A Guide to Building an Effective Classroom Library for Independent Reading

Genres of Written Texts

  • Realistic Fiction
  • Historical Fiction
  • Science Fiction
  • Biography/Autobiography
  • Mysteries
  • Poetry
  • Myths
  • Fantasy
  • Content Areas (Science/Social Studies/Math)
  • Reference Materials

If the lifeblood of the literate environment is student access to text, its heartbeat is the classroom library. Readers need to engage in considerable amounts of choice, independent reading. As teachers, it is important to support them by offering a rich, well-organized collection of books from which to choose. Classroom libraries offer engaging texts of varying genres and levels of difficulty that are developmentally appropriate and culturally diverse. All students need to be able to find something that they can read and want to read with ample opportunities to share their thinking about books with other students in the class and through writing.

An Effective Classroom Library has:

  • 50% Fiction books and 50% Non-Fiction books
  • A wide range of reading levels (2 to 3 years above and below grade level)
  • A wide range of culturally responsive books
  • Multiple copies of popular titles and text sets
  • A rich variety of genres
  • Digital Texts, eBooks, Multi-Media

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Designing and Managing a Classroom Library

Reading Spaces

Identify spaces in the classroom to build a classroom library and to display books and create inviting reading areas for students to read. Consider furniture arrangement, area rugs, flexible sitting, listening centers, and shelving for books that are accessible to students.

Sorting System

Organize and store books in plastic bins or baskets by author, genre, theme, and award winning books of various range of levels. Large storage baskets may also be used for large quantities of picture books, or any other large-size texts (reference materials); plastic shoe boxes and small storage baskets can be used for early chapter book "readers”.

Book Categories

Categorize books into one bin or basket as follow: Author Study, Genre Study, Theme or award winning books. If unsure what category to put a book in, https://scholastic.com/bookwizard (free resource) to find genre for the book or https://www.fandpleveledbooks.com (subscription resource)

Labeling the books and containers

Create individual book labels using small to medium size Avery address labels. Consider adding a clip-art picture, the title of the book basket, and a reference to who the book belongs to. On a larger Avery address label, create a matching label for outside of bins/baskets. Laminate labels on matching construction paper for durability especially if the containers are moved frequently.

Marking books

Use a stamp, print out stickers or address labels to mark the front and/or back cover of every book. This makes it easier to spot the book as one that needs to be returned to the classroom. Also, consider labeling the outside of each book with the appropriate category so that students know where to return them when they are finished reading.

Organizing book baskets

Each book basket label can have a colored dot sticker and a number. Each book that belongs in the basket/ category has a matching colored dot sticker and number. There may be more categories than baskets, so there may be two or three baskets with the same color of dots, but they have different numbers on them so that the baskets can be arranged in number order.

Mini-lessons on Classroom library managements

Mini-lessons are short, concise, purposeful lessons with practical application on how to select books from the classroom library. This is an opportunity to teach routines that are essential to the smooth functioning of the classroom library.