Adventures in Building a Classroom Library

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Building a Classroom library is a continual process! I currently have over 200 titles on my shelves and I’m still constantly searching for new and exciting books. But, there are several rules that I live by with my classroom library purchases. Before I share my rules for building a library, I wanted to remind you about this post on how I fund my library purchases! It doesn’t need to come from your pocket! I also wanted to remind you that I have an updated list of what books are in my library here.

Rule 1 – I want to have a book for every student. To know if I have a book for every student, I have every student participate in an audit of the library! I want to know what they see & can find. I also want to know what they don’t see and can’t find. Having a book that is “for” a student that can’t be found is just as big of a problem as not having the book at all! I use the audits to make lists of what I need for the future: levels, types of books, subjects of books, and more.

Rule 2 – Books in a style that kids want to read. Having a book on sports is great. But if it’s a long chapter book with no pictures, and this kid is only into books with pictures because they don’t have a long attention span… then I need a book with pictures! I like to educate my students on the different styles of books when we do audits so they know what they like and know how to find it!

Rule 3 – Books on topics that interest students. I want my students to enjoy reading. For them to enjoy reading, they need to have books about topics that are interesting to them. For example, I have one student (this will be my third year with them) that is obsessed with dogs. It’s the only thing they care about really. To date, they have read every book about dogs in my library from Brandon Brown to Orion and everything in between. Thankfully, I have 5 or so books about dogs… so when that student reached the end of the dogs books, they were willing to take my author recommendations on books about other animals that I thought they would equally like, like Juliana (about bats).

Rule 4 – On level books matter. A lot of teachers want “equally balanced” library -meaning they want to have 20 level 1 books, 20 level 2 books, etc. This doesn’t work. As a Level 1 to 3 teacher, most of my students are independently reading level 1 or 2 books. For most of my level 1s, they’ll read 5 – 6 level 1 books that year. About half of my level 2s will start in a level 1 book in the fall – some will stay at that level because they like what they’re reading – others will move on to level 2 books. My levels 3s are all over the place. Some will read super easy books because they like them. Others will want to challenge themselves. My point to this is – you never know what level book a student will read – so you need them all. If I only bought 5 level 4+ books, that would be the only option for an advanced student. What if they didn’t like the topic, or the style, or the author’s voice? Then I would lose an engaged reader. I don’t want that. I want everyone to have access to as many options as possible.

All in all – it’s about conversation. I want my students to voice what they want to read – and I want to give it to them. I want my students to want to read. I want my students to feel safe reading “easy” books because it’s a book about a dog and they love dogs. I never want to pressure them into having to read a “hard” book just because they’re in level 3. I want reading to be fun and engaging – and part of their acquisition process.

Bonus – if you’re an author, here is what my students want to see more of!
– Level 1 books! There are a ton out there – but students want more on history / travel / sports / animals
– Books with colorful pictures at all levels – why do level 1s get all the pretty pictures?!
– Graphic Novel style books (not just Señor Wooly-esq – but even black /white)
– Books on sports at upper levels
– Book series (they love the Isla series by John Sifert, the Semiprofesional series by Adam Giedd, Cuyes series by Jeremy Jordan) that they can keep reading more of
– Books about art / music
– “Intense” stories or books about danger / adventure
– Books that teach them about new places / life in those places

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