Reading in the Wild: Curating a Classroom Library



My classroom library is always the first thing I start working on each school year and the last thing to feel "finished" before the kids arrive. It's a constant work in progress - much like our classroom!


Several years ago, I had the idea to store the kids' book totes away from our library. It cut down on a LOT of clutter and made it easier for everyone to get settled once they came in. I LOVE this double-sided bookshelf. It holds 50 book totes - up to 25 on each side! And I still have room for class novel sets up at the top! 😍😍😍


All of our library shelves work their way around the group meeting area. There is a large gap in the back, and another gap on the side where the students and I can enter. I've had lots of parents, teachers, and students tell me it makes our room feel like home --- score! When you create a space that other people like spending time in, you're doing something right. :)

I also made sure to create a space I could see "into" from anywhere in the room. By scrounging up all of the short shelves I could find, I was able to work with groups at my kidney table and monitor what was happening in the library during independent work time. All of the tall shelves run along the far right wall. This way they don't block my view of anything else happening in the classroom.

Our library is broken up into 3 sections - author baskets, fiction genre baskets, and nonfiction genre/topic baskets. I designed our labels to match the baskets.


The baskets are from Really Good Stuff and range in size. I have different sized baskets in my room to accommodate everything from chapter books to giant picture books. I love that the labels all fit the same way. :) I tried taping them on, but I found that my librarians were constantly running around trying to fix the fallen basket signs. I bought 1-inch binder rings and used my electric hole punch to create a more permanent solution.


I stopped organizing my books by level several years ago because I found that my kids were only looking for books in the basket that matched their level. They weren't seeking out books according to genre, author, or topic. It made me sad, book-peeps. They weren't falling in love with books and that absolutely had to stop.

Every book is still labeled with a level so the kids are aware of what they are reading, but it also has a genre sticker on it. This helps the librarians and me to put the books away correctly. It also makes it easier for students to log the books in their reading journal.

I'm happy to report that I had the "problem" this year of several children reporting to me, "Mrs. S! I've already read all of the Dan Gutman books." Or, "I can't find any new dinosaur books to read. Do you have any more?" Music to my ears!!!

The first two or three weeks of school are hard. There are always books to put away, and my librarians are still "in training." However, after a little training and supervision, the library is up and running without me. WHEW!

The library things I do for the majority of the year include spending Scholastic bonus points to order new books, level incoming books, and repair any that make their way into our book hospital baskets. When I can't find the level on Scholastic Book Wizard, I check Booksource. I also look to see if that particular author has other books leveled on SBW - many times I find they do, and that the author tends to write within a certain "band" of levels. From there I just have to give it my best guess.

I've used Kristen's leveled labels for years. I keep them printed and in a folder so I can add them on as soon as new books come in. I love that my last name is on the back of each book so that if they get left on the bus or somewhere else in our school, it's easy for them to find their way back. It also makes it easy for parents to identify books when I have to call home and ask for their help in returning them. :)

If you'd like a better look at my library basket labels, make sure you check out my Classroom Library Kit. If you have any questions, I'd love to hear from you! I'm finally starting to feel "caught up" with some blog posts. Look for some guided math goodies and for me to be back on track with Reading in the Wild tomorrow!

Molly at Lessons with Laughter and Carrie at Being Ladylike did a phenomenal job of leading and hosting the this step in our book study. Be sure to check them out!

http://being-ladylike.blogspot.com/Lessons with Laughter


  1. I love your library! It is my favorite part of my classroom too! I just bought two new huge shelving units that I found at a consignment shop that I'm very excited to find a place for this year. I always seem to need more shelves!

    Forever in Fifth Grade

  2. Classroom.booksource.com is a great way to keep up with your library. You can get an app and skan your books. The kids can check books in and out with an iPad.