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Hopefully this hasn’t been a terribly painful process, but we can probably all agree that it has been a pretty significant amount of work. So I think we can also agree that after having invested the time and energy into setting up a fantastic classroom library, you probably want it to stay that way. Here are some ideas that have worked for our class.
Love your library. At the beginning of the year, all my bookshelves are covered with butcher paper or fabric. After we discuss classroom library expectations (I think there’s a primary literacy book for teachers that talks about a “proper treatment of books” lesson), we unveil one bookshelf at a time, talking about the books students will find there.
Let your students try out new books. Even if you know they’re way above their level. Even if you’ve done the “pick a just-right book” lesson a dozen times. Let them try out new books, BUT make sure you confer with them pretty quickly afterward and help steer them to a better fit book. You don’t want to stifle their interest in discovering new books!
Maintain high expectations. Wildcat Leaders (self-managers) are allowed to check out two books, and students who bring back their homework regularly are allowed to put a sticky-note in the check out book and bring their book home overnight. One of the reasons why I catalog my books is because my students know
Don’t let checking out descend into chaos. My students know they can check out a classroom library book on Monday morning as soon as they come into the room. If they’d like to check out a book before the following Monday, they can do so at the start of their recess. No exceptions. This might sound strict until you’ve seen 25 children trying to fit into a library corner. Other teachers in our building have students check out new books on the days when they turn in their reading response journal, and still others don’t have a firm policy, although I’m not sure how they manage to stay sane and not lose a million books.
Have a system for repair. My students know that if a book is damaged, they need to check it back in, put a sticky note on the cover explaining what’s wrong, then put it in the Ms. Houghton basket.
Show them the process. My students were flabbergasted when they discovered I bought most of our books with my own money. Their eyes nearly popped out of their heads when they went to the book fair and discovered that a new copy of Steve Jenkin’s Bones cost nearly $20 in hardcover. Just make sure you tell them in a tone meant to inform them, not as a threat to them or a complaint about the hardships of teaching.
Involve your class. Although my class is younger this year, I still have a librarian whose job is to daily comb through the library on his or her way to second recess to make sure books aren’t sticking out in crazy directions. About once a month, or whenever it’s awful outside and a bunch of kids beg to stay in at recess, I have them turn the book buckets around to look at the book bucket numbers to make sure everything’s in its correct bucket.
Keep it fresh. Find out how to expand your library without going insane by viewing our next installment in this series, Adding to Your Collection.
Please feel free to share and use this information as you see fit. If you’re able to take a moment to leave a comment, though, it completely makes my day and my students usually squeal with delight.