Thankfully, Pinterest came along when it did and showed me that I wasn't the only person in the world obsessed with classroom libraries. Of course, that meant hours of my life were spent pouring over pictures, pinning everything from book bin labels to decor. I'm all about helping out other teachers and hopefully I can save someone out there time by putting a lot of ideas about this topic in one place (and also by offering a freebie at the end of this post). I guess there is also the chance that someone will stumble upon this post randomly and then become enthralled with cultivating the perfect classroom library and in turn end up spending a gazillon hours on Pinterest. If that is you, sorry in advance! Below are some of the many ideas I have found over the years.
The first, and maybe the most important, question to answer is...how do you get books for your classroom? Teachers certainly can't afford to spend their entire paycheck buying a wide variety of texts (not with all the other classroom items we spend our paycheck on ;) ). Don't fret! There are many options out there. Like I mentioned above, I ended up with more than enough books on a substitue's salary and I didn't break the bank. In fact, I still have a couple bags of chapter books in my basement.
-Retiring Teachers: If you don't know any retiring teachers, you can always look on Craig's List or keep your eye on your local newspaper. A lot of retiring teachers are looking to sell their entire collection of books for cheap. I ended up with a lot of goodies from a librarian who retired at the school I was subbing at. She used to be a classroom teacher and passed down classroom library books, teaching resource books, name tags, posters, stickers, etc.
-Teachers at Your School: Many teachers probably aren't going to give you any of their new, shiny books, but that doesn't mean they don't have others they are willing to pass along. My first year, I had many teachers offer me books for my room because like me, they had more than enough (especially as they continue to replace older books with new purchases). My school also does a lottery at the beginning of the school year. Every August when we get back in our rooms and start to clear out the junk for a fresh start, we place all the items we no longer want in the front lobby. All week, teachers can stop by and place a post-it with their name on any item from class sets of books/magazines to teacher desks, easels, and pocket charts. On Friday, items are handed out to their new owners and the rest are donated.
-Student Donations: My first year I had a parent ask if I needed any books because her child, who was the youngest in the family, had already read or outgrown many books. I said yes and was floored when a box full of shiny, crease-free, new-book-smelling, age appropriate chapter books came my way. I ended up putting old books on the wishlist every week on my classroom newsletter. I made it clear that parents did not need to go out and buy books for the classroom, but if they had old books around the house, I would be willing to take them. I got a lot of good books this way, of course some were not so good or not usable, but it was worth it.
-Thrift Stores: Most thrift stores sell children's books, the hard part is finding the best price in your area. One thrift store near me sells books for $0.50 to $1.00 each. I was surprised when I first started looking, but then I found another thrift store 5 minutes away that sold 6 books for $2.00, and their selection was much wider. Do some shopping around and you might be surprised what you find. A lot of the time I would find gems that were in pristine condition and do a little dance in the aisle knowing that I was about to pay 33 cents for a book that would cost me $15.00 at the store. Thrift stores in my area are definitely cheaper than used book stores. You might want to check around to see if that is true for your area as well.
-Book Sales: Library book sales are a gift from God. Okay, I might be being just a bit dramatic right know, but this is really where I got the bulk of my books. The libraries in my county have weekend long book sales 3 or 4 times a year. There are good prices on Friday and Saturday, but if you wait until Sunday you will make out like a theif! Sundays are brown bag days. One dollar a bag for all of the books you can fit into a brown paper grocery bag. Let me tell you, I was a master at stacking and cramming those books in there. I would walk away with hundreds of books for $4.00. I used to go to these so often that I devised my own method. I would go on Fridays or Saturday morning while most of the books were still there to see what they had and where it was. I would buy anything that I really wanted and didn't think would still be around on Sunday. I would also take note of where the books I wanted were, so I wouldn't waste any time later. You also can't really dilly dally on Sunday morning. I would get to the library at least half an hour before they opened. I ain't lyin' when I say there was a looonnnggg line by the time the doors open and the library crowd is not polite when there are books involved. There was all sorts of pushing and shoving when the doors were opened, but I would speed walk to the paper bag table, grab at least two, and write my name on them with my Sharpie as I headed over to the children's book table. Then, I really just started grabbing and shoving until my bags were full. Man, those were the days, just writing this makes me want to look up sales in my area. Anyway, I suggest you Google library book sales in your area and at least go once to see what all the Hullabaloo is about. Here is a website to help you get started, Book Sale Finder.
Where will your classroom library be located? I have seen some teachers place bookshelves along the back and side walls of the room. This really helps save space, but I have found that it doesn't create a library/book nook feel. I like to use a corner so I have two walls of space, but it is all in one spot. It is also a nice area for my students to read during Daily Five time. If you see the pictures from my 3 rooms below, you will notice that I always utilize my corners!
My first year, I set up my library by placing all chapter books on one side and all pictures books on the other side. I organized each section by series and then genre or theme. The past two years, I have been sorting my books by just series/genre/theme. I place all the chapter books for the category in a basket and all of the picture books for the same category on the shelf next to the chapter books, to the right of the basket. I like this set up a lot more. In actual libraries students search by interest and not by chapter or picture book, so I wanted to replicate that. As you look at my classroom libraries below, keep in mind that the rooms in my school aren't that big. I would love to have space like some of the rooms I see out there, but you have the make the best of what you have.
I love how neat and tidy The Plaid Apple is.
If you have the space, this reading nook is great!
This library from the 2 sisters is ah-ma-zing. I'm pretty that's all we would do all day long.
This library is simple and purposeful.
My students all have book boxes for Daily Five. I stress to my students that they must keep their books in the boxes and not in the desks since that can damage the books and cause them to get lost. I don't let my students choose books in the morning (they were socializing too much and not completing their morning work) or during Daily Five time (they spent the whole time shopping for books and not reading). My students are each assigned days of the week. On Monday, Monday friends (about 5 or 6 students) can switch out their books in the morning. They get 15 minutes to do this and must be in their seat working by 9:10. At the beginning of the year, I teach students how to choose books that will last them a week. At 9:10, the "Daily Friends" bring their book boxes to me to check. Each student has a booklet in their book box and I stick a label rubric in and circle how they did. The categories on the rubric label that I am checking their box for are organization, nonfiction books, fiction books, and their writing notebook (I require them to keep their writing notebook in their box for ease of transitioning during Daily Five). I also take this time to make sure students have chosen appropriate books for their level and enough books to get them through the week. Sometimes I ask students to put back some books if I think they have too many and will end up not being able to finish any within the week.
Two students every week are assigned the job of librarian in my classroom. It is their job to search the room for misplaced books and put them back where they belong. They also straighten up and organize my library every afternoon to keep it looking clean.
I don't really keep track of who has what book. My primary concern is to get the books into the hands of the students and they usually have about 8-10 books in their book box at any given time. That is way too many for me to keep track of for every student. The system I mentioned above, checking book boxes for "Daily Friends", gives me a good idea of where things go and who is reading what. There is incredible software out there that allows you to scan your books online and set up accounts for your students to check them out using a smart phone or tablet, just like a real library. I think this is awesome! I would use it if I could, but I don't have any tablets in my room or the patience to scan all my books.
This source uses paper clips to attach read aloud books to the wall of the library.
This source has a "book hospital" for torn or ripped books that need to be repaired.
Themed libraries are always super cute, like this one from Proteacher.
If you made it this far, you definitely deserve a freebie. Below you can download my Genre posters. The posters make a nice addition to my classroom library. I post them one at a time after teaching each genre.
I hope I was able to give you some ideas or inspire you in some way. I know you all have tons of awesome ideas as well and I would love to learn from you. Leave me a comment to let me know how you do things in your room. See you soon!
Click Here to view my Class Library Pinterest Board
Click here to download Genre Posters