Do you have lots of books? I was just chatting with another teacher about book overload and how hard it is to part with some of them (no matter how torn or old or outdated they may be). I can’t go to a garage sale without leaving with a mountain of books. I am not even going to start on the amount of books that my own children have.
So you have come to terms with the fact that you have lots of them, just organize them. I just want to share with you my system (It has taken me 10 years to near-perfection) and maybe you can grab some ideas.
Figure out how to sort them.
I sort them two ways. Most of books and read alouds are sorted by topic/theme. Some of the topics are actually authors if I have a significant amount of books for that to be a category. I also have sets of books sorted by level. We use the Fountas and Pinnell leveling system for reading. We are lucky enough to have a beautiful book room with multiple copies available for guided reading groups. However, students need books to take home and read for practice. I keep 1-2 copies of titles that range from A-L. Students will choose from these books to put in their bins once they are readers!
Label them so they stay sorted.
My leveled books just have the level on the back. When I first started teaching I observed lots of complicated systems with colored dots so nobody would know who was at what level. The thing is, they know. The books from the book room are labeled and we read those in groups each day. Kindergarteners know and don’t care for the most part. I have the occasional parent that pays attention, but it has never gotten in the way. We have a classroom community where we know that everyone is working on something and that thing may be reading.
So now that I bashed colored dots, that is what I use for the rest. However, it is simply a dot with a number. When I have a new category I just go to another color and number. EVERY book has a dot unless they are very obvious (Berenstain Bears and Clifford for example are fairly easy). This took some time, but now is easily managed. Now anyone can help me sort and organize when needed!
Don’t give them all out at once.
My leveled books only come out when students are ready to take books home. They choose books out of their level and keep them in their bin to read at school and home. This is my first year doing individual bins (so we will see how that goes), I have done reading group bins in the past and students would choose out of the bin with their name on it. I filled those bins with lots of books at their level.
The rest are taken out and placed in bins (yes they are Rubbermaid dish bins) and labeled with their topic. I am in the process of making new book bin labels, but these were quick and easy. I found an image and pasted it next to the topic title I wrote. I have laminated all the signs. I label each bin by using packing tape to attach the sign. Books are rotated every two months roughly. Some books stay out longer or shorter depending on topic. Every two months though, it is like having access to a new library and finding new books to love! They don’t have time to look at EVERY book anyway, so why not change it up a bit!
The other books need a home while they are not being used. My leveled books (currently) fit in a cabinet and I label the baskets.I only get out a handful each time, so students have variety if working at a single level for a long time. My read alouds and theme books are on bookshelf in a closet. I didn’t always have a closet though, so I used to have a large shelf with a curtain over them. I use file folders to separate them. In the file folder I put the label card and extra stickers for new books!
More organizing tips:
I made a spreadsheet in Google Sheets so I always have access to it anywhere. It is super basic. I have the topics/themes, label (example y5=yellow 5), and the months these books will be out. I can sort by any column. When I have a new book, I sort by categories and find the proper label. When I have a labeled book, but can’t remember the category, I can sort by labels and find where to put it back. Finally, every other month, I can sort by months and see what books need to get put away or come out! I used to have it all on paper and then I lost it. NEVER AGAIN!
Teach students the system.
Work this into your routines and procedures plans the first month of school (find out more about that here). You can’t expect them to keep them organized if you don’t teach them how! This can also be a discussion of how to find a book that may interest them or finding books appropriate for them to read.
Have a place for broken/unlabeled books.
I have a “Book Hospital” which was one of the first organization ideas I came up with (pre-Pinterest). It is just a basket labeled “Book Hospital” and books with tears, rips, missing pages, etc. find themselves here. Then you can fix them when you have time. One year I had a parent take over the hospital and it worked so well! She would come in, grab the books, fix them up over a week or so, and deliver those that could be fixed back to the class. Thinking about “hiring” a book doctor again!
Labels fall off or I forget to label books once in a while, Sometimes books get left in the wrong bin and I take a bin away and the book has no home! I just have a shelf where students place them and I label or sort them later!
Make it inviting.
Make your book area a place where students want to be. My students are ALWAYS there because we have a little built in bench seat with some very loved cushions. They also have free use of my rocking chair when I am not teaching. Some just like the space to stretch and sprawl out. I am hoping to add a few little chairs this year too.
So share your ideas here or take some of these and run with it! Plan out the year and give yourself reminders.
Keep building your library and learning about new titles that are out there!
Future goals: Have a database of all my books including tags on what lessons I typically use them for. QR codes in the books (or on the back) with student reviews/descriptions.