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Book Tornado to Organized Oasis

Tonight I wanted to share with you what I’ve been doing this week – “my latest project.”

Last year, a teacher I work with loaned me a book to read called The Book Whisperer, by Donalyn Miller.  Have you read this? If not, go. read. it.  It is wonderful and made me really reflect on the reading in my classroom and my classroom library:

This is what I know:

1) Students in classrooms with a large number of books are statistically better readers than students in classrooms with few books.
2) Children whose teachers give them lots and lots of time to read during each day are better readers than children who are limited to the amount of actual time they spend uninterrupted in reading. 
3) Many of my students struggle with nonfiction reading comprehension. (Bear with me. There is a point to this fact of mine.)
4) Our classroom libraries should have a wide variety of both fiction and nonfiction.

5) The classroom library should be attractive, kid-friendly, manageable, organized, and interesting.

Enter my latest project.  I felt very satisfied with numbers 1 & 2 and discouraged by number 3 over the past four years.  The last time I taught first grade, I noticed my classroom had tons of books – but the majority were fiction books (See #3…hmm…correlation?).  This past May, the same awesome teacher who loaned me Donalyn Miller’s book also gave me tons and tons of first grade nonfiction books for my library.  Yay! Number 4 is solved. My classroom is finally about 40% fiction books and 60% nonfiction.  

But my manageable, organized classroom library was not.  My kids last year had a hard time returning books to baskets and mixed up the take-home books from the “leave at school” books. And those kiddos were second graders.  I knew I needed to completely re-vamp my entire library system. And what better time than to start fresh in a new room?  

I needed a system that allowed for leveled baskets because my first graders take home a different book to read each night from their independent level.  However, I don’t believe in leveling my entire library.  I don’t want my students to learn how to choose “just-right” books by remembering the color, letter, or number basket they are allowed to choose from.  I want them to be successful at entering a library and choosing books that interest them.  I make it clear to my kids that in the real world, books are not organized by color, letter, or number.  

This is what my classroom looked like early in the week.  Books were EVERYWHERE. Really. You can’t even see the piles and piles that are on the floor to the right of the picture.
Sirens. Dark clouds. Book tornado. 

Visualize me throwing books around the room to re-sort everything: “You can go in the ocean pile.  Watermelon book…go in the plant pile (throws book across the room).” This went on for some time.  

Then, I did a little dance when I found Reagan Tunstall’s TPT product, Classroom Library. Have you seen her store?! She’s incredible. I sorted my books and attached her book labels to each book in the basket.  The picture on each book now matches the picture on the basket label. Cute! Easy! Brilliant. THIS my firsties can do!

Reagan has done the same thing for take-home books in her product.  I had more levels than her colors went up to so I used her template to add more colors on.  I also created my own basket labels with her blank template and just added the DRA level and Guided Reading level to each label. 

I’m soo excited about my new library system!  It was A LOT of work but I’m happy that this is a system I will be able to use for years and years.  (Because if fate allows, I will die happy in first grade for the rest of my teaching years!)  

When I was finished, the tornado died down and I think the sky opened up (literally….after not having windows for 2 years, the sunshine that comes into my new room is a blessing haha!)

Leveled Readers – Both Nonfiction & Fiction In Each Level

Nonfiction Bookshelves

Fiction Baskets (Top shelf is for my read-aloud books.)
Thanks for reading about my library!  I’m excited to put it to use in the fall and officially cross off #5 on my list! 
Happy Learning,

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  1. I love, love, love your new library!! It looks so good!! I have been working on labeling and categorizing mine since LAST summer. This summer I started scanning them into Library Thing and I already have over 1,200 books. I still have 5 bins full of books in the garage. Like you, I want to label some for leveled library and then label and sort by theme. How do you decide which books are leveled and which ones should go into a theme? Im having such a hard time deciding how to do this. I really need to get a move on it though. Thank you so much for sharing tonight!! 🙂

  2. Ahh…this is the project of my spring and summer. I did an inventory of all my books and created labels. Now I just need to go to school, unload all 10 storage tubs of books, and create the tornado. So glad to see you have made so much progress – it's definitely a motivating factor for me to get going on my books 🙂
    Stories by Storie

  3. So perfect! We've started sorting our library and thought there is no way the kids are ever going to put back the books in the right places then we'll just be reorganizing them again in a month! Labels on the books to show where they go=DUH! Thank you for the oh-so-easy tip! Perfect!
    ~Christy & Tammy

  4. I read The Book Whisperer this summer and just loaned it to the teacher across the hall. I LOVED it! I really need to make conferring a priority this year. It seems to always get lost in the busyness of the day. 🙁

    Your library looks spectacular. I probably need to revamp mine but it would be an incredibly large job and we are not allowed in the building over the summer. I can't imagine dragging them all home. I will have to think about it.

  5. The Book Whisperer best motivational reading book ever! I try to reread it at least once a year. Your room looks FANTABULOUS already. Color me Green with envy. Awesome….awww shucks. 🙂

  6. I feel like my class library is always looking for more organizational tips! Thanks for sharing! I've nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award! Head over to my blog and check it out! 🙂



  7. Thank you for addressing one of my questions as I did a search for "Donalyn Miller Early Elementary First Grade Book List"! Could you offer some suggestions (or just post some close ups of titles and / orcauyhors you think are "must haves" for the first grade classroom library? Are you considering having a "goal" for number of books? How are you planning to help the firsties document their reading? Sorry for so many questions. So excited about finding your website!

  8. Hi Christy! Thanks for finding my blog. :). I will try to put a list together for you. No, I don't have a goal because I use Daily 5 in my room and I try to teach and preach the joy of reading, not necessarily how many they can read. For documentation, I use various things such as reading journals, graphic organizers they complete based on the week's strategy, and one on one conferences. I hope that helps! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

    Christina 🙂

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