The Evolution of My Reading Workshop Practices: Classroom Library and Seating

This is the third and final post in a series on the evolution of my reading practices. The last two posts focused on the mini-lesson and reading logs. Today's post will focus on the classroom library and book access for students. If you missed the other two, head on over and check them out by clicking the links.

This series is all about taking a trip down memory lane and at times grimacing at some of the choices I made. However, I am a firm believer that when you know better, you do better. So I know that I will probably look back in another 5-6 years and be a better educator than I am today as I write this. Through this reflection, I hope to show other options that you may have to help push yourself into different practices that might change your students' experiences in your classroom, as I've witnessed in my room. 

But first. Take a look at how my classroom library physically has changed over the last 6 years.
I was so proud of this first one.

The book selection grew a decent amount.

Not a whole lot changed this year...

My love for books began to get a bit out of control.

This is the year when a huge shift in WHAT goes into my library occurred

More books than I have room for and more diverse selection than ever
Because it's hard to see what' on the shelves from then to now, here's a more detailed description:

I'm embarrassed to say when I first started, it was very hard for me to let students take books home. In my mind, I spent a lot of money on them and I didn't want them to get ruined or lost. I thought that if I preserved them, more students would get to use them. Now, I know that losing a book is a much better outcome than losing a reader (not sure who said that originally but it really spoke to me). So now, students have a gallon sized zip loc back and can take books home. I used to put a limit, but I don't care as much anymore. And because I've purchased high interest books, students have kept tabs on who is reading the book they want and the pressure to return it for the next reader is on. They love trading off and saying, "You're going to love this book." That wouldn't happen if I didn't let students take books home. 

Another big shift is how I organized my books. Reading levels. Yes. I did that. It was expected and encouraged by not only our school, but by the curriculum we used (and still use- see earlier posts to know what we use). 

It was so restrictive. I think it was in year 3 or 4 where I no longer organized by levels. Books that were in my library had a reading level on them. I didn't take them off mainly because it would take forever. But new books I add to my library don't get a reading level. I'm considering it my student's job to know if a book is within their reach and my job to secretly know and help guide them. 
Each chapter book gets at least 1 label. The label has the genre and who it belongs to (I removed my school name and my name from the labels, but if the book belongs to me I highlight my name. If it belongs to my school, I highlight the school name. That way, if I should ever leave the school, I know which books I'm taking with and which ones I need to leave behind. Some chapter books get another label. These are color coded labels that have a letter on them. These are not reading levels, but rather author last name labels. 

They are from the amazing Molly at Lessons with Laughter.

Now I organized books in a variety of ways. I have bins of picture books. Some chapter books are in genre bins. Especially if it's a series. I put the first book of a series in a genre bin so if a student reads the first book and wants more, they can then look for the author and maybe even find other series or books by that author. I have some super popular series in bins. I have nonfiction separated in categories that reflect the Dewey Decimal system. 

Speaking of nonfiction, that is the area that needs the most work. It should represent 50% of my classroom library and it's more like 25-30%. I changed how I stored and organized them this year so I could see what topics I can expand on.

I put my books into categories based off of the Dewey Decimal system. Some I don't have any, so I don't have bins or spines yet for those categories (space is already limited and I need to find a way to continue to expand, but for now, I needed to organize what I had). I used bins from The Container Store because they are deep and long so many of those big books will actually fit in them. The problem was that I bought the small ones and they don't hold a ton of books. For future purchases, I'll get at least the medium size so that I can fit more books in a specific category. To help them stay organized, each bin has a number on it. I used Molly's labels to put a matching number on the corresponding color (you can see it on the floating shelves how two of the books have a number 9 to suggest they go in the #9 bin if they aren't on the shelf being displayed). This way, my student librarians know which bin to place the books if they are unsure on the category.

These are some other practices I've changed over the years as well.
 *I'm considering a change in book shopping and thinking about allowing students to get books throughout the day. I've included "social transition times" into our day that allow about 5 minutes for us to wrap up one of our content areas and move to the next. They get to talk, hang out, and relax before we jump into the next. I'm also thinking of doing a soft start and letting students decide their morning work that will best get them ready to learn for the day. For some, that may include browsing books in the morning. Although it's always been an option, when I've had morning work, many students didn't get to book shop. I didn't really follow book shopping days either. If a kid came up to me during reading and needed a book, I would let them. So I think it's time to abandon that and try something else. 

Lastly, I started to let students recommend books and displaying them on the floating shelves. I hope to continue that this year and find more space for them to showcase their good reads. 

This got to be really long. So sorry! You realize when you start to put a post together like this all the things you could and want to share. Thanks for checking in to how my reading practices have evolved over the last 5-6 years. Feel free to share your evolution as well and not be ashamed of it. As I said earlier, when we know better, we do better. I still have a lot to learn and will continue on the journey. You are more than welcome to join in with me and share.  

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