Taming the Classroom Library

pulling hair

“Aaaaargh!!!!” That’s me screaming and pulling out my hair as I face my disorganized classroom library yet again!!

We all know what the research says: if books are in the classroom, kids read more and an attractive classroom library will go miles in creating that “love of reading” in our students. We know that organizing books by genre, categorizing them in buckets by author or subject, and making them easy to find, will help the reluctant reader discover books.

So each September we diligently reorganize our libraries. We teach students procedures for taking books out and returning them where they found them: Use Popsicle sticks with their names on them to mark the place where they belong, make sure spines are facing out, put books back in the buckets where you found them…… and it works……. for a while.

Then we blink and suddenly, our libraries look like this:

messy bookshelf

This summer I decided to take the time to design a foolproof classroom library that could be reorganized in minutes, with little or no thought. These are the steps I took:

 ·       I organized all the books by genre and color coded each one. Then, since I have a terrible memory (ask anyone) I made a chart:

genre chart

·      After a trip to Office Depot, I made genre labels and bucket labels in matching colors. For example:

Mystery and Suspense is a bright orange label

Mystery and Suspense is a bright orange label

.....and the dots on the books are the same bright orange.

…..and the dots on the books are the same bright orange.


Label the buckets in the color of the genre and add initials to the colored dots – on the bucket label put an example of the dot. Put dots with initials on the spines of all the books that go in the bucket.

Returning books to the shelves is now simple. Look at the color on the dot and put it on the shelf of that color. If the dot has initials on it, look for the bucket with the same initials. Voila! The bookshelves remain like this:

neat shelf

And just in case anyone forgets what the bookshelves should look like, I made a photo reminder, an idea that came from Rick Smith’s inspiring book, Picture This! The reminder is laminated and hangs above the bookshelves:


It took a little extra work (but not much) and it was worth every second!!

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