Classroom libraries are a big step toward turning regular students, even those that might be struggling, into voracious readers. But preparing them isn’t as simple as finding a bunch of books and putting them on a shelf. You have to be just as methodical about your library as you are about your lesson plans. Here are some things to keep in mind.
Vary the materials
Just like adults, kids find themselves engaged with a variety of reading materials. Some students might crave young adult fiction, while others like history or other non-fiction books. Some might even just want to sit and read a magazine. With some obvious exceptions, you shouldn’t care what they’re reading as long as they’re reading. Bonus: if you widen your search, it’s easier to find items to stock the library.
Organize by reading level
If teachers organize their library at all, they often do it alphabetically. That might make things easy to find if you know what you’re looking for, but what if you don’t? The whole goal of the library is to turn a browser into a reader. So instead of alphabetizing the books, organize them first by reading level, then by genre. That way, a browsing student knows which books they are capable of reading and also where to find books in which they would be interested. Make it as easy as possible for the browser.
Zero barriers to entry
Many teachers make the mistake of asking students to produce something once they’re done with a book from the classroom library. This product might be as complex as a book report or as simple as a quick conversation with you about the book. This can turn a lot of students off from borrowing from the library.
Remember that, above all, you want reluctant readers to use the books. They will be even more reluctant if they know something will be expected of them if they try a new book. Just let it happen naturally. If the library is doing its job, the students will want to talk to you about what they’ve read.
For a lot of students, the teacher with the best classroom library is one of their favorites. It seems to always be the room they want to visit when they need some quiet time. Shaping future readers is one of the most important functions of teaching and your classroom library is a big part of accomplishing that goal.