Tips For Setting Up Your Classroom Library

Organizing Books in Your Classroom Library

If I were to survey my students and ask them where their favorite spot to hang in my classroom is, hands down they would all say our classroom library. I couldn't keep them out of it and I wouldn't try to. They love the series of books they find there. They love that there is a cozy corner of the room to relax and read. Best of all, they knew how to find the books they were looking for.

However, my class library didn't happen overnight.  It's always a work in progress. I've changed the way I organize it, the types of containers I use to hold the books, and most importantly the books I choose to put in it. So if you're looking for a way to get your kids to love your class library too, then look no further!

Where can you buy books for your class library?

One hot spot to snag books for your library.....are you ready for this? Goodwill! You can't beat their prices!  You'd be surprised at how many great books and series I found there! Harry Potter, some of The Magic Tree House series and even some Judy Moody books. While you're there be on the lookout for some cool baskets or bins to hold your books as well.

Another great place to find some deals on books is the Dollar Tree. This is also where I found my colorful baskets for my class library books! Fifteen baskets for 15 bucks? Yes please!

But, my favorite place to get my books and book series for a low price is through Scholastic. If you haven't created an account yet, you NEED to. They have special sales like monthly dollar books and give BONUS points when you or your students buy books. Want more tips for getting the most out of your Scholastic order? Click HERE to read more.

Last, DO reach out to your friends and family on Facebook or other social media. Let them know you're putting together your classroom library and would love to take any children's or chapter books off their hands. Lots of people have kids that have books on the shelf that need to be donated.

What types of books should I have in my library?

If you're looking for what a certain age group of kiddos are reading these days I suggest you check two places! First ask around on one of the Not So Wimpy Facebook groups to see what new series are out and what books other students can't put down. Another place is the Scholastic Book Club magazines. They are such a great insight into what kids are loving right now and what NEW books are out on shelves!

With that being said, here are some awesome series to start with:
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid - Jeff Kinney
  • Big Nate - Lincoln Pierce
  • Whatever After - Sarah Mlynowski
  • Clementine - Sara Pennypacker
  • Geronimo Stilton - Geronimo Stilton 
  • I Survived - Lauren Tarshis
  • Judy Moody - Megan McDonald
  • My Weird School - Dan Gutman 
  • Ramona - Beverly Clearly
  • Stink - Megan McDonald
  • Lemonade War - Jacqueline Davies
  • The Raina Telgemeier Collection (Smile, Drama, Ghosts, and Sisters)

How should I organize or sort my books?

The first thing you want to do is be sure to label your books so your kids know theses books belong to your library. There's a number of ways to do this. Some teachers print labels with their last name on them to stick to their books, while others have a personalized stamp to stamp the inside cover. I just used a black sharpie and wrote my name on the inside cover.

There are a variety of ways that you can sort your classroom books. You can sort by themes, genres, topics, or reading levels; and there's really no right or wrong way to do it. Just make sure your students know how to find the books they're interested in.

Here's what works best for me! I put my non-fiction on one bookcase and my fiction on the other. I have a smaller bookcase that is home for my resource books, dictionaries, thesauri, encyclopedias, etc. From there I sort my books by series and genres. My fiction bookcase has labels like Mystery, Fantasy, Joke Books, Animal Adventures and so on. On my non-fiction bookcase I have labels that read, Natural Disasters, Oceans, History, Sports, and many more.

Want some fun customizable labels for your class library?  Click HERE!  

I don't sort my books by levels because I don't want to deter students from reading something because it's not at their level. I want my students to know how to find books that are "just right" for them by sifting through books of every level. I have found that students will work hard to read a book that is a tad too difficult, if it interests them enough. At the same time, I am fine with students reading books that are a little below their level if it increases their love for reading.

With that being said I have many teacher friends that have a leveled reader section in their library. This section helps their students narrow down books that are at their level, but allows the students to also search their library for other books of interest if they choose. I think this is a great way to incorporate leveled books into a class library.    

A section for holiday books? Start with Back to School!

One little treasure that should be in every classroom library is picture books! Picture books are for every student of every age. My students eat these books up! These books are fun and imaginative.  They allow kids to read for pleasure and find the pure enjoyment of literature.  

Have a section of your library to feature holiday picture books. This is the spot your kiddos can go to find books on fall, Halloween, Christmas around the world, Valentine's Day, different seasons, and even back to school books. Speaking of back to school books, this would be a great start for your class library holiday section. You can feature some great back to school books like:
  • We're All Wonders - R.J. Palacio
  • Peanut Butter and Cupcake - by Terry Border
  • My Mouth is a Volcano - Julia Cook 
  • Wordy Birdy - Tammy Sauer
  • What Do You Do With an Idea? - Kobi Yamada and Mae Beson
For more great ideas and details on back to school picture books: Click HERE!

Organizing Books in Your Classroom Library

So teacher friends, think about what will work best for you and your students. How will you create a space that promotes a relaxing and fun love of reading for your students, where they can find books of interest that they really enjoy? Have some ideas in mind? Great! Now go for it!  

P.S. Stacey is the newest member of the Not So Wimpy team and this is her first blog post! Isn't she awesome?! I am already looking forward to seeing her next article.