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In kindergarten, literacy is one of the most important aspects of the content I teach. It's my job to instill a love of reading in my students and to help them discover new books that ignite their interests and fill their hearts with joy. It's also essential that I put books in their hands that are on-level for their reading abilities so they can build confidence as young readers. My classroom library is, hands-down, my favorite corner of the classroom. I love the vibrant colors, the neatly lined up bins, and the organization? Well, that's just the icing on the cake!
As you prepare your own classroom for back to school, I'm excited to take you on a little tour and share my classroom library with you.
Getting Started and Gathering Materials
If you're just getting started organizing your classroom library, you need four simple things:
- bins to hold the books
- labels to help your library stay organized
If you are ready to start building your classroom library today, I'll take you through the four essential items to help you create a library space for your students.
#1 – Books
If you're building a classroom library, you need to start collecting books. Fortunately, there are a few cost-effective options available to help you get started.
Scholastic Reading Club
These days, I purchase most of my library books from Scholastic Reading Club. They're affordable and there are always a few leveled sets available in the monthly flyers. I especially love purchasing books through Scholastic Reading Club because I get bonus points each time a parent buys books. Those points add up fast! Last year, I “purchased” all of these books for my library using bonus points.
The packs of books are always an exceptional value and these particular books were great choices that were on-level for my students. You can read more about the book sets in this blog post.
If the parents in your class don't purchase many books from the flyers when you send them home, you probably just need to educate them. I always mention the Scholastic book orders during my Parent Night presentation. I talk about the importance of “just right” books and hold up a few Scholastic books from my own classroom library. Then I mention how incredibly difficult it can be to find easy to read books at the local book store or even the book fair. As soon as I point out that Scholastic book orders are the best (and often only) place to purchase books that are easy enough for Kindergarteners to read, I have their attention. I even throw the Scholastic Book Fair under the bus because those books are too hard for my kids to read too. By the time I mention the incredible bargain that these books are, I've already guaranteed that a few parents will purchase books from the Book Order.
Then I just teach the parents how to find reading level information online and in the flyer. I post this exact image on my classroom blog when the first book order goes home. You are welcome to do the same!
Scholastic Online Store
If you are looking for specific books that you know Scholastic publishes, but aren't in your current Scholastic Reading Club flyer, you can buy most of their resources at any time from the Scholastic Online Store. The prices are a little higher, but the stock is much more consistent.
Used Book Sales
Used book sales are another amazing place to get fantastic books for classroom library. I have purchased hundreds of books for my own library over the years from local used book sales. Sometimes I've even been lucky enough to find leveled books from a former teacher's library in the used book bins.
The prices of children's books at Used Book Sales are particularly amazing. They often charge by the inch, which means they stack the books up and you pay based on how tall the stack of books are. In my area, most used book sales charge $1 per inch; which means that I could get a collection like this for only $3.
I've also found that if I'm purchasing dozens of books and I mention that I'm a teacher, the volunteers who run the cash register are often pretty generous with their measurements.
Another excellent source of classroom books is from donations. Reach out to former parents or put a note in your school newsletter stating that you are trying to expand your classroom library and are seeking any gently used book donations. You'd be amazed at how many picture books families have at home that their children have outgrown.
#2 – Bins
Once you've begun to collect books for your classroom library, you'll find yourself sorting them so that your library can be organized. There's no right or wrong way to sort and organize your books. Many lower elementary teachers sort their books by theme (such as apples, holidays, or favorite book characters). Many upper elementary teachers sort by genre (fiction, biography, fantasy, etc). Some teachers, like myself, have books sorted by level in addition to categories.
No matter how you sort your books, you are going to need a way to store them and keep your categories separated. Here's where book bins come in. My best advice is to stock up on rectangular bins. Avoid round containers or boxes with irregular shapes. Rectangular boxes fit the best on shelves and help you to maximize your storage space. There are a few great places to stock up on bins for your classroom library.
Really Good Stuff
Really Good Stuff is one of my favorite places to purchase bins for my library. Their Durable Book and Binder Holders are very high quality and can handle tremendous rough handling from students. They also come in a variety of colors and are available year-round. (Bonus tip – turn the bins around on your shelf so the tall part faces out. That's what I did for the green and yellow boxes you see in the above photo. It makes an extra-bold statement in your library).
Medium Rectangle Book Baskets are another favorite of mine from Really Good Stuff. These little baskets are available in the same range of colors as the Book and Binder Holders and they are the perfect size to hold the small square-shaped leveled readers that I stock up on from Scholastic.
During the summer months, I begin stalking all of my local Big Lots stores. They carry a line of plastic bins and boxes in their dorm decor that are amazing. I especially love their Magazine Storage Boxes. You can see the blue and pink bins in the photo from my previous classroom library. These bins are the perfect size to hold slightly oversized hardcover picture books that sometimes don't fit in the bins from Really Good Stuff. And you can't go wrong with a price tag of $3 per box. I also really love the bins that have the dots in the for storing books that I have an abundance of (like my Dr. Seuss books). Those boxes are extra durable and can really stand the test of time.
As amazing as these bins are, there's just one catch. You can only buy them in-store during the summer months. They don't sell the bins online. And the colors rotate from year to year. A few years back, they had the most beautiful pink, blue, lime green and purple selection. This year the colors are coral, bright blue, black and gray. If you're in need of boxes for your classroom, RUN to Big Lots now and grab these while you still can.
If you're looking for a budget-friendly way to store your books, make a trip to your local Dollar Tree. Jill from First Grade Made used a mix of Dollar Tree bins and Really Good Stuff bins to store the books in her classroom library and it looks so beautiful. I'll talk about those labels in a minute. 🙂
And did you know you can actually purchase items for the Dollar Tree online? YES! You can! Often, you have to buy a case of items (which is usually 24 pieces), but I guarantee that 24 plastic bins is just about the right size for a “starter” library. You can find the complete offering of Dollar Tree's plastic bins here. Just remember that rectangular boxes will be your best friend and round ones will be a nightmare for your storage system.
Oriental Trading has also been making a huge splash in the education sector this summer and I was surprised to discover that they sell many storage bins online. It's another great option to check out if you are getting ready to stock up on bins for your classroom library.
#3 – Shelving
Once your books are organized and sorted into bins, you're going to need to store those bins somewhere in your classroom and make them accessible to your students. Many teachers purchase additional shelving to store those books. I use these bookshelves from Wal-Mart in my own library. They aren't the absolute best quality, but with a price tag under $16, I wouldn't expect them to be. They hold up pretty well as long as they can stay stationary in the room without being dragged around while loaded with books. The shelves sometimes bow, but I just flip them over when that happens and they eventually straighten back out.
The Wal-Mart shelves sometimes sell out (probably because of the crazy low price). A coworker has many of these similar shelves from Amazon in her classroom and they work great too!
#4 – Labels to Stay Organized
So you've finally collected the books, sorted them and tucked them neatly on the shelf in bins that are ready for students to use and love. Now how exactly do you keep those books organized so that all of your hard work wasn't in vain?
All you need now is the right labeling system to keep your classroom library organized and staying top-notch. My classroom library labels are perfect for the job!
Child-friendly illustrations and a simple font are used on all of the box labels. Just print the labels you need, laminate and hot glue them onto plastic bins. Yes, I said hot glue. It creates a firm bond but pops easily off when you want to remove the label.
The book bins are fantastic and look amazing, but the real magic is in the coordinating book labels that are also included in the set. Just print the labels onto Avery 5160 sticker sheets and place a matching label onto every book in the bin. That way, your students will always know exactly where to return the books when they are done reading.
How to Use Classroom Library Labels
If you want to see more about the library labels and aren't exactly sure how they work, this video is for you. I explain the whole process for how I use them to label my own classroom library.
Classroom Library Flashback
As nice is it is to have a really beautiful space, it's perfectly ok to start with an area that's purely functional and grow from there. This is how my classroom library looked in 2012. As you can see, things were a little bit different back then. And that is OK! I had books, bins, shelves and labels in place. My students used the library and loved it and we all start somewhere!
My Current Classroom Library
My library has changed (and expanded) considerably since those early days. Here are a few photos from this space in my classroom last year. Is it any wonder why I love this area in my kindergarten room the most? You can read more about my classroom here.
Discover More Classroom Inspiration
I'm not the only teacher with a favorite corner of my classroom. Each of the other bloggers hosting the giveaway are taking you on a tour of their favorite spaces. Just wait until you see where they organize supplies, teach guided reading, store math materials, and more! Click on any of the images below to complete the classroom tours!