Sunday, July 13, 2014

Classroom Library Organization {Why I Do What I Do- Linky!}

New "series" coming on the blog for the next few weeks.  As I'm able to get into my room and start setting up, I'll be taking pics of different things in my room and sharing why I do things the way that I do.

Today I'm starting with my classroom library.  There are always debates and questions online about the best way to organize a classroom library and, over the years, I've tried all of them...

I used to have my library complexly organized by AR level.  This was in the pre-blog days, so I wasn't in the habit of taking billions of classroom photos.  My first year teaching, I had a small library.  I had baskets with labels on the front and all yellow and green dot books went in one basket.  All blue and red in another.  Orange and black and pink were together in one basket.  That year I collected so many books so, my 2nd year, I changed it up!  I spray painted baskets according to AR colors (yellow, green, red, blue, orange, black, pink) and books were just in their baskets by color.  I had this system for another year or so.

And then I had an epiphany.

When my library was organized by AR color, I was teaching my students that the very first thing we have to consider when choosing a book is the "color" or level we are at.  I wasn't teaching kids to be voracious readers because of things they liked or were interested in.  Instead, I was teaching them that enjoying a book is second to selecting one at your level.

So, then everything changed.

For years now I have organized my classroom library (which is now HUGE) by topic or theme.

Each topic or theme has its own basket, which is numbered.  Currently, I have 34 numbers... but some have more than 1 basket... for example, I have a TON of non-fiction animal books (#17), so there are 2 baskets with that label.  The 19s are all about historical figures.  So, 19A is historical men.  19B is historical women.  19C is historical events (Titanic, wars, etc...).  Within each basket are all of the books about that topic or theme.  Each book has a sticker with the matching basket number to make putting things away a breeze.  Books are also color coded for AR.

So now my students can first find baskets about things they are interested in reading.  Then they can easily find things at their own levels by looking at AR colors.

This has become a very "soap box" issue for me.  As someone who has a definite love/hate relationship with AR at times, I HATE when students ask "how many points" a book is before I even read it to them.  Or they are afraid to read a book because it isn't AR.  Or they'll read any book in their color, so long as they can take the quiz on it... not even caring whether they enjoy the read or not!  I have seen that, having my library organized like this, helps to take the emphasis off of colors and levels and really turn kids on to things they are interested in.

So, there are my two cents.  And that's why I do what I do!  Feel free to grab the button up at the top, post about why you do what you do in your classroom library, and link up below!  I hope you'll join in and share your rationale behind your organization!


  1. I have my books grouped into themes. I love the way you have stored yours in baskets. I will be taking my books out of bags after looking at your set up. Thanks for sharing!!!
    Mrs.Christy’s Leaping Loopers

  2. I have really been struggling with organizing my library, and I like you have had the love/hate relationship with AR. Your post has really given me a lot to mull over. I really like how yours are organized, and your rationale for doing so. I think I am going to work on this next week when I am able to get back in my room.

  3. We don't use AR in my school, but I have had experience with it in the past. Since we solely use the DRA, I leveled half of my library based on DRA level and organized the other half in categories (dogs, science, math, farm animals, etc.) This is my new system for the new year, and I have high hopes that I will like it!

  4. We don't use AR (in fact the only experience I have had with AR was during my student teaching nine years ago). I have organized my library millions of ways too. Most recently, since we Lexile our books, I have had them organized that way or by genre. It depends on the year and how much time I've had to set up. I like the genre/theme setup better because it gets the students to look at the types of books they like FIRST, then worry about the level.

  5. What a great way to combine book topics and AR. I have struggled with this the last few years and am going to try this idea. Thank you!

  6. You have given me something to think about. I am moving to a new school and grade(from 1st to 3rd) this year. Most of my books were out in my garage and earlier this week I got them sorted into baskets, AR books and the rest by theme. I like your thinking, but I may have to leave them for now until I get my head above water. I'll be interested to see how you like your new sorting system.
    I'm Not Your Grandpa, I'm Your Teacher


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