Deciding on your classroom library organization system can be tricky. If you have a large library it can be tough sorting all your books only to discover you hate the system and want to change it.
Today I’ll share with you my system. I’ve used it for several years now and it works beautifully. Maybe it’s exactly what you are looking for!
Classroom Library Organization Using Genres
If you’re anything like me, you might be reading everything you can about how to organize classroom libraries before deciding what to do. There are a lot of pros and cons to organizing by topic, genre, authors, or reading levels. When planning out my classroom library organization system, I had to ask myself what the end goal would be for my students. What did I want them to learn from using the classroom library?
- How to find their “just right” books
- How to reshelve books
- How to care for books
- How to discover new favorites
- How to transfer these skills to the school or public library
This last point was very crucial to me. I really want my students to be able to use all these skills to find books in the school or public library. I decided in order to build those skills organizing my library by genre was the way to go.
The next step I took was to sort all of my books. I decided to start with the two big genres - fiction and non-fiction. Once I had them sorted into these two types, I began to make smaller categories. Which types of books within these main genres did I have?
My non-fiction books were many of the same topics I taught in science and social studies like weather, ocean, and rainforest. My fiction books were much the same as well with fairy tales, folktales, and favorite author studies. As I noticed these patterns I labeled groups of books with a sticky note. After I had all my books sorted I used the sticky notes to create bin labels.
It’s Okay to Add in Favorite Categories
In my experience, most teachers in kindergarten and first grade organize their classroom library through topics. For example, they might have bins labeled cats, summer, or friendship. I feel organizing into genres is an extension of this but more narrowed.
As I went through my book categories, I found several that I didn’t want to put under the category of a genre. Instead I made these book piles into topics. I now have a bin called class favorites, and another one that says author series. I also have a bin called easy readers for my students that need more reading support and may have trouble finding “just right” books in the rest of my library collection.
Having these separate bins has worked well for me. I placed these bins on the top row of my bookshelves so they stand out as being different from the genre labeled bins. The labels also set them apart as being a different category.
An Easy Browsing Process
Since I teach second grade I am always on the lookout for ways to make learning easier for my students. Using my classroom library is no exception. I talked about having an organized classroom library in an earlier post which you can read about here.
As I was reorganizing my classroom library, I did not have enough of the same type of bins. These were beautiful colored bins I had purchased many, many years ago when I first began teaching. Over the years my bins have started showing their age and cracking. My library has also expanded since those early years of teaching. This meant I did not have enough colored bins for all my new categories.
This turned out to be a great thing.
I decided my main focus in my classroom library was for students to understand the difference between fiction and non-fiction. Not only did I use two different types of bins (colored for fiction and clear for non-fiction) I also placed each in its own bookcase to further separate them.
When students come to look for a book, they know to choose one side of the bookcase. Since they are physically separated, like they would be in our school library or public libraries, students begin making the distinction between the two main genres. I also like using the bins to hold books because it makes it very easy for students to flip through and look at the books. When they are placed on the shelves together and students need to pull out the book to view the covers, the library can become messy and disorganized easily.
Labels Make It Easy to Reshelve
No classroom library organization system is complete without a way for students to help keep the library organized. For primary students, having matching labels makes it super easy. My classroom library has matching labels on both the book and the bins. I also have a code on each label so students can match pictures or the code letters to find which bin to place their book.
Once I explain the system to my class and have them practice it a few times, my library stays organized day after day. If you still have students that struggle to place books back correctly, consider making it a classroom job. Assign a student or a pair of students to check the library after use to make sure all books are where they need to be.
Students Use the Honor System for Checking Out Books
The rule in my classroom is to treat the books with respect and to return them when done. Before I allow students into my classroom library area to read all the books I give several lessons from the Daily 5 about book care and book choosing. Generally, students are not keeping the books multiple days to read them and often return them the same day once the center rotation is done. If students are reading longer books, they can ask to keep the book at their desk.
I could use a checkout system for my classroom library but I decided that would be too much to keep up with. If you are the opposite, you might want to check out this post from Teaching in Paradise where Courtney walks readers through her checkout system.
If you are a primary teacher, I urge you to try out using a classroom library organization system that is genre based. Also don’t be afraid to mix and match organization styles to find one that is perfect for you.