If you’re looking for classroom library organization ideas + a FREE editable introductory PowerPoint activity you can use with your own class on the first week of school, check out this step by step setup for 2nd and 3rd grade teachers all about organizing your classroom library by genre.
When it comes to classroom library organization there are so many questions! How should you sort your books? What types of book bins should you buy? How do you keep track of all of your books? How can you get students to actually put books back in the correct place? What books should you have in your library in the first place? & Where exactly are all of these books coming from?
Spoiler alert: You’re buying most of them.
As an answer to the questions above, a genre-based library organization system is the one I recommend for a few reasons:
- It’s easy to teach to students
- Students can learn and use this system immediately
- It’s a practical way to reinforce genres
- It makes it easy for students to find books of interest quickly
- It’s simple for students to put books back in the correct bins
- After creating the labels, teacher effort in keeping the library up and running is minimal
Win, win, win, win, win, win!
Organizing your classroom library by genre could be a good fit for you if:
- You want to give students control over what books they choose to read
- You are hoping to foster a love of reading by letting students self-select books
- You want to introduce students to a variety of literary genres
- You don’t mind doing some work up front to make your life easier later
- You are looking for a simple way for students to find and put back books
- You are organizing your classroom library for the first time, or are looking for a new organizational system for your library
- You just read The Book Whisperer and are feeling completely inspired to create a classroom of passionate readers who will carry their love for books throughout the rest of their lives thanks to your amazing expertise as a teacher of reading! (or it just made you feel guilty about making kids choose from leveled book bins)
Organizing your library by genre might not be a great fit for you if:
- You want your classroom books organized by reading level only
- You have students choose books from leveled tubs
- You already have your classroom library organized and it’s working well for you and your students (Kudos! Tell me all about it in the comments Super Teacher.)
If you fit into the former category, then let’s get started! Here’s a step by step guide for getting your classroom library organized by genre.
Starting from scratch organizing your classroom library is a big task, so make sure you take your time and break the steps into doable pieces.
Classroom Library Organization Step #1: Get supplies ready
What materials do you need to get your classroom library organized? (affiliate links below)
Clear plastic shoe bins work great for paperback chapter books, magazine holders can be a good “book box” option for individual students, and sticky return address labels (80 per page) are perfect for labeling books (just double check to make sure you purchase the correct ink jet or laser printer option). Plastic crates or thicker plastic bins work well for picture books.
Super Teacher Tip: Crates work well for picture books because they collect only minimal dust and food scrappies at the bottom, but sometimes they give students pinched fingers. I personally like the thicker plastic bins (for aesthetics) but they need to be cleaned out often. How is there an entire bag of Fritos at the bottom of the picture book bin?! Gah!
You can find all of these items at the Classroom Library Organization section of my Amazon affiliate recommendation page HERE.
Classroom Library Organization Step #2: Label EVERY book you’ve purchased with your name
Use small (80 per page) return address labels to create personalized “From the library of Mrs. Your Name Here” labels to keep track of the books you’ve purchased yourself (see mine below). Put these sticky labels on the inside front cover of every book.
Teacher tip: Use the 0.5″x 1.75″ return address labels that come 80 to page. These are big enough to print a line or 2 of text on, but small enough to put more than 1 in a book cover. Plus, since you get so many per page, you get more for your money when purchasing a pack of them. I use Avery 8167 for ink jet or Avery 5267 for laser printers. (affiliate links)
You can format a Word document to fit virtually any type of label in the Mailings portion of the toolbar. Just choose MAILINGS, LABELS, and then OPTIONS. However, just know labels in Word do not play nice with images. (Boo!)
Classroom Library Organization Step #3: Label every book by genre
Now it’s time to do some sorting. This step can take some time, but don’t stress. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and you don’t have to have everything labeled before the first day of school. The one thing you do have to do is decide on a set of genres you want to use to organize your library. Start with fiction & nonfiction and go from there.
If you’re wondering where to start, here’s the list of genres I use.
Disclaimer: some of these are more “topic” than “genre”, which you can discuss with students during a reading mini-lesson. If you have kids obsessed with sports and scary stories, you’ll end up with tons of sports and scary stories books. So, why not turn these into their own book bins? One of the perks of organizing your library is not only to introduce students to different genres, but also to make it easy for them to find and put back books. You’d rather have a sports bin that’s easy to find than to put all the sports books in the realistic fiction box and then have eight-year-olds spending all morning rifling through a bin. Just put the sports books together!
- Realistic Fiction
- Fantasy Fiction
- Historical Fiction
- Science Fiction
- Nonfiction (This covers procedural and informational nonfiction)
- Traditional Literature (myths, legends, tall tales, folk tales, fairy tales)
- Scary Stories
- Award Winners
- Buddy Reads (perfect for Daily 5 read to someone rotations)
- Popular Series (you can label each series individually like: “Popular Series: Humphrey the Hamster” or just label all your series books with a generic “Popular Series” label)
- Picture books (Since these are large, students need to know that they go in a special larger bin. I label all picture books with the picture book + another genre label)
After you decide on the genres you want to use, then find a graphic that aligns with each genre. (simple works best)
Here are mine if you’re feeling stuck:
- Realistic Fiction (kid with glasses)
- Fantasy Fiction (magic wand)
- Historical Fiction (hourglass)
- Science Fiction (rocket ship)
- Mystery (detective)
- Humor (laughing head)
- Adventure (mountaintop)
- Poetry (feather pen)
- Nonfiction (Earth)
- Biography (Abraham Lincoln)
- Traditional Literature (Tall Tales graphics)
- Animals (giraffe)
- Scary Stories (ghost)
- Sports (football)
- Award Winners (first place ribbon)
- Buddy Reads (2 kids smiling)
- Popular Series (stack of books)
- Picture books (Dressed like a Wild Thing graphics)
Now it’s time to make some sticky labels!
You can create a set of labels in Word that will match virtually any size and brands of labels. I recommend you use the same Avery 8167 or 5267 return address labels we used for creating the personalized labels in step 1. If you use the same size for two purposes, it’s one less item you need to buy. (affiliate links)
Create a set of sticky return address sized labels for every genre you chose. Use your genre graphic and words on every label. Now, put a sticky label in the cover of each book to organize it by genre.
Teacher Tip: As you create your genre labels, you might also want to think about fonts. Using a different font for every genre/topic label can also help students sort them into the correct bins. If you are a font enthusiast like me then this is one more way to give some personality to those library labels and utilize the fonts you’ve been storing up for winter. Just make sure students can read them.
If you want help sorting all the books you’ve never read, try Goodreads. After you find your book through their Search box, you will see a genre section which shows you how other people have classified the book. For example, The Calder Game by Blue Balliet, has been classified as Mystery by 200+ people and fiction by 50+ people. With this info in hand you can feel confident in slapping a “Mystery” genre sticker on the inside front cover without any more effort. Done and done!
Teacher Tip: DO NOT feel like you must label EVERY book in your classroom library before the first day of school. When you receive books from the book orders DO NOT feel like you must label EVERY SINGLE ONE before you put them in the library. Let students help. Organizing books by genre is a perfect reading mini-lesson or small group task. You can even have students work on this as center work (every student completes a written genre response with reasons for their genre pick and you use these to help you label the mystery book). It’s easy to get overwhelmed. Try not to. Let students help you with as many things as possible. It will make your life easier and make them feel empowered.
Classroom Library Organization Step #4: Label every book bin by genre
Just one more type of label to create! Now that you’ve decided on the genres you will use and have labeled a good amount of books, you can see how many book bins you will need for each genre. Make stacks of books if you need to. A typical shoe box sized plastic bin will hold 25-35 paperback chapter books.
If you don’t mind putting sticky labels on plastic bins, then you can use the same strategy for making labels as you did in Step #3. Just create a different sized label. The regular sized address labels that come 6 or 8 to a page can work well for this.
If you’re like me and have a hard time committing to placing sticky labels on plastic because you have commitment issues and despise Goo-be-gone (yuck!), then you can also create labels like the ones below in PowerPoint and print them on cardstock.
Teacher Tip: PowerPoint is way easier to use when working with graphics than Word (I know you feel me if you made your own address labels in Word!). Just change the slide size to 8.5″ x 11″ and create a table with as many rows and columns as you would like labels per page. Then use text boxes or just type in each box your genre name and add your chosen graphic.
I recommend 4 boxes per page for larger labels or 9 boxes per page for smaller labels that will fit on the shoe box sized plastic bins. Once your labels are designed, print them on cardstock and laminate them or just attach the cardstock with packing tape on your library bins.
Classroom Library Organization Step #5: Put it all together! (and keep those labels handy)
Woohoo! You did it Super Teacher!
Now all you need to do is put the labeled books in your labeled book bins and you’re ready to go! Now students will know exactly where to put books when they’re done and you have a much better chance of keeping a decently organized classroom library.
While you’re making labels for books and bins, make some extras and keep them in a “Classroom Library” folder. Then when new books are donated or purchased for your classroom, all you’ll have to do is use your pre-made labels.
Ready to get started?
* First, go grab some packs of sticky return address labels for your printer. (affiliate link)
* Then, create your “From the library of Mr./Miss/Mrs./Ms. Your Name Here” labels.
* Start thinking about your list of genres
Where can I download the classroom library organization freebie?
You can download the FREE PowerPoint I use to introduce this genre-based classroom library system to students on the first day of school at my TpT store HERE. This PowerPoint file includes all the genres listed above + editable slides you can customize for any additional genres, topics, or images you might need. You can see all the slides included below.
If you have additional questions about classroom library organization, hop on over to my site to check out the original post which includes Frequently Asked Questions like:
- Why do you recommend organizing your classroom library by genre?
- Do the kids really put the books back in the correct bins?
- How do you create your labels?
- How does this system account for leveling books? Do you also level your classroom library?
- What do I do if students keep choosing books that are too hard for them?
Have a fab day Super Teacher and happy library organizing,
*This post contains affiliate links. This means when you click on these links I earn a small percentage of any purchases you make, but the prices stay the same for you. Thanks for helping to support I Want to be a Super Teacher!*
This article originally appeared at the I Want to be a Super Teacher blog. You can find the original post HERE.
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