Tuesday, October 4, 2016

An In-Depth Look at My Classroom Library

The organization of classroom libraries is a surprisingly complicated affair.  I've seen book bins organized by subject or author, I've seen Dewey Decimal-level organization.  I've seen rotating book displays and jumbled messes (oh wait, that's just me).  With the huge influx of books I've had in the past two years, I put more thought into how to set up my library this year, but I'm still not happy with how my students interact with it.

Here's the rough outline:


  • Imagination (sci fi and fantasy)
  • Suspense (mystery, horror, thrillers, adventure)
  • Realistic Fiction
  • PG-13
  • A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words (graphic novels, picture books)
  • Lives (memoir, biography, autobiography)
  • Scientific nonfiction
  • History and War (mixes fiction and nonfiction)
  • Language Play (poetry, novels in verse, short stories, anthologies)
  • Illustrated Novels (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Middle School; the Worst Years of My Life, etc)
  • Sports (mixes fiction and nonfiction)
  • Recently book-talked books have a shelf where they can face out
Then I have BOOK BASKETS in various locations, with these themes, which will change periodically:
  • Immigration
  • Hoops (amazing how many basketball books there are)
  • Romance
  • Illness and Death
  • Thriller Queens (April Henry and Mary Downing Hahn)
  • Writer's Lives (memoirs by Gary Paulsen, Jack Gantos, etc.)
  • En Español
  • Graphic Novels: Nonfiction
  • Quick Reads (under 150 pages)
  • September 11, 2001
There's a long counter along one wall, and I've put a bunch of SERIES there, with the first book in the series facing out.  I intentionally mixed genres wildly here.  


  • A couple of weeks ago I experimented with placing books front side out all along all of my bookshelves.  It definitely drew more kids in, but because I'm not actually a bookstore, it meant I was covering up lots of other books.  
  • I do a lot of hand-selling.
  • I often gather  up a handful of books for an individual student to go through.  
  • Book talks are definitely a huge factor in getting kids interested in books they might not have noticed otherwise.  
  • Once a week the kids share the author and title of their current book, adding more about it if they're inspired to.  I choose just one or two points to jump in on--pointing out that three of you are reading a book by that author, or asking a specific (geniune!) question.  
  • Every two weeks I'm going to have small groups have a bit longer book chat together.  We've only done one so far though.
  • I am really pushing the idea that even if you're not going to order from the Scholastic Books flyer, you can look through it and submit requests to me for adding to the classroom library.

I really want more kids to have the confidence to browse on their own, but maybe it's just too early in the year.  Offhand, I'd say 2/3 of my students have a book they are enjoying, and 1/3 just have a book because it's pretty clear that you have to have a book in my class.  It KILLS ME to see kids forcing themselves to read something they don't like, and of course, it annoys me to no end to see kids not even bothering.  JUST GET A BETTER BOOK!  But obviously, it's not that simple for them.

If you have any suggestions or feedback, I'd love to hear it!  What makes a library or bookstore "browseable" to you?  How did you learn how to find books for yourself?  Have you seen any fantastic classroom library set-ups, whether as a student, teacher, or parent?  


  1. Interesting post. When I was a kid, I was a really picky reader, and I easily got overwhelmed by having too many choices. I only read funny books, scary books, and animal books. Teachers pretty much had to hand sell me books. My elementary school library had a shelf of nonfiction animal books, so that was helpful. I always knew which shelf to go to.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  2. This is WONDERFUL! Back then, our library didn't have as many books to choose from but I managed to discover Madeline L'Engle and Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys! LOL

    As a browser, I always get drawn to the book covers so placing your books facing front is a great idea! A tip would be to alternate it with front facing/spine facing books so as not to cover the other books?

  3. I love that you encourage your kids to tell you what books they like from Scholastic even if they're not going to order. What a fantastic teacher you are!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction


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