So Many Books, So Little Space
“ABC” Books—Thanks to my handy husband, I have two A-Frame bookshelves that house picture books organized in alphabetical order by the author’s last name. Each book has a color-coded file-folder label on the spine with a handwritten letter indicating the first letter of author’s last name. The books are coded as follows: A-F (Red), G-K (Yellow), L-R (Blue), and S-Z (Green). Readers love these shelves because they can choose books based on the covers. Thanks to Jim Trelease, author of The Read Aloud Handbook (6th Ed., 2006), for teaching me about the importance creating bookshelves where the kids can see the covers of the books!
Books—While reading Tony Stead’s book Is That a Fact? (Stenhouse, 2002), I was reminded about the importance of separating and organizing my nonfiction collection. So, I pulled all of the nonfiction books off the ABC shelves and sorted them into the following categories: Animals, Reptiles and Amphibians, Dinosaurs, Nature, Space, Human Body, Other Science Topics, Social Studies, Hobbies, and Magazines. What I discovered after sorting the books was that the baskets didn’t have very many books and most of the books were too challenging for my first graders. So, I’ve been on a quest ever since to beef up my nonfiction baskets. Luckily, Scholastic book orders have a wealth of eye-catching, reasonably priced nonfiction titles that are perfect for my budding readers!
Author Baskets —Soon, the ABC shelves began to overflow. To solve this problem, I began creating author baskets to house books written by my students’ favorite authors. I rotate these baskets during the year to keep the library fresh and inviting! Again, the number of author baskets has grown over the years and now includes baskets for the following authors: Tedd Arnold (Fly Guy books), Eric Carle, Kate DiCamillo (Mercy Watson books), Tomie dePaola, Mem Fox, Steven Kellogg, Tom Lichtenheld, James Marshall, Mercer Mayer, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Sally Walker, Mo Willems (Elephant & Piggie books), and Audrey Wood.
Seasonal Shelf—Again, in an effort to have as many books as possible with the covers facing out, I purchased this handy stair-step bookshelf to house my seasonal books (Beginning of the Year, Fall/Halloween, Thanksgiving, Holidays, Winter, February Holidays, St. Patrick’s Day, Spring, End of Year). I store each month’s books in a plastic box and rotate the books each month.
Dot Baskets (Leveled Books) —Of course, Fountas and Pinnell’s book Guided Reading (Heinemann, 1996) sparked a book leveling frenzy. Many of my friends spent hours, days, and weeks leveling their entire classroom library. Instead, I opted to keep my ABC shelves and author baskets and just level a small section of my library (mainly those that were already leveled in Fountas & Pinnell’s book or on Scholastic’s Book Wizard. Thus, the “dot baskets” were created. Our school created a uniform colored dot code to match Fountas and Pinnell’s A-Z leveling system, so that all the books in classroom libraries and those in the book room had the same colored dots to correspond to a specific guided reading level.
Genre Baskets —The genre baskets are the most recent addition to my classroom library. As I immerse young readers and writers in different genres, I found it helpful to have each of the following genres’ books organized and in a separate labeled basket: Alphabet Books, Wordless Books, Song Picture Books, Graphic Novels, Traditional Tales, and Biographies. Nancy Atwell, author the The Reading Zone (Scholastic, 2007) reminds us how important it is to rotate the books in our classroom libraries. Having author books, nonfiction books, and genre books in baskets, and a separate shelf for seasonal books allows me to easily move books around my classroom and swap baskets in and out based on my students’ preferences and interests.