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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Edutopians on the Importance of a Classroom Library

Betty Ray

Director of Programming and Innovation @Edutopia

In a previous post, Edutopia.org blogger Heather Wolpert-Gawron shared some inspirational (and practical) ideas for getting students engaged in the classroom library. Turns out, the Edutopia community has lots of great suggestions, too. Check them out, or add your own, in her post "The Importance of a Classroom Library."

You'll find tons of creative ideas here -- from organizational suggestions to money-saving tips and playful reading games that inspire kids' imaginations.

Betty Ray

Director of Programming and Innovation @Edutopia
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Misty's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am so excited about starting my classroom library this year. I bought a new bookshelf yesterday just for this purpose. I teach kindergarten and my students had a hard time putting books back on the shelf without ripping them so I didn't allow them to chose their own books very often. Not all of my books will fit on the new bookshelf so I can only put so many on there at a time. I plan to change the books every 2 to 3 weeks in hopes of keeping the interest renewed when the books are changed. I also love the idea of signing out a book. This will give my kindergartners extra reading and writing practice and they won't even realize it!!
I use the Pizza Hut Book-it program and my children have to read 10 books a month to earn their coupon. I want to encourage my students to use our classroom library books to fulfill the requirements and get their coupon.

Heather's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I teach 4th grade in Washington State and we started implementing the Daily Five last year at my school. I think one of the biggest things that helped us as a school implement the program was leveling our classroom libraries. It helps students pick the "just right books" The Sisters talk about and are am important part in building reading stamina. I taught 2nd grade last year and my students LOVED the Daily Five and really enjoyed building their reading stamina. It also helps to have the whole school on board so that you can use the same terminology all throughout the building. I hope everything goes well with you this upcoming school year!

Heather's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I teach 4th grade in Washington State and we just started implementing the Daily Five this past school year. One of the most helpful things (and most time consuming) was leveling my classroom library. It was important for our school to decide on one type of leveling (we chose the AR leveling system since our school using the AR program) so that our students could pick "just right books" for the independent reading time. I taught 2nd grade last year and my students couldn't wait to build their reading stamina and they enjoyed the lessons that went along with building the program. They loved getting to pick their own books and really responded to managing their time and being independent. Best of luck in the upcoming school year and I hope that you enjoy the Daily Five as much as I have!

Bridget's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I believe that classroom libraries are essential in classrooms, however at my school I am one of the few teachers that have a functioning classroom library! It is amazing that in a school culture where such an emphasis is placed on reading and test taking that library use is not highly valued.
I teach special education, and I have my students 'shop' for books. We spend many days discussing what kinds of books are 'just right' for them to read, and how to determine what book they are based on the color coding system that I have in place in my room. It is very effective, just very time consuming at the beginning of the school year.
Aubrey, one place that you could look for books is at garage sales. I found many of my books for my library there. They may not be in the very best condition, but they work well. Also, I have my students take books depending on their level. So if they are reading more advanced books, they take only one or two. If they are reading books with few words, they take about eight to put in their independent reading bag. Best of luck!

Ayanna Baynes's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hello Misty may I suggest that you utilize baskets in your kindergarten library. The books won't have to be put back so gingerly and your students will be able to experience the responsiblity of borrowing a book from the library. Also there are baskets that are wide enough to hold even your big books. just make sure you label each basket, and a color-coded system is best for the younger children. Even pictures on the cover of each book that match their corresponding basket so the children and put them back correctly and keep your library orderly.

Ayanna Baynes's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I had some problems with my students returning my books to their perfectly labeled and sorted baskets. Well after my class got done with them they weren't so perfectly sorted. I then decided to label the books in a way that my students would be intereted in paying atten to. I bought a Mickey Mouse hole punch and designated a color for each genre. Then we periodically palyed a matching game where I pulled various books and the children had to restock the baskets. They loved it!

jenny hart's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am learning about these programs this summer and I am very excited. I yearn for a system that will allow me to meet one on one with students much more often and work toward very specific goals over time. A classroom library that is diverse and well stocked is one important key to implementing the ideas in daily 5 and cafe.

Verona Medley Hall's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Ayanna,
Thank you for sharing such a great idea for returning books.I like the idea of playing a game to teach students how to return the books to their correct baskets. One of the things I have learnt from teaching first grade over many years is that, you need to teach them everything you want them to learn. Once they have learnt it, they can take the skill or knowledge to the next grade for the teacher to build on. Your students will take this skill to another grade, and if the next teacher does not sort her books the way you did, they have learnt that books and other things belong in their correct place, and how much eaiser it is to locate them when they are well organized.

Heather WolpertGawron's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I personally use the genre stickers to distinguish between the books purchased from the online Highpoint catalogue of educational supplies. What I like about them is that they use both colors and icons/symbols to represent the genres. Of course, you can just use the little colored circle stickers as well and maybe even as a mini-lesson have the students decide on the symbols and put them in themselves. You would certainly get some classroom library buy-in if they themselves help to organize the library. Good luck with one of the most powerful additions to any classroom. Be prepared, you'll never be done collecting and improving it. Have fun, and thanks for commenting.
-Heather Wolpert-Gawron

Linda M. Tankersley's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Jenny, if you schedule 20 minutes a day of self-selected reading for your students, you can have a 5 minute conference with 4 children a day. The trick to making this effective is teaching the children exactly what you want them to do during this time. The 4 BLOCK SELF-SELECTED READING book has great guidelines. Remember, teach the kids what you expect from them during this time, and you will discover that every second is used.

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