Sunday, February 19, 2012

a library intervention.

Earlier this year, I took you on a tour of the superhero room. We waltzed our way into the room...

...continued in organized bliss to our math tubs...

...twirled on over to the calendar area...

...but the music came to a screeching, record-scratching halt when we hit our Reading Loft... seriously - what is that??? I mean, books on top of books:

...books not even making it onto the shelves because kiddos don't know where they go...

...books hanging off shelves and laying on the floor and under the shelves...

We tried having several tubs of similar books (insect books, space books, Junie B. Jones books, etc.) where the sticker on the tub matched the sticker on the book, so the kids just had to match sticker to sticker to know where to put the book. Clearly, that wasn't working, because apparently "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" is considered a "My Neighborhood" book.

Something had to be done! I began researching different classroom libraries, and loved that Mrs. Johnson over at Wild about Kindergarten organized her books by author...

I also loved Fantastic First Grade's approach to setting up their library:

Again, they had a plethora of baskets and organized their books by genre. While I love this idea, I think we saw how successful genre baskets were in our old library (remember "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" finding a home in "My Neighborhood"?)

I started to settle on the idea of organizing our library by author. If I organized our classroom library by author, it would mimic how our school library is arranged. This would give the kids a bit of consistency from school to classroom library and gives them 2 opportunities to practice alphabetizing by author.

The only problem with the above option is I really wasn't wanting to invest in 26 new baskets, and even if I was willing, I knew I had tons of books by authors whose last names started with similar letters (tons of "H" authors, tons of "S" get the picture) which would mean multiple or overflowing baskets for some letters. I felt that I needed a more flexible means of alphabetizing our books.

As I brainstormed, I decided that if I made thick, heavy dividers for each letter, it would allow for more flexibility on the bookshelves. Letters with more books by that letter's authors could have larger sections of our bookshelves, while still allowing for small sections to be taken up by less popular letters.

Now that I had an idea in mind, the magnitude of the project began to hit me. I mean, we are talking about alphabetizing hundreds and hundreds of books here! My anxiety levels over the state of our library were reaching alarming heights, however, and I knew I couldn't wait until summer to start the project. But sometimes, you just have to bite the bullet and dive in head first! Thanks to some super awesome teammates jumping in to help during their free time, we tackled and conquered the project in what seemed like no time! (I'm sure my little helpers would beg to differ) But Mrs. Teacher still had some work ahead of her. We had our books in piles based on the author's last name, but we weren't actually sitting on the shelves yet...

I suppose this would be a good time to tell you that I made the dividers by cutting out some letters printed on polka-dot paper in my favorite font (Wish I Were Taller from Kevin and Amanda). Yes, I had to cut them out by hand because I'm still waiting on Santa to come through with the Sillhouette request...  I then glued the letters onto posterboard I cut down to hang off the perfect amount from our bookshelves and laminated the posterboard twice for extra durability, resulting in an adorable little divider!

After a couple of hours of me loading the books onto the shelves, our newly organized, glorious library is ready for its debut!

And a view from outside our Reading Loft:

I did trade our tall, skinny bookshelf that was only deep enough to hold chapter books for a deeper shelf that matched our 2 others from our Word Work station. That got rid of our "hanging off the shelf" problem at no cost!

Speaking of cost, I used posterboard and polka dot paper that I already had to create the dividers, making this little project cost a whole lot of NOTHING! 

I can't wait for Tuesday morning (Happy President's Day to you, by the way) - I didn't get to load the shelves until Friday after the kiddos went home. I can't wait for them to see our new library! They kept peeking in at the loft all day Friday trying to see how the little project was coming along - now they get to see it all nice and neat!

Why our new library is so very elementary:
  • It's consistent with our school library's organization, making it easy to maintain for the kids.
  • Being that the books are not confined to baskets, each section of authors has room to grow.
  • I didn't have to spend a nickel to create such a lovely little space.
Next week, the kiddos and I will definitely have to spend some time practicing filing away our books properly, but I think the practice will pay off in full measure! I have already built in several mini-lessons on reviewing our concept of print skills - we will do some think-alouds about where to look for the author's name if we don't see it on the cover, and have several chances to practice during our Joy Reading time.

I do have a back-up plan in place if we don't quite get the hang of filing away our books. If needed, I will create a "returned books" tub that me and a Library Helper can file away properly once per week. But I have a little bit of an inkling that my little muffins will do a superb job with our new system!

How do you organize your classroom library? What works for your little ones? Have you had a massive failure like me? How did you conquer it?


  1. Did you organize all of your books like this, or do you still have baskets/tubs for seasonal books and nonfiction books? I really like this idea, but I'm wondering if having all of the dinosaur books (for example) in one spot would be nice. How did you decide??

  2. I did decide to put all of my books in this arrangement just to reduce confusion for the kids. I had tried themed/genre-related tubs before, and my kids just had a hard time figuring out where everything needed to go. I liked this arrangement because it really got all of my kids to peruse ALL of my books - not just those books they think they prefer!

  3. Where did you find your letters to organize your books? SO cute!

    1. Hi Christie! I made them with my Sillhouette using the "Wish I Were Taller" font from!