I've invested a great deal of effort and money in curating my classroom library. I'm careful about the books I add, but I also buy books my students request. This means that there are books that I might not choose to read but that THEY love. That is as it should be... it is their library, too, and I want to make sure they feel ownership of it just as I do.
The biggest decision I've made about my classroom is how to organize it. Way back in the dark ages when I first started teaching 7th grade ELA, I had all of my classroom library books spine out and alphabetized by author's last name. It was fine. Some kids used my library, but they mostly checked books out from the school library or only read the whole-class novels that formed the base of our curriculum. Like I said... it was fine. But I always thought it could be MORE.
When our school district started working with Ellin Oliver Keene in order to strengthen our literacy instruction, I had the opportunity to spend time in several classrooms in our elementary buildings. I noticed some things about the libraries in those rooms. Books were all face-out. They were in baskets. And they were sorted by genre, series, or author. I began to think about what would happen if I reorganized the library in my seventh grade classroom. I wondered how long it would take me to sort, label, and store the hundreds of books I had on my shelves. I decided to let the kids help.
To be honest, it was a mess for several days. But then.... then it was GLORIOUS! Kids knew what was on the shelves! They found books they wanted to read! They began using the library!
So when I moved to third grade last year, the answer to the organization question was a no-brainer. Face out. Sorted by genre, series, author. Informational texts in their own section. User friendly for the kids and for me. This is important, because in my room kids get to choose all of the books they read during Literacy Studio. They are not required to read in a certain level or for Accelerator Reader points (thank goodness!). I won't tell them a book is too easy or too hard. I will talk to them about who they are as readers and what they can do to grow. This choice in reading is a non-negotiable.
My greatest wish is that when the kids come into my room next Monday for Meet the Teacher, they won't spend much time talking to or looking at me. I want them pulled like magnets to my library. I want them to flip through the books. I want them to ask me if they can put a particular book on their desks so they can read it on Tuesday. I want them to find some old friends and maybe make some new ones as they look to see what's in all of those black baskets.
I want them to love our library as much as I do.
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