The Best Part of the Classroom!

I collect books.

Lots of books.

Now that I'm going back into the classroom to teach first grade again, it was time to bring all my books back and set up the classroom library.  It was a little like Christmas day, seeing all my books.  {They never went anywhere, but organizing them for the library gave me a chance to look at each one. There were some I had forgotten I owned... gasp!}  

I set aside two days for this project, but it took four... can you believe it? I told my friend, Trina, "I only have 23 tubs so all these books are going to have to make it into 23 categories."  She laughed as if she knew I'd be heading back to the store the next day... and she was right.  I bought 25 more!

I used to keep our books in tubs like these, with sticker labels:

What I DON'T like about this anymore is:

• one side of the plastic tub always puffs out sideways because it can't handle the weight of the books
• the stickers ALWAYS peel off... thanks to curious little, fidgety fingers
• the stickers don't peel off all the way, which is a pain if I want to change the contents of the tub

So, this time I made some improvements:

1.  I bought some sturdy canvas bins.  {They come in many colors.  I checked all the stores and K-mart had the best price at the time.}

2.  I made larger tags, mounted them on tagboard, and laminated them for durability.  Then, I attached them with metal rings.  What I love about this is that I can switch out collections throughout the year without having to worry about stickers that won't remove completely.

3.  Of course, you get what you pay for.  Obviously, these were a little more $$ than the plastic bins, so I had to get some dollar-store baskets, too, but the large tags and metal rings work well with those also.

I literally had run out of shelving and baskets and thought I was nearly done, but when I turned around, I noticed I still had 9 piles of books without a spot in the library.  Oh well.  I stored them in my office... they're a little too hard for the beginning of the year anyway, but I'll bring them out later.  The nice thing about using the tags and rings vs. the stickers is that we can easily make those changes to the library whenever we want to!  :)

I tried to set up our classroom library in a way similar to our school or public library... with sections.  We have sections for fiction, nonfiction, "Authors We Love," and leveled books.  

{Our main meeting area is surrounded by a portion of our classroom library.}

{This is our nonfiction section.  It includes a math section as well.}

{Our fiction section may look a little small, but that's because some of the fiction is organized by favorite authors and characters and is in a different part of the room.}

 {This section is called "Authors We Love!"  I definitely have more of these, but they wouldn't fit.  The cool part is, I can trade these out periodically to keep the library fresh!}

{Each section has a label.}

{And this is our leveled library... plus a few stragglers that wouldn't fit anywhere else.}

I still need to add our "Return Bin" and our "Book Hospital" (for damaged books), but the bulk of the work is done.  One of our classroom jobs is librarian.  I choose two conscientious students to be our librarians and they shelve the returned books for us each morning.  I don't love shelving books and they do, so it's a win-win for everyone.  ;)

If you're looking to build your own classroom library, or you want to give yours a  "face lift," here are some labels for your tubs.  You can check them out at this link:

How about you?
Do you have any classroom library tips to share with other teachers?


  1. Thank you for this post. I am a new teacher and of all things, I am worried about my classroom library. How do you go about teaching kids to select good fit books? I have my books leveled (finally) and have different genres out.

    1. Hi Nora,

      I've seen a lot of teachers teach this in different ways, but the two things that help my students most {first graders} are "The Goldilocks Lesson" and shopping cards.

      You can google the the Goldilocks lesson, but it's basically an analogy between the story and our reading lives... the idea that some books are too hard, some books are too easy, but some books feel "just right" and those are the books we should spend most our time reading. You can probably find posters online, too, showing a child riding a bike. Riding uphill feels so hard, riding downhill feels so easy, but riding on a road with a few bumps here and there feels "just right." {The bumps are tricky words we have to figure out along the way, but most of the riding is smooth and enjoyable.}

      Older kids are better able to gauge what feels "just right" for them and often make good choices, but I think younger kids who are budding readers need more guidance in this way. I give each of my students a shopping card which helps them remember what bins to shop from. On their shopping day {one team shops for books per day}, the students take their cards with them and self-select books from a range I've given them. I usually have them shop for:

      • 3 books at their instructional level to support strategic reading (for example, guided reading level E)
      • 3 books at their independent level to support fluency (for example, guided reading level D)
      • 3 books at the level below that, again to support fluency and automaticity with high frequency words (level C)
      • 3 "dessert" books ... these are any 3 books from any section of the library other than the leveled library

      They may not necessarily be able to read the "dessert" books, but I think it's important for children to have books in their hands they want to read, even if they're storytelling the pictures or taking it home for Mom and Dad to read to them. We call them dessert books because they're extra and we REALLY want them, even though they might not be "just right."

      There are no hard and fast rules about this, but this has always worked for me. They keep their books for one week and then shop again the following week.

      :) Andrea

  2. We love the idea of using the rings to hold labels! We're always changing in and out, so that is super handy!

    :) Tamra and Sarah
    First Grade Buddies

  3. Looks great! I love changing books out throughout the year. It keeps the kids interested. Enjoy setting up your class again!

    Fantastic First Grade Froggies

    1. Yes... I think that's a great idea. It's like every time I go into Barnes and Noble, they've changed up the displays, so why not do that in the classroom, too? Love it! :)

  4. Wow, I LOVE your oversized bin labels! Mine are pretty big, too, which I love, and each book has the corresponding label on it (printed them directly onto address labels in the printer). It helps so much with them returning books to the correct bin! I am SO on the Librarian job this year--what a brilliant idea! Up until this past year, I had about 10 different jobs and the kids kept them a full week, but this year I started having one boy helper and one girl helper that rotated every day, which worked great. I think I'll just include shelving the books each morning as part of their helper duties! Thanks for a great post--found you via Pinterest!

    -Gayla (2nd grade)
    Teach On.

    1. Hi Gayla,

      Your corresponding labels will make it so easy for your librarians to shelve the books... and YOU won't have to do it anymore... yay!

      I will admit that the books don't "always" end up in the correct bin, but if 90% of the books are where they're supposed to be, I'll consider that a success... especially with 6-year-olds. :)

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  6. Where oh where did you get your partition? I love the characters on it!

  7. Hi Catherine,

    You're not going to like this answer because it didn't come from a store... my father-in-law made the wooden frame and my mom hand-quilted the characters. Aren't they adorable? I love this so much and it's perfect for me because it has all my favorite characters from children's literature on it. She's very talented, but she can't sell an item like this because of copyright infringements.


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