I love a bargain.

I’m a sucker for a red sticker.

Yet, lately I’m losing patience with chaotic clearance racks. I know there are gems hidden amongst the muck.  But, my tolerance for everything all jumbled and jam-packed together seems lower all the time.

Just across the aisle from the crowded sales racks are beautiful displays of skirts, blouses, and blazers neatly sorted by color and size.

Somehow the organization and clarity of this calms me. I can see what’s here. No yanking and pulling to get something free – only to discover is it misshapen, oversized, or just plain odd.  Instead, I can tell at a glance if the item is something I want to spend more time considering or if my time is better spent moving on.

Is your classroom library suffering from mid-year neglect?

Many of our classroom libraries start off the year looking lovely and well-organized like these spacious department store racks. But, by midyear they start to resemble the jumbled and disorganized clearance racks on the other side of the aisle.

Covers get torn and bent from being crammed into the center of too crowded boxes. The reptile books get mixed in with the holiday books. Titles get slammed back in baskets upside down, backwards, and inside out.

So many readers. . .

So many shopping trips. . .

So many books going out and coming back. . . .

It’s all become a bit of chaotic.

And the more our libraries slip into disrepair – the harder readers have to work at finding what they’re looking for. Sometimes they end up leaving the library frustrated or disheartened. Some end up simply grabbing anything at all. Even the most committed shoppers start to need more and more time to find texts that will truly engage them.

Get your kids involved with library care and keeping.

Keeping the classroom library well-organized and well-maintained is essential – not just in the fall – all year long.  But, that doesn’t mean you have tackle it alone. Your kids will benefit from being recruited to share the load.

Below is an example of how you might use a four-part mini lesson (learn more in Chapter 7 of Simple Starts) to get students working together toward a more efficient and inviting classroom library.

  • Part 1 – Connect. Gather your kids in the library and  show an example of a mismanaged basket and a few examples of books that have been damaged through mishandling. Remind them of past conversations about the importance of working together to keep the classroom library and its books in good condition.
    • “I’ve been noticing lately that our classroom library has become a bit of a mess.  Have any of you noticed that?  And, yesterday when I to look for something, this is how some of the baskets were looking.  Because we all want to be able to find great books in the classroom library, I’m hoping we can work together to make things better for everyone.” 
  • Part 2 – Teach. 
    • Model explicitly for your students the steps involved with reorganizing a basket of classroom library books.
    • So, today I want to teach you how you can take responsibility for reorganizing a basket of books, so it is neat and orderly and will make book-shopping easier for everyone in our class. Watch as I go through this basket, asking myself these three questions as I go.(Writhe the questions on an anchor chart.) 
      • Does the book belong in this basket?  If it doesn’t, I’m going to set it aside and then later look for its proper home. Oh, here’s an example. This Mo Willems books definitely doesn’t belong in the Cynthia Rylant basket.  I’ll set it aside for now and later I’ll help it find it’s proper home. 
      • Is the book facing forward?  When I find books that are sideways, backwards, or upside down, I put them right-side up facing forward. When books are facing forward it makes it much easier for every one to browse the basket efficiently.
      • Does the book need any repair?  Sometimes, books like this book, have covers that have become damaged from being smushed against other books. They may need some library tape for a sturdy repair.  When I find books in need of repair, I put them in the book repair basket, so our book repair team can fix them up. 
  • Part 3 – Engage. 
    • Now its your turn to try this out.  Today, I’m going to give each set of reading partners one (or two) baskets of books to care for.  Your job will be to go through the basket, asking yourself the three questions on the anchor chart, and then to work together to make things better for the readers who want to browse this basket in the future.  
    • Distribute classroom baskets to individuals or partners and have students practice caring for and organizing baskets by using the process you demonstrated. While students sort and organize, you move around the room assisting, reinforcing, and coaching students on the process
  • Part 4 –
    • Link. Now it’s time to transfer this learning. This is the step that helps insure book and basket care will transfer from this lesson to future book shopping and book return in the library. You’ll remind your students why this work matters today, and every day they visit the library.
    • Readers, the baskets you organized are looking so much more inviting.  Having neatly organized baskets will help us to find great books more easily each time we go looking for a book.  So, today and every day when you visit the classroom library to find or return a book, remember to think about the three questions on this anchor chart.  I’ll leave it hanging the classroom library for now, so we can all remember and remind each other.  If you notice a basket that needs attention, you can take personal responsibility to fix it up. I think this will help us all find great books more easily.

When we recruit and empower our kids to become partners it’s so much easier to keep the classroom library in tip-top shape.  Using a whole group mini-lesson gets everyone involved and increases the likelihood that students will actually transfer the learning to their day-to-day practice.

Does your classroom library look inviting and or is showing signs of mid-year neglect? It may be time have your kids roll up their sleeves dig in. Your collection and your kids will thank you.

Other Library Related Resources

If you’re focused on growing and maintaining a classroom library, be sure to grab these free resources.

UntitledSimple Starts; Making the Move to a Reader-Centered Classroom  is filled with ideas to help support classroom library design, book-shopping routines, and book-finding strategies.