4 Classroom Library Must Haves

4 Classroom Library Must Haves

Nothing brings me greater joy than having an organized and well-running classroom library!

That may seem extreme, but seriously, when the kids truly understand how the classroom library is organized it is a HUGE time saver. This means that students spend more time actually reading than roaming around the classroom library!

When you set up your classroom library keep in mind that it should be organized in a kid-friendly way. This means however you decide to layout it, you should have all the books at kid levels, clearly labeled bins, and keep it to just a library. Even if your classroom is small, try not to have other materials or resources in the classroom library. Keep it just books and reading materials.

These four must-haves will help you to have a classroom library that runs like a well-oiled machine! 

Get Organized

classroom library organization in upper elementary

No matter how you decided to organize the books in your classroom be sure to label each basket clearly AND be sure to maintain the system that you use! I organize my book baskets by genre. I also have these baskets that kids love to shop from:

  • Mrs. Schneider's Favorites (see picture above for example)
  • Hot New Releases (I try to keep this stocked with new titles from my school library)
  • Highest Checkout Rates  (I always make sure there is a mix of different level books here)

Organizing by genre means that students must understand how to select just-right books. This is why I spend so much time at the beginning of the year helping students select just-right books. Throughout the year I also check in with them to make sure that they continue to select just-right books

Be sure to keep your library baskets organized. I love using these buckets and simple name tags that will NOT fall off the buckets to stay organized. I handwrite the genre on the tag and just attach it. It is easy and consistent. When I need to add another basket, I simply just handwrite another tag! 

Another  way I have found that our buckets stay organized correctly is by having one classroom job be "Library Monitor." While I am not the biggest fan of classroom jobs, mostly because I always forget to change them, having a library monitor is a must! I try to select someone who rides a late bus so that they can use dismissal time to organize the library. I have found that when using a simple checkout and clearly labeled baskets, the library does not ever get too disorganized! Yay!

Check it Out

classroom library check out system

In my classroom, we rotate days that students can go to the library or "shop" for books. I do this for a few reasons. One reason is that our classroom library is small and not many students can fit it in at once. Also when you limit the number of students shopping for books to truly focus on picking the right book for them and not because their friend picked one by the same author. Lastly, once students realize that they can only shop for books once a week, they make sure that they are selecting just-right books that will last them the week. Every time a student shops for books they are asked to select three books. This will help them have a book for the whole week.

After trying many, many, MANY different systems for book checkouts, I have found that the simpler the better. Students use morning work time to shop for books so that they do not waste reading workshop time shopping. Even though it is morning time, I still want students to shop and check out quickly and effectively. A simple checkout form like this one (download for free) does the trick! After students return the book, they cross it off. Simple!

Previously Read Basket

upper elementary classroom library ideas

My favorite teacher tip of all time is to make a previously read basket for your classroom library. It is simple, yet so powerful! 

Make a previously read bucket using any bucket or box you have. Create a label like the one above and add it to the box. After you read a picture book aloud to your students add it to this bucket. Having all the books you have already ready handy means that you can reuse to them when you are teaching a new reading mini-lesson, strategy, or skill. This is important because students will focus on the strategy you are teaching them and NOT comprehending the story because they have already heard and digested the book. You will find when you revisit and repurpose books in this way, students are more successful at the newly taught skill. You will also find that reluctant and lower-level students love to grab books from this box since they are familiar stories. Doing so boosts reading engagement, motivation, and confidence.

Reading Genre Bulletin Board

classroom library decor and bulletin board ideas

Use meaningful and educational decor in your classroom library! I have found that meaningful decor goes a long way to motivate, engage, and grow readers! One bulletin board that I love to have in my classroom library is a set of reading genre posters

I love having these displayed for a few reasons. Clearly displaying and celebrating reading genres helps students to:

  • read a variety of genres
  • try new genres of books
  • understand how and WHY our library is organized
  • work hard to keep our library organized

I also love decorating our reading corner with motivational reading quotes like these!

classroom library decor

I love using quotes like these because students read them every day! Over time the message sinks in and students love to read to go on adventures! Bonus tip: when you print four of these to a page you have little reading note cards to send to students. Write a quick and positive note to your readers and put them on their desks. They are so motivating and they truly love getting them! 

motivate students to read with note cards

Bonus Tip...Accordion Folder of Organizers

engagement tip for upper elementary readers

So I can't stop at just 4 ways to have a classroom library, I needed to share this bonus tip that I have found to be so incredibly helpful! I love using these accordion file folders to encourage active reading in my classroom. I use each of the individual pockets to hold different reading strategy graphic organizers and sticky note page organizers. 

It is simple to do! Once I have taught students a reading strategy, like making inferences, I make many copies of the organizers that we practiced using to master that strategy. I put all the organizers in one pocket. As students read independently they can select any organizer that they want to use keep them on track as they read. If they do not select one, but I think they need one, I simply tell them to head on over select one, or tell them which to select. It is amazing how quickly students will self-monitor their own reading and grab an organizer that they need to help them practice a reading strategy. This is truly a classroom game changer!

When it comes to having a classroom library that works effectively to engaging and growing readers, these four five ideas are a must! Remember, before you do anything, plan out how you want your classroom library to look and be organized. Once you have that done, get organized, have a check-out system, create a previously read basket, use meaningful reading decor, and fill that accordion file!

Have a great school year teacher friends!

You might be interested in reading:

Check out my favorite back-to-school activities HERE.

Like these must-have class rules set that come with
five styles for you to choose from!

classroom rules for upper elementary

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classroom library tips and organization ideas

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