A classroom library is the backbone of successful independent reading. Well-stocked, high-quality classroom libraries generate interest and motivation for reading, support differentiated instruction through more accurate matching of students with texts, and provide the means to develop necessary expert reading skills.
Creating Your Library
When building your classroom library, include a wide range of authors, genres, reading levels, and types. Be sure to include biographies, chapter books, picture books, nonfiction, and informational texts in your library selection. Encourage group-reading exercises by selecting several copies of popular titles or classroom favorites. Set aside a reading corner or area in the classroom for your library and make the area inviting with comfortable seating and furniture options.
Organizing Your Library
There is no right way to set up a classroom library. There are, however, several factors to consider when organizing your library. When choosing a leveling system for books, it is helpful to level books by the same system used to assess reading levels.
Some schools choose to label the level on only one-third of their books, while the other books are organized by genre, topic, or author. Other schools write the level on every book, whether it is shelved in the leveled section, or placed in any of the other sections. Still, there are schools that do not level any of the books—those schools only sort by genre, topic, or author. For schools that do choose to level books, they can write the level on each book’s cover, or place a colored dot on the cover that corresponds to a specific reading level.
Regardless of which leveling system is chosen, try to use the same system schoolwide to facilitate organized book exchanges between classrooms, and consistency as students progress through the grades.
Supporting Instruction with Your Library
Your classroom library isn’t there to just encourage a love of reading. Research shows that independent reading can yield significant gains in knowledge acquisition when it is one of the key components in a robust and comprehensive literacy approach. Utilize your classroom library to support other important instruction components in your daily lessons:
Direct, explicit comprehension instruction: Choose books from your library to use for comprehension activities
Effective instructional principles embedded in content: Partner science and ELA lessons with in-class reading to cover multiple skills at once
Motivation and self-directed learning: Allow students to get excited about reading by choosing books they enjoy, either related to current classroom lessons or for independent reading
Text-based collaborative learning: Group students together who enjoyed reading the same book, and have them dig deeper with discussion questions and similar activities
Diverse texts: Include books in a variety of topics that will interest diverse student populations
Intensive writing: Couple reading and writing when your students read a book of their choice write an essay or paper after
Extended time for literacy: Open the classroom library for set times each day or week, so students can read alone and together
Research confirms what has often been written: Children learn to read by reading. Teachers can promote children’s involvement with reading by having them interact with books through the extensive use of classroom libraries. With hundreds of good books to read, and time to read them, children will get on the right road to reading achievement.
Marla Conn is a reading/literacy specialist and an Educational Consultant.
Contact Marla at: firstname.lastname@example.org
After receiving her Masters of Science in Elementary Education/Reading N-12, Marla Conn became a reading specialist in the New York public school system where she taught for 15 years. While there, she worked with teachers on staff development, instructing them in the Fountas and Pinnell Guided Reading approach and balanced literacy classroom instruction. She also advised teachers on how to choose appropriate reading materials and properly assign Guided Reading levels to books.
Over the past 20 years she has been helping struggling readers build word attack, fluency, comprehension and writing skills, enabling them to become confident learners.
Mrs. Conn is a highly regarded educational consultant to many publishers. She has leveled and consulted for: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, PenguinRandom House, Candlewick Press, Charlesbridge, Simon and Schuster, and many more. Her specialized consulting work consists of assigning Guided Reading levels to trade books, writing and developing user guides and lesson plans, and correlating books to curriculum and National Standards. Mrs. Conn thoroughly enjoys helping schools to create a more positive learning environment by matching readers with appropriate reading materials.