I’m not talking about it being different now from the way it was my first year, but rather that it has literally changed dramatically over and over and over again.
Actually, when I think back to my first “library” I have to laugh. It was nothing more than a milk crate with some books the teacher I took over for left behind. I was young. It was my first job. I had just relocated from Boston to sunny Florida and could barely afford Ramen Noodles for dinner, much less books to stock a classroom library. Instead I checked out TONS of books from the public library each and every week. I have such vivid images of driving around every Saturday morning with a stack of books several feet high on the passenger seat of my 2 seater Miata convertible.
But you know what?
My kids devoured those books. Mondays were super exciting because they knew there would be new books available and that they would need to take advantage of them quickly because they would soon be returned to and re-shelved at the Winter Park Public Library.
Over the years my library grew and grew and GREW.
It grew to thousands of titles. There were books for all levels and books for all seasons.
Which meant I had thousands of books to organize and manage.
And as much as I love me a good organizational project, it became daunting.
I spent many a summer day sorting, leveling, categorizing, labeling, etc.
Then school would start and I would need to teach my elaborate system to my new friends as part of our procedures and routines. But, I noticed that while I had a very full, well-organized library, it wasn’t being used to it’s full potential.
It’s kind of like that saying, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”
I had some friends who would spend FOR.EV.ER browsing through my library. They were spending more time “shopping” for books than reading books.
And then I thought back to my first year of teaching and my sad little library and realized that the ironic thing was that those students were actually more excited about reading and read more books than my more recent students because they had less to choose from and new books were spotlighted often.
So while I didn’t purge my library back to a single milk crate, I did make some changes that I’ve been thrilled with.
- I scaled back the number of books available at any one time.
- I broke my library up into different sections (picture books, non-fiction, chapter books, and temporary books). This made it possible for several students to look for new books without feeling crammed in too tight.
- I use the games and activities in my Genre Kit to teach the class about genres and have them help me sort books. This provides real world practice of the skills and helps them navigate the library easier throughout the year.
- I stopped leveling the books. The real world does not group book by reading levels so it was important to me that I create an environment that would prepare them for selecting books at the library and book stores.
- I developed ways to showcase new books so that my students had a list of desired books they knew they wanted to read and weren’t wasting time sifting through my collection.
- I rotate books out throughout the year. Books are constantly changed out to reflect seasonal interests and topics of study. Keeping things new and fresh makes my friends want to get their hands on the literature before it’s gone.
I love these changes because they not only increase the students' interest in books and decreases time wasted looking through bin after bin, but also because it helps keep my classroom Clutter-Free.
I’m not saying that books are clutter...but, I think you’ll find that it is best to have books that are enjoyed by your students and not just there because they are books.
It’s a collection of Blackline Design Book Basket Labels that can be copied onto colored card stock or scrapbook paper.