How to Organize Your Leveled Library for Guided Reading

Oh, the classroom library!

It is one of those things that I've changed and tweaked many times throughout my career.

And I am VERY sure I will continue to change and tweak as the years go on.

I've sorted them by guided reading level, by genre, by author, by topic or theme, etc. Depending on the current trend in reading I've resorted them. And I'm sure I'll continue to do so in the years to come. However,  I have learned two very important things:

1. Kids devour books that are brought in temporarily to go with a current topic of study or seasonal event.

2. It is important to have a leveled library to use for reading instruction regardless of how you organize and manage the bulk of your books.

3. That collection of books needs to be easily accessed by you and the students during reader's workshop and reading conferences.

Therefore, as part of my classroom makeover for the new year I worked with my class to weed out our current collection of books for the upcoming year. They offered lots of input on which books they were most interested in and why others were never selected. This will help me to also select new books to purchase when using Scholastic Bonus Points (which, thanks to the book order activity pages, I have lots and lots to use).

We repaired or recycled books that were damaged. Finally, the remaining books were leveled (by students during indoor recess using an online leveling site) and sorted into new baskets.

All that was left to do was add some new labels to the baskets. I designed some simple labels that show the book level with a "chalkboard look" to coordinate with the student work shelf

And I'm pleased to offer them for free as an instant download to all who follow my store and/or Facebook page.
{Click to Access and Download these FREE printable Leveled Library Book Basket Labels}

Here are some tips that I have shared in a previous blog post, but are worth revisiting:

  • From my experience, I've found that having an elaborate check-out system is not necessary. A few books may be lost or damaged over the course of the year, but the time necessary to manage a check-out system doesn't always prevent this from happening. Instead, establish expectations and procedures for respecting the books and using the library.
  • I've recently broken my library up and spread it around the classroom. I really like this as it enables more children to browse comfortably. I have a section for my leveled picture books, a section for my chapter books (organized by series, genre and favorite authors), and a non-fiction section. I also have a section for the text books and reference books (i.e. dictionaries and thesaurus). I love that my kids are "surrounded by literature."
  • Find a way to make your books face forward. Students are not likely to select them if the spines are showing. The covers are much more enticing.
  • Consider rotating your books or creating a themed section to increase interest and keep things fresh.
  • Decide how you want your books to be sorted and labeled and plan how adding books in the future will effect that.
  • Using uniform baskets/bins creates an organized look.
  • Create a "return bin" for students to put books into. Have a parent volunteer or responsible student librarian return them from there to their actual basket.
  • Set rules / guidelines for using the library. In my classroom the students are each assigned a day to access the classroom library and pick new books for their bag. The expectation is that they select books that will last them until the next week, but they may also request a conference with me to discuss what they've read and can pick books afterwards as needed.
  • Add the words, "The classroom library is CLOSED when I am absent to your substitute teacher plans." Just trust me on this one.

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