There are lots of different ways to set up your classroom library. If you’re new to teaching, your biggest challenge might be finding shelves, bins, and of course BOOKS! How you set up your classroom library is completely up to you. I have set up my classroom library in many different ways over the years, but I finally settled on one way a couple of years back that I’ve been using ever since.
Setting Up Your Classroom Library Space
Take a look around your classroom and see where the best place would be to house your classroom library. Oftentimes, we think we have to have everything in one location in our classroom. Your classroom library can be spread out to fit your needs. I like to do this because it keeps students from crowding in one location when searching for new books. Also keep in mind, that you don’t have to have a place for students to sit and read right next to the actual books. Would it be nice? Sure! My current classroom doesn’t have space, so my carpeted areas are spread around the classroom.
Next, decide how you will store and display your books. The Dollar Tree, Big Lots, and Walmart are great places to buy cheaper bins and baskets. Ikea, Walmart, and Target are great places to buy cheaper shelves. This is perfect for new teachers starting out on a limited budget. You may also want to invest in comfy seating to encourage students to sit and read, however, don’t try to buy it all, to begin with. I add to my classroom a little each year so I don’t break the bank!
Organizing Your Classroom Library
The way you organize your classroom library books is really a personal preference. You can organize your books by topic, genre, author’s last name, etc. I use a combination of these.
I have picture books and chapter books in separate locations in the classroom. The picture books are organized by topic for nonfiction and genre for fiction. My picture books all have numbers on them that correspond with the labeled bucket. I found that students do a better job returning books based on numbers than a symbol or pictures.
The bin labels are from Ladybug Teaching Files
The chapter books are organized by the author’s last name. I feel this is most beneficial for my older students as they begin to look for books in the real world, such as the library and bookstores. The labels for my chapter books are from Lesson With Laughter. She also has a nonfiction set of labels that correlate with the Dewey Decimal System that I bought and plan to use next year.
Side note: I personally do not believe in organizing books by level. Levels are designed for teachers to use as a guide to help students read. I don’t believe students should choose books “on their level.” Students should choose the books they want to read! Teachers should hold individual reading conferences with students about what they are reading and can use that time to guide them to more appropriate books, but ultimately, it should be the student’s choice.
Unfortunately, sometimes, our school or district may require us to level our classroom library. I worked at a school once that did just that. To get around this, I leveled only part of my library. I had one shelf with the leveled books while the rest of my books were organized by genre and topic. In this picture, I have a green shelf that contains leveled books right next to books organized by genre.
Where to get books for your classroom library
Building your classroom library takes time, but here are a few places to get you started.
Scholastic Book Orders
Sending the flyers home every month not only allows your students to build their libraries at home, but you earn bonus points for every dollar spent. You can use those points to get books for free! If you’re interested in learning more about Scholastic, I wrote a blog post here. The post also includes a way to earn 250 free bonus points when you first sign up!
Send an email or note home, asking parents to donate any books their children have finished reading or have outgrown. You’d be surprised how many books will be sent in. Ask your friends and family on your social media to send any children’s books they no longer need.
School libraries are constantly weeding out books. Check with your school’s librarian and see if he/she has any discarded books that you could take. Local libraries do the same, but they typically sell them to the public at a discounted price.
I can’t tell you the number of amazing books parents are selling on this! And it’s usually popular books that your students want!
Garage Sales and Goodwill
These are usually the cheapest places to get books. I suggest visiting them multiple times and multiple locations as the selection varies
Your classroom library setup should be an evolving process as your book collection grows and your student’s needs change. Don’t feel like you have to figure it out right away. You can change the setup and layout as often as you need until you figure out what works for your classroom.