Over the past week this series has focused on suggestions for organizing beautiful classroom libraries. Each day this week, I posted suggestions for each grade level, based on the Units of Study for Teaching Reading by Lucy Calkins et al. (which I am honored to have played a role in creating).
No matter the grade level, a classroom library can be a place that inspires children to fall in love with books and words. The library should be brimming with a range of text types, topics, and styles. Just as your students grow and change across the school year, so will your classroom library, reflecting the personalities and changing interests of the children in the room. Think outside the box to invent ways to display books, celebrate favorites, highlight new arrivals, and share your own love of reading as a model for your students.
You might use a type of leveling system to assist kids in finding books - dots on the covers, or letters written on the back, but these need not be the main feature of any classroom library, at any grade level. Rather than shelves of books organized by level, you might instead highlight bins filled with favorite authors, topics, themes, genres, character traits, and other, more enticing ways of encouraging kids to choose a book they really want to read. Inside these bins of books, there may be dots or letters to assist you and the children in finding what you need. It will be far more important that kids open up each book and try things out, deciding for themselves if the book feels like a good fit. Choice is a key component to successful reading, no matter how young or old.
Across the grades, classroom libraries can provide a window for students into diverse perspectives, time periods long ago, and places far away. At the same time, your library provides a mirror--a place where children see their own situations and familiar settings reflected in books. Author Grace Lin spoke eloquently about the importance of windows AND mirrors in her recent TEDx talk. If you haven't seen it yet, be sure to watch it soon.
I do want to say (again, and again) that there is one thing that all of the books in the world cannot replace: You! No matter how how many books you have in your classroom library, it is your love for books, and your dedication to teaching reading that is crucial. While having an amazing classroom library is incredibly helpful, there are many ways to make the best with what you have, adapt, stretch and still have an engaging and successful reading workshop. This series will suggest some goals to aim for, and you and your colleagues can work together to figure out what makes sense for your team.
Here are the links to advice for organizing classroom libraries, specific to each unit of study:
Thank you to Katie LeFrancois, Kathleen Sokolowski, Anna Gratz Cockerille, and PS 199Q for the photos of beautiful classroom libaries!