Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The First Days: What Do Our Classroom Libraries Say to Young Readers?

This is one section of a my classroom
library which displayed favorite
characters.  (This section was
developed with students after
the first day.) 
Since taking my position as a reading support teacher, there are many pieces I miss about having a classroom.  One of them is getting the classroom library ready for the first days with students.  There's something about touching all of the books, considering which would be best for us to begin, and finding spaces around the room for placement.  In the first days our library will help set the tone for our reading community.  

The first days with our library are just the beginning.  After the first days I'll want the students to grow the library.  I'll want them to consider the books we need, the categories for our baskets, and the best locations for particular collections, but from the first moment they walk into the classroom I want them to know literature is valued here.  In those first days I hope they'll discover books that will speak to them and see their reflection in the books that surround us each day.

My love for picture books in my classroom has carried over to my work with young readers in intervention.  Even in the reading room I work to create a library for readers.  Most often, I'm working with readers in their classrooms, but I want my reading room to have books available for students to browse.  My space is small; last year having books displayed was continually a challenge.  This year I decided to do an even deeper clean to make space for more book displays.  I wanted to be able to have baskets of books for students.  I wanted to be able to have picture books they'd love, but also a greater collection of picture books I thought they could read independently.  My first collections include books about reading and writing, wordless picture books, easy informational reads, and song books.  I have a space for authors which includes Todd Parr, Jan Thomas, and Mo Willems to begin.

Getting Our Library Started
In the first days, I hope my classroom library will say:

You're welcome here:  As students sit down to read in the first days, I want them to be able to see themselves in our library.  Over the years I've worked to include more diverse characters.  Though possibilities for diverse characters are growing, it's still hard work to find titles with strong characters.

All readers matter:  Working with young readers I want students to be able to come into the classroom and find a book they can read.  If books are all too challenging, a child may begin to see himself or herself as someone who can't read.  I want every basket of books to contain titles students will be able to read and enjoy.  This means thinking about where students are coming in at the beginning of the year instead of where I expect them to be or where they will finish the year as readers.

I already know you:  As I put my library together I consider titles students will remember from their previous year.  As a first grade teacher, I knew students would come in knowing Mo Willems characters, having read Mrs. Wishy-Washy and Dan the Flying Man.  I try to include books in our library I know students will remember from the previous year.  I also try to consider topics I think students will be interested in reading more about at the beginning of the year.  It seems I can't go wrong with books about pets, friends, and school in the first days.

Books are valued here:  When students walk into the classroom I want them to feel surrounded by books.  I place books around the room.  This not only helps in the first days of workshop as students learn to spend time reading books, but it also sends the message the reading is valued here.  My goal is for students to be able to sit most anywhere and reach a book.

We'll grow this together:  The first days require a delicate balance.  I want there to be enough books for students to get started reading, but I also want them to know we'll grow the library together.  For this reason, I leave out empty baskets and save space on shelves for the titles our new learning community would like to add.

Come read with me:  By arranging books in an appealing way our libraries will not only surround us, but will call to students.  Front covers facing out, picture books featured in spaces and placed within reach, will invite readers to sit down and spend some time reading.  Cozy spaces near book displays will also encourage students to pick up a book and read.

What do our classroom libraries say to young readers?  Share images of your favorite library spaces at the hashtag #classroomlibrary.


  1. Love this Cathy! We cannot wait to share this with our partner schools.

    Clare and Tammy

  2. This is so wonderful Cathy! I love the messages and the links to book lists on Pinterest. I know in my room we love filling our favourite read aloud bin and have open shelves to place books we have recently read so students can find them easily and reread. I will be sharing this post!

  3. I love this Cathy! Especially the idea of an "I know you" basket! One of my favorite memories so far this year has to do with one of the second grade readers. Last year, first grade did a huge study on Mo Willems. This year, one of those readers came to me the first day of school, as they were headed down the hall to lunch duty. "Dr. Carol, Mrs. S. loves Mo Willems too. She has all of the books we love." A great start to the year!

  4. Cathy~
    This post makes me smile and a bit giddy! I have arranged and picked books for similar reasons( I wonder where I get these ideas..crazy), but I have stepped it out as you have hear! I LOVE THIS! I wonder what my library says to the kids? I wonder if they could tell me? Soon we will begin adding to the library (the kids have already asked for books on plants, solar systems and bones) and adding labels, this just might be the time to ask!

  5. Having empty boxes! Thank you for the idea!