Saturday, August 2, 2014

Love Your Library - Part Three - Organization

Happy Saturday everyone! If you're like me, you're soaking up your last few weekends of summer vacation. Actually I think this is my last one. Sad face. But that's okay because I'm going to Ikea this weekend. Celebrate! How are you celebrating your last days of summer?

I wanted to let you guys know that I will participating in the TPT Back to School sale coming up!

Monday and Tuesday you can get up to 28% off my entire store! Make sure you use the promo code above to get that extra 8%. This is a great time to get some of those wishlist items you've been storing up :) Happy Shopping!

Today is Part 3 of my Love Your Library bloggy series. So far we've gotten inspired- we know that our classroom libraries are a representation of how we feel about reading and that our enthusiasm about books and reading make all the difference. Yesterday we got started- I talked all about where and how to get books for your classroom library, and the importance of growing your collection with a large variety of genres and titles.

Today is all about classroom library organization. What? You mean you can't just buy some books and put them on a shelf? Please, no.

Nothing makes me more sad than seeing a classroom library with no labels or organization whatsoever. Think about it this way- What if you walked into Booksamillion or Barnes & Noble and you saw shelf after shelf of books. Sounds good right? Except none of the shelves are labeled. There are no categories. There are no sections. It would take you hours to find the book you are looking for or even just a book that you want to read. You'd probably do one of two things- give up and go home or just settle for one of the first books you see. Neither of these things are what we want for our students. So this is me begging you to spend an afternoon organizing your classroom library.

There are several ways you can organize your books. Some popular ways include by genre and/or level. This is really up to you- what works for you, your students, and your school. Personally, I want my library to be as close as possible to a modern bookstore or library. In stores like that, you "book shop" by interest, not by level. However, I also use a leveling system in combination with this to help my students choose "just right" books. At such a young age, they still need help identifying books that are "just right" for their reading level. Although, I never tell my students they cannot read a book from my classroom library. And it breaks my heart a little that some people do.

"I never tell students they cannot read a book they pick up, but I do guide them toward books that I think would be a good fit for them. I think of myself as a reading mentor—a reader who can help them find books they might like". Donalyn Miller, Reading in the Wild

Once again, Donalyn comes to the rescue. This is exactly what I try to live by in the classroom. Do I want my students to become frustrated by reading something that is way too hard for them? Of course not. Do I want them to build confidence in reading through books that are "just right"? Absolutely. But on the other hand, do I want to squash their reading interests by telling them that they shouldn't read a book? In my opinion, there are so many "voices" in the world right now telling students not to read. TV, video games, computers, phones...the usual culprits. If a student expresses interest in book- if a student stops watching TV or thinking about video games long enough to find a book they want to read- who am I to say no to them? How dare I squash that.

So while I agree that leveling your classroom library is a necessity, this is me begging you not to make it the focus of your organization. If you can help it.

Moving on. The types of categories you can organize your library into are again, up to you and your students. My kindergarten-teaching Mom, for example, (Hey, Mom!) organizes her library into fiction and nonfiction. It helps her young students learn the difference, and it's a system that is easy to maintain for such budding readers. As a fourth grade teacher, I am really wanting my students to be more genre-specific. I want them to go beyond fiction vs. nonfiction and into Historical Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Fairytale, Mystery, etc. At the same time, I also want to spark their interest. I want it to be easy for my often apathetic fourth graders to find a category that they like. So I use a combination of genres, popular series, popular authors, and popular subjects to organize my books. Some of my classes' most popular book bins: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Geronimo Stilton, Books for Girls, Sports, Scary/Ghost Books.

But you know what? These categories aren't always the same. They change every summer when I re-organize my books, and they change throughout the year with our subjects and the seasons. If we are studying Planets, I make a Planets bucket and put it at the front. If it is Christmas time, I make a Christmas bucket. A library that is always the same can easily become a boring library. Keep your classroom library always "up with the times".

Now I want to show you my own library system and I few of my favorites.

There are SO MANY choices when it comes to book bins. Dollar Tree, Really Good Stuff, Big name it they have bins you can use for books. It's all about finding your favorite. Personally I use the clear/sometimes colored plastic shoeboxes that you can buy pretty much anywhere. Why? Because they're like 88 cents and I inherited a big stack of them with my classroom. They are also easy to replace or add to when I run out. I don't have to order them online or match colors. I can just run to the dollar store and be done with it. They also fit chapter books. Which is good! Not all bins are created equal in that way. As you can see, I use attached (hot-glued) labels to the front so that students can easily see what category is which. In my library, each book bin or category has an abbreviation. I use this abbreviation on the books to help students and class librarians know where to easily return books without my help. It doesn't always go this way, of course, but it's a pretty good system. Below is a chart of the abbreviations that I keep in my library. It also gives you a good look at some ideas for genres/categories.

Above is the leveling system I use. To determine this, I use a combination of Lexile, DRA, and GLE levels to determine whether a book is above, on, or below fourth grade. I encourage you to look beyond just one leveling system (if possible), because they each focus on different things. Scholastic is a really good website that offers you multiple levels for every book. Ultimately, you know your kids and what they can read, and that should determine if a book is "just right". In my opinion.

These are the labels I use for my leveling system (along with the yellow). I love these stickers because they're cheap ($1.00 a pack), and like the shoeboxes, you can always get them. Each book gets a label in the top right hand corner, according to its level. On the sticker, I write the abbreviation for its category. In the pictures above, for example, you can see the books from the Animal bucket with the letter "A" on their stickers. With one glance I can well level AND genre a book is. Love time-savers!

So that's it! Pretty simple. And easy for my fourth graders to navigate independently. Which I like.

Here are some libraries I love, found on Pinterest, the ultimate place to find anything and everything. In my opinion.

Again, it's not all about being the most beautiful (though these libraries certainly are). It's about making reading interesting and accessible to your students. Both appealing and functional. I encourage you to go to Pinterest (or a website of your choice) and search for "classroom library organization". You will find SO MUCH. So many helpful articles, blogs, and pictures out there. Find something you like and make it work for your classroom!

Thank you so much for sticking with me. I could go on and on about reading and books and libraries. But I'll stop here and do something fun instead...

Leave a comment with your email and the set of Classroom Library Labels you would like the most and I will pick two winners! These are what I use in my own library. I love all the categories AND having some blank ones to add your own :)

Have a great weekend!

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