I have found that one of the most helpful tools in teaching my students to love reading is the classroom library. Over the years, I have tried so many ways of organizing it…by level, by genre, by topic, or sometimes, no organization at all. Then after all that work, no matter what I tried, it STILL ended up a mess again!
A few years ago, when I was still teaching lower grades, I found a system that finally worked. When I moved back to the upper grades, I used the same basic system. It took time to set up, but I’ve never had to reorganize it or do anything to maintain it since. And even better, my students now spend more time reading and less time searching.
STEP 1: Sort books into categories
I have a combination of categories. Popular authors or series get their own category. The rest are sorted by genre. I no longer sort books by level. Instead, I teach my students how to find appropriate level books within the categories that appeal to them (but that’s an entirely different post!).
STEP 2: Inventory the books
This is a great step to have a volunteer do. I created a simple spreadsheet in Excel (Book Title, Author, # for books in a series, Genre or Category). This inventory becomes really handy when you can’t remember which books you’ve purchased. It also makes it effortless to print out labels for the library cards that will go in the book.
STEP 3: Library Cards and Pockets
Each book gets a pocket (I like the self-adhesive ones for ease, linked below). I used Mail Merge in Microsoft Word and address labels to create stickers with the title of each book from my Excel spreadsheet. I put each sticker on an index card, which was then placed in the library pocket in the book. Again, this is a great job for a volunteer, or even students.
STEP 4: Label the bins and corresponding books
In the lower grades, my bin labels had a picture to match the category, but were also numbered. In the upper grades, I’ve loved these icon labels by Ladybug’s Teacher Files (take a minute to drool over all of her beautiful creations…I own most of them!). I printed the small icons on sheets of sticker paper (link below). Each book has an icon sticker that matches the icon on the corresponding bin. This makes it effortless for books to end up back where they belong.
My bins are from the Target dollar spot (they seem to have them twice a year) and from Amazon (linked below).
In Part 2, I will show you the system my students use to keep the library in use and in great shape. Until then, happy organizing!