Friday, July 3, 2009

10 Tips for Building Your Classroom Library

1. Don't Only Include Books
Research says that it doesn't matter what kids read--they just need to read a lot and on the right level. Books are great, but so are magazines, comic books, online text, postcards, catalogs, text on cereal boxes--whatever!

2. Select Books at Correct Reading Level
Cater to students' diverse reading levels. For independent reading, each child should read books right on, or a little below, her reading level. Plus, you'll want books at a slightly higher level for guided reading groups. Aim even higher and also make sure to have books on hand that advanced peers (or you) will read to other students. Kids may progress rapidly, so ensure your collection is large enough to "grow" with your class.

3. Find Books on All Kinds of Topics
Book topics can make or break a child's love of reading. You may be able to anticipate some topic preferences based on age, but better yet, survey kids at the beginning of the year to find out what they like!

4. Explore the World of Non-fiction
Many children gravitate toward factual books, especially ones with beautiful, real-life photography rather than illustrations. Animal fact books are almost always a sure bet. Don't forget books that are functional and hands-on (cookbooks, how-to crafting books, and more).

5. Consult Online Booksellers' "Favorites"
Internet bookstores like Amazon and Barnes & Noble provide favorites lists created by customers--many of whom are experienced parents and teachers. Search these sites to find lists of books recommended for children who are the same age as your students.

6. Let 'em Make Their Own Books
Students love to read books that they, or peers, make! Kids can write stories and then draw pictures for each page. They can even personalize their homemade books with family photos. Collate the books using construction paper, a hole-punch, and yarn. Or, reduce required prep time by purchasing sets of Make a Story Journals. Hey, you join in and make a book for your classroom too! Your lil' admirers will clamor to read it. :)

7. Ask for Recommendations
Tap into friends and colleagues for suggestions. Ask other teachers, your librarian, parents, neighbors, and anyone else willing to give their 2 cents.

8. Think Big!
Add giant-size books to your collection. Big books are just a little more fun, and children are captivated by their jumbo nature. Of course, these "giants" make it easier for children to see pages during shared reading, but please let kids read them during independent reading time as well!

9. Cater to Special Needs
Simply put, all kids have special needs. Anticipate common issues like attention difficulties. Select some books that have very simple page backgrounds, a lot of empty (and preferably white) space around the words, and words that are printed in the same, predictable location on every page.

10. Give Easy Access
Squat down at your students' height and make sure you can reach books safely and easily. Many teachers store books (grouped by reading level) in milk crates or on low bookshelves. I'm a big fan of sling bookshelves for really young children. These shelves display books with the covers, rather than spines, facing out. It's almost as if the covers scream, "Read me!"


  1. Great info! I was close to the mark, but needed some guidence. I got all my kiddie library questions answered here. Thank you! :)

  2. Wow, thanks for the kind words, SmartPumpkin'sMom! Thrilled I was able to help you and your lil' one(s). Thanks for just connecting with me on Twitter, too!