Maintaining your classroom library can be a sticky situation for some. How do you make sure that your books (probably mainly items that you have found and paid for with your own hard-earned cash) are returned and in one piece? You want to encourage being excited about reading at home, but it gets tough if the books you loan out don’t come back.
Here are a few classroom library ideas for organization, choosing books, and checking them out so they come back…
Independent Reading Corner Connections
First up, how do you find materials to fill up your classroom library without breaking the bank? Here are a few tips to make sure your library is one worth looking through for kids…
- Find cheap kids books at garage sales
- Prepare some fun book boxes by simply asking parents if they have any books related to your topic sitting at home they would like to donate
- Create an Amazon wishlist and share it with the PTO/PTA
- Contact local businesses and explain you are setting up your class library with various reading levels and are looking for donations of books. Many local companies already have these funds earmarked for those who simply ask for it.
- Team up with other grade level teachers who are not interested in doing Scholastic book orders in their own classrooms. Take over for the grade level and pool together all the book orders yourself, using the double points to purchase inexpensive children books. Even better if you can get cheap (or even free) book sets for units of study that all the grade level teachers can rotate in and out.
Free Choice with Library Books
Library organization doesn’t have to be complicated. Even those who teach preschool can have an organized reading area as long as you have a system in place that is easy for students to understand and follow.
A few classroom setup ideas:
Begin to organize your classroom library by sorting books into popular topics, genres, or even an author series. Some teachers prefer leveling books when building their class library. I find that books organized in easy to remember chunks of sorting seem to work the best.
After the books are sorted into stacks, use labels to color code them. Colored electrical tape or even washi tape on the spine of the book makes it easy to tag.
Finally, get the books organized in the library by placing them in book bins. Position the book bins on shelves, counters, or tables. I find it of great importance to have my book bins forward facing so that students can easily see the covers and are more likely to take interest.
Make sure the bins have a matching color label on them. A large sign with all the labels and descriptions is a great addition so students can use it as a key when “shopping” for their next book selection.
How to keep the school library organized after all the sorting has been completed?
Use library stick toppers!
These are super easy and fun to set up! Simple customize your topper with student names or numbers, print on card stock, laminate if you like, and attach to a ruler, dowel, or even an old wooden spoon!
Students then use the sticks while previewing the book bins or bookshelves. The steps are so simple, most students will find they even enjoy knowing where their book gets returned too. Talk about a magnificent win-win!
As they take out a book, they place the stick into the same spot. If students choose not to take the book, they can easily remember where to replace it. If they do, you know where they grabbed a book from when looking for the title again.
Creating library stick toppers really make organization of a teacher’s library so much easier to maintain!
Checking Out Book Return Resources
Here are a few classroom organizer checkout system ideas that I thought of and a few I found as I was searching online. I have not used any of the digital checkout systems, so please make sure you take a look at them thoroughly and decide whether you want a login for your classroom before deciding on what to use:
- The first one I ran across is called Booksource and it says it is 100% free at the moment (they do mention that if they decide to add additional features, there may be a charge for that upgrade down the road). You can add new titles, a class roster, run assessment reports on student and/or title activity, and allow the students to check in/check out books. Looks pretty cool, but of course, you will need to import all the titles and get it set up.
- Next up was LibraryThing, which I have heard of before (though again, I have not used it myself). This looks like it is geared more towards adults with home collections, but perhaps could still be used in the classroom as well. It is free for listing up to 200 books, and then there is a pretty nominal fee after that amount.
- The last one is from Beth Newingham (who does NOT love her?) and she has an awesome website page devoted to the library organization system with tons of tips and pictures! If you scroll almost to the bottom, she has a free excel spreadsheet (under the section header called “Classroom Library Catalog”) where you can enter your books, titles, genres, etc and even be able to sort them easily. Of course, you will have to enter the information in manually, but it could be done by older students (study hall or intervention periods) or even parent volunteers!
- If you are not super keen on setting up an electronic classroom library checkout system, then maybe something simpler would do? If you have a digital camera or smartphone ready to go, simply snap a picture of the child with the book he or she is taking home and then delete the image when it is returned. If you have a function where it allows you to add a date so you know how long it has been out, even better!
- Last idea is even simpler – how about a paper and pencil checkout sheet? Have the students fill out the form with the title and date the book left. You can glance it is periodically to see who still has a book out and make sure that when it is returned, you initial. Better yet – put a student in charge as a classroom job! For the week, they are in charge of sitting and checking books as the “classroom librarian.” If you need a form, feel free to grab this freebie from my Hollywood Theme Classroom Essentials Set below.