Organizing Your Classroom Library - Mrs. B's First Grade

Organizing Your Classroom Library

What teacher doesn't love books? Let me correct myself. What teacher doesn't hoard books?! We all do! So, what do you do with all of those books in your classroom? How do you make it accessible to your students needs, while still maintaining order? Read on to hear about mine!
In college I started collecting books. I had visions of my classroom library and basically spent all my money buying books. I bought from a variety of places, but a lot came from Scholastic and the Scholastic Warehouse sales. I also picked up books at garage sales, bookstores (expensive though!) and even stores like Wal-Mart and Meijer. When I got my first teaching job I didn't know how I should organize them all. I ended up creating a genre library and had books based off of topics like holidays, friends, and animals.
My Kindergarten Library
This is how I kept it for many years. I added new topics as I continued to collect books and shifted a few things around. It worked well for kindergarten, but when I began teaching first grade it started to not be as effective. I wanted my kids to read books at their level during their independent reading time, and finding it in my library was impossible. I was constantly borrowing books from the book room for my kids reading bins and things got messy. I knew I needed to make a change.

The first change I made was to have a small leveled library for my kids to pick from. It worked well, but I felt that there was too small of a selection to pick from.
Labels from Ladybugs Teacher Files
Then, last summer I went to the Summer Teacher Institute at Columbia University with Lucy Calkins. I spent the week with amazing educators who are experts in reading and writing workshop. The message that I kept receiving was that to be effective your library needed to be fully leveled. I decided to take the plunge and make it my summer project.

I started by just going basket by basket (baskets are from Really Good Stuff and have lasted me YEARS!) and leveling the books with various leveling apps. Once I figured out the level, I covered the old sticker with a round sticker that had the level on it. I could have gotten a lot fancier with new stickers but...ain't nobody got time for that. 
I have listed the apps that I used below. If one app didn't have the level, I tried another. There were books where no apps could identify the level. At that point I went to Google. If I still couldn't find the answer, I used my best judgement. This did not happen to too many books though. It did take many hours. I recruited some friends for some of it (anyone can do it!) and put Gilmore Girls on my SMART board for other times. I even ended up taking some home to do. As I leveled each book I put them in piles so that I could eventually put them back into bins. My carpet worked perfectly for this.

Literacy Leveler
Scholastic Book Wizard
Level It Books
Once I was finished with all of my leveling I began putting them back into the bins. I waited to label the front of my bins because I did not know how many I would need for each level. I combined some levels and others I had several baskets for. Luckily it all fit back nicely into the shelving that I had.
I did keep two topic bins, poetry and holidays. I liked the idea of still being able to pull the holiday books, and poetry is very hard to level! 

I have shelving on my white board where I have books that are about what we are currently studying. I pulled those books when we changed topics and either read them aloud or students put them in book boxes. It can be hard to find them to pull when you do not know the level. I have chosen to keep them in the library though, because I do not want them hidden away the rest of the year just to make my life easier. I would like to someday take inventory with one of the apps above so I know what I have and where it is. That seems like another huge project though...
What does your library look like? Are you just getting starting working on yours? If so, you can download my book labels below for free to help you out! Just click on the picture. I would love to hear how it goes!


  1. Did you mix fiction and non-fiction together in the same leveled basket?

    1. Hi Patti! I did. I did not have enough room in my library to make separate boxes for both. It worked out just fine!

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  3. I LOVE the shelving on your board!!!!Where did you get it?? I am in the process of leveling my library and had no clue how many books I have!!! Great blog post!

    1. Thanks!! It is from Lakeshore Learning Store! I have had them for awhile, they are so sturdy!! Good luck leveling your library!! You can do it!!


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