Professional Development

June 3, 2019

How to Organize a Classroom Library for Little Readers

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You are sitting on your classroom floor surrounded by stacks and stacks of books. You have so much to do to prepare for the kids and organizing a classroom library does not feel like it puts you on a path to leave school at a decent time right now. 

Organizing your classroom library can be a ton of work, but trust me – it’s WORTH it! An organized library lets your young readers grow their love of reading and learn about new things.

This essential part of the classroom should be put together thoughtfully.   

Organizing your classroom library really only has a few requirements:

  • To be easy for students to both browse and look for something specific
  • Be clearly labeled
  • Have a system to make returning books easy

Other than that, you have lots of freedom in how you can set it up. Just remember it’s going to take some time. Put on some music, listen to a podcast, maybe grab a friend, and get started!

Building Your Classroom Library Book Collection

If you’re a new teacher and don’t have many books yet, don’t worry! There are many places you can purchase some on the cheap.

Here are 5 favorites!

  • School library or your public library.  This is FREE! Grab about 20 or so every other week and swap them out. Your little readers will love seeing new books come through!
  • Check out Goodwill. It can be hit or miss, but the prices are hard to beat! Paperbacks are usually 25-50 cents, and hardbacks are about $1.
  • Garage sales. You can usually grab books for about 25 cents each (sometimes people will offer a discount if you mention you’re a teacher).
  • Half-Price Books is my favorite place to kill some time! They have a donation program. Simply apply HERE!
  • Utilize Scholastic book orders. Use your points to get books for free!

Storing Your Books in Your Classroom Library

I personally loved the book bins I found at the Dollar Spot at Target years ago.  Thankfully, they seem to bring them back each summer! They hold up well and last!

HERE is a similar set of book bins. (Different colors are on sale, so check the colors to compare prices.)

I also used these Sterilite tubs. For me, a combination of both worked well. I’d recommend not having too many different types of bins so that it still looks cohesive. Just make sure your bins will fit on whatever shelving you have!

Organizing Your Books

Next is the hard part – figuring out how you want to actually sort your books.

This is the nitty gritty part of organizing your classroom library. You can sort by author, genre, character, theme, holidays, etc. Think about your students and their interests, and start there.

It’s important that students get books according to their interests! You can see the categories I liked to use HERE and get some ideas.

For younger grades, a mix of themes (animals, dental health, back to school, spring, pumpkins, etc.), subjects (math, science), characters (Pete the Cat, Fancy Nancy, holidays, and authors (David Shannon, Laura Numeroff, Tomie de Paola) tends to work well.

Time for a Confession!

In the past, I have tried having some books by reading levels and some not. As there has been more research about this over the last 5 years, I have learned that that really is not a best practice. Sure, for teachers it’s great to have a leveled library, but for kids who are book shopping in the library, it’s not what is best for growing them as readers.

Just try not to overthink it when organizing. Yes, Pete the Cat Rocking in my School Shoes could go in a “Pete the Cat” tub or “Back to School” tub. Just pick one and try it.

Better yet, let the KIDS pick the tub! Yes, let them organize THEIR library!

Labeling Your Books for Your Classroom Library

Label, label, label.

Each and every book bin needs a label. You can see what I made to use in my own classroom HERE.  87 labels and leveled book labels are included to match any classroom decor theme. 

Also, if you think your students might struggle returning the book to the correct bin, you might consider labeling the book, too. You can make book labels that match the book bin labels.

One thing that worked well in kindergarten was putting the label on the book bins and then using the round garage sale stickers.

  1. Put a number on one sticker and put that on the bin label.
  2. Put a sticker on every book in the basket with the same number.
  3. Choose a class librarian to check the bins each week and make sure nothing is out of place.

Putting books away is super easy for students!

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Remember this: Don’t be afraid to change what doesn’t work for you or your students.

Kids will adapt to changes quickly so don’t hang on to a system that you don’t like for too long. To sum it up, there’s no wrong way to do it!

Once you’re all set up, you’ll want your students to start book shopping. Check out this post HERE where I shared what worked well for me one year.

Just remember, only allowing kids to book shop by reading levels is not the best! When we know better, we do better! 

Give this all a try and see how it goes!

Happy Teaching,



Want to use the latest research to boost your readers during small groups? This FREE guide is packed with engaging ideas to help them grow!

Hi, I'm Amanda

I’m a K-1 teacher who is passionate about making lessons your students love and that are easy to implement for teachers.  Helping teachers like you navigate their way through their literacy block brings me great joy. I am a lifelong learner who loves staying on top of current literacy learning and practices. Here, you’ll find the tools you need to move your K-2 students forward!


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