology for South Portland Schools in Maine. “If you have newcomers to the country, find books that address that.”
2. Develop lifelong readers
The best libraries have a mixture of “reach” books that are challenging for the majority of your students, “just right” books that are mid-level, and “relax” books that kids have all-but-memorized, says Wallace. He encourages teachers to seek books at each level.
3. Find new funding sources
If you’ve used up the traditional methods, Wallace recommends checking out DonorsChoose, a site that lets teachers post classroom project requests and has been used by 86% of public schools.
“Most of the requests are for technology,” says Wallace, “so asking for books or shelves will make you stand out.”
4. Make it easy for students to navigate your library
Libraries with too many books can be difficult to navigate, especially for younger readers who might not know how to find what they like. Try spreading out books to different parts of the classroom. You’ll cut down on bottlenecks and make finding the right book a little easier.
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