Places for Reading Part 4

For this series of posts on classroom libraries, I have already shared some great things that teachers are doing with classroom libraries in a variety of schools. In this final post, I will explain how I have organized my own library, something that I have wrestled with at the start of every year because I want my students to be able to get the most out of our classroom books.


Even though I have read about many teachers (and even shown some here) who organize their libraries by genre, the main section of my fiction library is in alphabetical order by author’s last name. This allows me to have a better idea of where books are that I am looking for and it also helps students get to know authors they like because all of these books are right next to each other so they can easily move from one book to the next, even when these are not necessarily the same genre. Within this structure, I do keep tabs on the genres of my novels by adding colored labels to the spines; these colors correspond to a key that is located over the check out list, so when a student is looking for a fantasy book, all he or she has to do is find a novel with a red sticker. By labeling this way, I can also put half-color labels for books that fit into multiple genres (like blue and yellow for a mystery set in the past) without having to remember which genre bin I put something in.

Shelves 3

The library dragon makes an appearance.

The library dragon makes an appearance.

Shelves 2

I still make plenty of use of bins, however. Poetry, picture books, and graphic novels all have their own bins throughout the room. Some authors who have many different books receive bins, too. Authors like Gary Paulsen, Gordon Korman, and Rick Riordan even have two bins apiece!

Bins Poetry and Traditional Literature




Nonfiction 2

Nonfiction 1













My nonfiction is organized into book bins as well. I love that my students can see the covers of these books and be enticed into reading some nonfiction that they might have otherwise ignored. It has been my goal in the past year to increase this section of my library because it truly is lacking compared to the vast quantities of fiction available. Not only have I been on the look out for these books, but have also talked-up more of these books on a frequent basis.









After building five additional shelving units this summer, I finally have extra shelf space which has been awesome. I have used these shelves to display Rebecca Caudill nominees, mock Newbery books, and seasonal books (like the spooky ones in October). Then I turned to my classroom librarians because one of the shelves was pretty boring and they came up with having a Classroom Favorites section where students could put books that they really enjoyed.

Classroom Favorites

This year I changed the way that I check books out to students because we were losing track of too many books that other students wanted to read but couldn’t because the texts had mysteriously disappeared. Now each student in my room (and some students from other rooms) has his or her own 4 x 6 notecard that has been hole-punched and put on a ring on top of one of the shelves. This has helped with tracking down “lost” books and also allows other readers to easily see what their peers have been enjoying.

I hope this series of posts has given at least one teacher a push into establishing a classroom library or adding to the one in current existence. Want more information about classroom libraries? Give this site this a try! Happy reading!


Places for Reading Part 3

Before including descriptions from the third of four posts on the topic of classroom libraries, I must answer I question that has been directed at mebook tops and teachers like me who insist students need a classroom library: Why spend money on this when there is a perfectly good library available to the students in your building? That’s a fair question, and the following are three of the reasons why I see it as something worth my time and money.

1) My librarian is in charge of purchasing materials for grades K-6, so she can’t focus on quality examples of texts for only my 6th graders. I can do a better job of focusing in on the books they enjoy and the materials that I think I can book-talk into their hands. There are many books I have purchased that kids have devoured, loved, and pushed on their friends that our library does not even own.  My students still get practice going to the library and looking for books there every week so they don’t end up missing out on that authentic experience which they will take part in outside of school.

2) I have quick access to books when necessary. Is a student looking for an example of science fiction to try? We can walk over to the shelves and pull a few out to look through. Did I want a good nonfiction book for illustrating how to use text structure? I know of a dozen that I can grab and show on the ELMO. Do kids need good examples of hooks to use as models for a piece of their writing? There are hundreds to peruse, and these are only a few feet away. If I own the books, I know what I have immediately available for my use to help support student readers.

3) It’s very easy to demonstrate my love of reading. When I spend time reading books from my library, I can put them up on my shelves or pass them to students without worrying about due dates or having them lost from the school library and incurring fines. Books can be handed off to readers and put back on shelves in a few minutes time. Plus, my ownership of books helps to show students that owning books is something people do when they find books they enjoy.

If anyone has other reasons they think owning a classroom library is important, feel free to leave them in the comments section at the bottom of this post. And now to continue with three more classroom libraries:

Liz is a 5th grade teacher who provided the following photos and description of her recently revamped library:

Featured books

My decision to organize the books in my library into genres this year was based on the idea of embedding reading into my writing curriculum. My genres are color-coded in correlation with our 30 Book Club expectations as as the monthly theme utilizing our Six Traits Writing modes. I have already found that 

Liz's Library 1

students can find books more easily since books are organized the way students look for them.

     We are also able to find holes in our collection this way. After only two weeks of school, I have already ordered more books for our horror section. The sports, humor, and mystery sections seem pretty sufficient for my readers so they are not a priority at this time. I am a fan of anything that makes shelving easier and this project definitely does. My students are learning to define genre during their search for good-fit books, as well as by pointing out when someone put a book away incorrectly. I now have no doubt that by the end of the year my students will easily understand genre, a state-tested concept for elementary language arts. 

The pictures below are from a husband and wife team of teachers who constantly share their love of reading with their students. The summary below is written by Dr. Biggs-Tucker who shares her thoughts about the books in her library:

My classroom library is the “heart and soul” of our classroom and takes up most of the perimeter of the classroom space with the rest of the roomMr. Biggs-Tucker's Room being filled with student desks!?!?! It houses about 1000 books that range from middle grade readers to young adult novels. I work hard to have many current titles that students may not have read already and pride myself on having things on my shelf that even the library doesn’t carry yet! :)) The library is organized alphabetically by author so that students from any of the other fifth grade classrooms can easily come in and find a title that they might be looking for during their reading time to check out to read… My motto is “a book for every child and a child for every book” and it might even be on one of my bookshelves!

photo (11)

photo (8)









Part four coming soon! Happy reading!

Places for Reading Part 2

With the New Year here, many teachers are looking to create resolutions related to their teaching and personal lives. If I may make a suggestion, I think one of those resolutions should be to update and improve the classroom libraries which students have access to everyday. It is my belief that for children to see reading as important and worthwhile, all elementary school teachers, as well as all middle and high school Language Arts teachers, need to have vast, organized, and updated classroom libraries. Visitors should immediately get a sense that reading is important to all who ‘live’ in that classroom.

Today’s post helps to show how important books are in the lives of a few teachers and their lucky students. The following classroom libraries all have their own unique features that will provide new and veteran teachers alike plenty to think about for improving their classroom libraries or for establishing a classroom library in the New Year (it’s never too late!).  Thanks to everyone who opened their classrooms and contributed to my “Places for Reading” posts! Without further ado…

Amber (who writes about children’s books at Miss Reedy Reads) is a 4th grade teacher who this year has adjusted the types of books in her library and the way she organizes the books:

On the spine [of each book] is a label that says, “This book belongs to Miss Reedy”; below that is the genre. On the shelves or baskets are matching labels. In the “Pinterest” crates (I made on our week off from MLIT) I store my picture book read alouds. On the tall shelf are informational texts, Bluestem/Rebecca Caudill Nominees, books I check out from the public library, and special books, like the Harry Potter collection.

I have my kids write down the books they check out and write the date when they return them. I go through the list with the class periodically for inventory.  

                            Sidekicks is very popular. Also, BabymouseFrankie Pickle, and Super Amoeba






Lori  is a teacher who has many layers of organization to her library:

 My library consists of multiple levels of books. The picture books are organized by g

enre and topic (i.e. animal fiction, people fiction, biographies, poems, jokes and riddles, nonfiction animals, nonfiction science, etc. ). The chapter books are also in bins and they are organized by series if possible (i.e. Magic Tree HouseJunie B. JonesHorrible Harry). I have three small bins labeled Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 for students who are struggling readers to help them choose a just-right book at the start of the school year. 

Each student has a book box (a plastic bin with his or her name on it) in which to keep three books that are being read. I encourage them to have different genres in the bin. They may switch books out at any time. 

  My reading area used to consist of a couch and even some bean bag chairs (kids loved this!) but due to recent outbreaks of lice, we now just have a rug. The students do get comfy on the rug, but I sure miss the bean bag chairs.

Amy, a kindergarten teacher, provided the following picture of her classroom library. It looks like a great place for a young student to get a book and then read comfortably!

 Stay tuned for two additional posts in this series dedicated to classroom libraries.  If you have a photo or description of your own classroom library, please feel free to provide a link in the comments section below this post. I would love to see it!

Places for Reading – Part 1

Since my blog is dedicated to reading from many different genres and exploring as many children’s books as possible, I figured it would make sense to create a post dedicated to how I set up my classroom library. And then I thought about how cool it would be to get a glimpse of as many classroom libraries as possible so other educators – or anyone interested – can see the variety of reading areas created by teachers. So, I have decided to (attempt to) create a collaborative blog post that includes pictures of libraries from different classrooms. Want to see what I mean? I have included two pictures of my library from when my classroom was in the tear-down phase at the end of June.

       Because many teachers are just getting back into school over the next few weeks, I thought this would be the perfect time to take some pictures of  reading spaces as they are prepared for the 2012-2013 school year. Here’s where you, dear reader, come in to make this a group effort: I would appreciate it if you send me a picture or two of your classroom library (if you have one) with any sort of description you would like to include.  Or if you have your own post about this very subject, send me a link and I will gladly include it here. Please e-mail any contributions with the heading “My library” to shane DOT jensen29 AT gmail DOT com by August 30th. Show a shelf, a comfy reading space, or one book bin that demonstrates your effort to establish a great place for promoting reading.  Don’t have a classroom library? Take a picture of your favorite reading space or your home library. What happens if I don’t get any submissions? Then I will just create a post that shows my current library set up with explanations of what is seen in the photos – my originally planned post.

To get all of the teachers out there inspired, here are some examples of classroom spaces that are already being posted out in the blogosphere (PS – these are great blogs to add to any reading-related RSS feed):

A fifth grade teacher, Katherine Sokolowski, shows her impressive library.

Franki Sibberson describes the great spaces she has created.

A picture from Donalyn Miller as she begins her transition into 4th grade. And another picture as things begin to come together.

(Donalyn Miller’s blog can be found here.)

Re-energized for establishing a fun reading environment yet? I hope so! I am eager to see everyone’s great reading spaces!