Creating a Classroom Reading Library

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Create a reading library kids love to browse in.  Make the books enticing, accessible and you won't be able to keep them away!

A classroom library needs to be a place that invites students to browse, explore and find books that are appealing to them and at their just right level.

Many classrooms have lots of books, but they are not displayed in a way that draws the children in.  A good teacher knows that enticing students to read is more than half the battle.

tubs of books in a classroom library

The quality of your classroom library must support essential steps to literacy. The volume of independent reading a child does directly impacts their overall achievement.

Also, if you are primarily concerned with improving fluency, you must make your library draw them in and get them reading.

A library full of intriguing children's books is better than any reading program you could ever use.

7 Tips for Your Reading Library

1.  Attractive Display
Think about your favorite bookstore. Do you browse the shelves of the books that have their spines facing towards you, or do you pick up the books that you can see the covers of?

Retailers know that you are more likely to purchase a book on impulse when you see the cover and it looks interesting. In a sense, a teacher is a retailer. A classroom reading library should show the covers of the best children's books as much as possible.

2.  Provide Tubs of Authors, Genres and Series
Once you find an author or a series you like, do you look for more books by the same author? I know I do. Every summer I go through spurts of reading everything I can from one or two authors.

This summer I was on a Philippa Gregory kick (if you haven't read her books, you absolutely should!) as well as the ever-popular Twilight series (yes, Edward is so dreamy).

The point is, I was pulled into the books and kept going back for more. Your reading library should do the same thing.

3.  Independent Reading Levels of Books
We want our students to be able to make solid independent choices about what they read. However, students need to be taught how to choose books that are just right for them.

The way I accomplish that is using "I PICK" from The Daily Five. For their independent, buddy, and free reading time, I want my students to be reading books that they are motivated to read, and not be limited by a level.

4.  Guided Reading Leveled Books

leveled books in a classroom library

You should have some leveled books in your reading library that you can use in guided reading groups and that children can choose from if they wish.

Parents also find it helpful if you send home books at their child's independent level that they can read together.

Just do not use this as your only method of organization. In fact, I purposefully make mine more unappealing because I want the students to be drawn to choosing their own books, not thinking I need to do it for them.

5.  Organize Your Library
Save yourself a lot of time and headache by getting it right from the beginning. I have all of my books sorted into tubs, and each one is labeled with a number (I started with colored dots, but soon ran out of colored stickers - numbers just work better for me).

Each book inside the tubs is labeled with the same number as the tub it goes into.

My leveled books are labeled with letters that go with guided reading levels (you could use DRA levels, Reading Recovery, whatever your system uses).

You need to have this done because your primary students will not know yet if a book is a biography, fairy tale, historical fiction picture book, etc. Even with this organization, there will always be "one" (you know what I mean!) that cannot or will not put books back in the right place, so this helps you to quickly put books back in their correct spot when you notice it.

6.  Keep Your Books Fresh
Telling a child that a book that is ripped and worn out just means it is a great story that has been read a lot isn't going to work.

This will not get the children reading more books. If a book is really looking bad, get rid of it (I am cringing as I write this!).

reading tubs

Do you prefer a used book store or a new one? Most people prefer something that looks fresh and new, and so do your students.

I regularly clean out my reading library and either tape up the spines, replace them with new books, or give them away to whoever wants the old ones.

You can easily keep your library fresh through your bonus points from book clubs (Scholastic), visiting garage or boot sales for very gently used books, applying for grants through your district, and asking parents to donate books to your classroom.

Try to implement these ideas, and you will be well on your way to creating a superb reading library that supports independent reading levels and will really enhance your reading lesson plans!

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