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How to Build and Create Your Classroom Library

Janelle Cox

If you are looking for a great way to encourage a love of reading for your students, then a classroom library is the way to go. Like Rome, it cannot be built in one day, but over the years you can slowly build a dynamic library. Here are a few valuable pointers to help you build and create an amazing classroom library.

Building on a Budget

Building your classroom library does not mean you have to break the bank. Here are a few inexpensive sources to help you start adding quality literature to your library.

Solicit Donations from Parents

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In the beginning of the school year, send home a wish list of books that you would like for the classroom. Ask students to search their home and look for any books that they may have outgrown and would like to donate to the class. Encourage students to ask their grandparents if they still have any childrens’ books stashed away in the attic. I know that my mother saved all of my Sweet Valley High series books and now they can be donated for others to read.  

Join a Book Club

When you join a book club such as Scholastic, they offer free book incentives for the class and bonus points to help you build your classroom library. If you encourage parents and grandparents to buy monthly, you can easily generate hundreds of books and bonus points for your classroom.

Visit a Garage Sale

During the summer months, garage sales and flea markets offer an abundance of childrens’ books. Try and visit as many as you can to stock up on cheap books to help build your library. Sometimes if you say you are a teacher and need them for you class, people will give them to you for free or cut you a deal.

Go Online

The website Donorschoose.org was created to help teachers who are in need of classroom supplies get what they need for free. All you have to do is sign up and write that you are looking for donations to help build your classroom library. Once your proposal is funded, you are sent your supplies. All you have to do in return is take pictures of your students reading the books and send them to the website. It's easy and free!

Creating Your Library

Once you have a significance amount of books it is now time to physically create your classroom library. Here are ten tips to help you organize, label, catalog and sort your books.

  1. Choose a large enough spot in the classroom where students can sit comfortably. Preferably designate an area where you have a few book shelves, baskets, a small rug and a couch or comfy chair.
  2. Designate one book shelf (or one portion of the library) to have leveled readers. Color code and label these books accordingly.
  3. Combine books that are alike into categories; animals, joke books, fiction, non-fiction.
  4. Label every book, and the basket or shelf that it is on. An easy way to do this is to make a stamp "This book belongs to___" and stamp it on every book.
  5. Label each book with a color sticker. The Dollar Store has circle stickers that you can use to label each category. Organize by theme, genre, or author. For example, all animal books are labeled blue; all Junie B. Jones books are labeled yellow, and so on.
  6. Create a sign-out sheet for students to check out a class book. Students must write down the book they chose and sign their name each time they take out a book.
  7. Teach students how to return the books to the classroom library. Tell them to match the colored sticker that is on the book to the coordinating sticker that is on the basket or shelf.
  8. Another way to return books is to have a books basket that is designated for returned books. Then assign a student the job of a class librarian to return all the books in the basket to their original spot.
  9. Make sure to have a consequence for unreturned or mistreated books. For example, students that mistreat or forget to return a book are not allowed to get a new book for one week.
  10. When you receive new books to the library, present them in a fun new bin labeled "New Arrivals."

Do you have any tips on how to build and create your classroom library? Please share with us in the comment section below!

Janelle Cox is an education writer who draws on her 15 years of professional experience in the education system. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, where she provides educational information and lesson plans for teachers around the globe.