Thursday, July 16, 2015

WAKE UP Your Classroom Library!

Growing up, I attended a church built in 1868. Yes, I said eighteen-68. On the second floor, behind the sanctuary, was a library. I can still picture it: leather-bound volumes, threadbare olive-green carpeting, deep mahogany trim, and lots of shadows. There was always something missing, though.


In my entire childhood, I don't remember seeing a single person touch a single book in that library.

And if I'm being honest, in my first few years of teaching, come November, my classroom library reminded me quite a bit of the lonely library from my old church.

But over the years I've found ways to keep my classroom library a hub of activity all the way through May.

One way to "wake up" your classroom library is to start an event calendar. I was browsing my public library's website a couple of years ago and came across its calendar. Man, it was hoppin'... author visits, story times, clubs, classes, even film showings. People were interacting with the library left and right. And I thought, hmm, why don't we try that for our classroom library?

The idea was to use the calendar we already had hanging on the wall to schedule a few mini "events" involving our library. I wrote briefly about the idea in the fifth part of my Classroom Library series, but now that I've had a full year to play around with it, I've learned a few more things to share.

Scheduling and following through with classroom library events breathes life into our library, builds anticipation and excitement, and helps me and my class be proactive about keeping the classroom library (and reading in general) a priority.

When I say "event," I'm not talking about anything huge and fancy. Most of the ideas below can be done in about 10-15 minutes. But actually seeing two or three events scheduled on our monthly calendar lets us look forward to them and have a little accountability to make them happen.
  • Friday Finds: Students share a book they "found" during the week that is worth reading.
  • Monday Makeovers: Give students a chance to do a complete "makeover" on their book baskets... return old books, find a few fresh ones, clean out the junk, even make a new bookmark to keep inside.
  • Tuesday Trades: Students get with partners and trade a book from their book baskets.
  • Wednesday Want That: Get students' input of books and series that they want for the library. Make a list and keep it handy next time you have a chance to grab a few new books.
  • Throwback Thursday: Have all students get a favorite book from the classroom library that they've read a long time ago, and give them time to read them with partners.
  • Friday Filers: Devote some time to spruce up and organize the library, filing all of the misplaced books. This sometimes works better with just a group of students in charge (but you might be surprised at how many students love doing it.)

After incorporating classroom library events for a year, I've learned that they do indeed keep students interacting with the library in fun ways! And many of them provide opportunities for students to interact with each other too, with books at the heart of the conversations.

To keep it manageable and low-stress, I only scheduled a handful of events (at most) in a month, and some months we didn't schedule any. Avoiding a repetitive schedule helped to keep things lively and fresh. Here are a few more ideas you could sprinkle in:
  • Six on the Sixth: Randomly choose six students on the sixth of the month to each choose one book from the classroom library to highlight. I like to lean the chosen books on the tray of our whiteboard for other students to borrow.
  • Treasures on the Tenth: Some of my own personal favorites in our classroom library often get forgotten, so I choose a handful of "treasures" that look like they've been sitting on the shelf for awhile and show them to the class, read the back covers, and even recommend them to particular students.
  • Nonfiction on the Nineteenth: Choose a student or two to pick out a category of nonfiction books to highlight by setting out for the day.
  • Twisted on the Twentieth: Assign each student a partner. Instead of going into the classroom library to find a book for themselves, twist it and have students find a book for their partner. If time allows, have students first interview their partner to get to know their likes and dislikes.
  • 'Get Comfy' Day: Students get to bring in a pillow and blanket to read with for the day.
  • 'Pair It' Day: During the days leading up to 'Pair It' Day, students work with partners to read and pair books together that connect in some way, yet haven't already been grouped together through the library's organization. For example, Sam and Mike might pair the following books together: Dinosaurs before Dark (Magic Tree House chapter book), How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? (rhyming picture book), and 100 Facts: Dinosaurs (informational book). On 'Pair It' Day, students introduce the theme of their paired books, and others can select sets to read.
  • 'Share It' Day: Take a few minutes with the class to choose a handful of recent favorites from the classroom library to put together a temporary gift basket to share with another class. Attach a note that says: "We love these books so much, we want to share them with you for the week. Please return them to the basket when you finish. We'll pick them up on Friday. Enjoy!" Sometimes you'll even get a gift basket of books in return!

On my calendar you see in the photos, I signified a "classroom library event" with a little bookworm (using clip art from Our Monitos) that I laminated and Velcroed to the calendar dates. You can snag a copy of my calendar tags HERE.

Find LOTS more of my ideas for maintaining a thriving library HERE. If you are interested in the full series of blog posts on my classroom library, including arranging it, organizing it, stocking it, and introducing it to students, you can find it HERE.

Stop by my blog, The Thinker Builder, anytime!


  1. Michael! This is awesome! My whole classroom is essentially a library, but I know that the kiddos often don't find all of the amazing books! I love this idea and plan to do these this year. Thank you so much for the wonderful ideas!
    Primary Planet!

    1. Thanks Hilary. I LOVE that you describe your classroom as more of a library than a classroom. That is awesome!

  2. My classroom library has large sections for my fiction, biographies, Presidents, and Social Studies related books. I think your ideas will give my 5th graders more inventive to check out more books.
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. These are AMAZING ideas! I have easily over 1,000 books in my classroom library, yet I don't spend that much time talking about it! These ideas are such a great way to create a buzz about my library and about books! Thanks for sharing :)

  4. This post is full of AMAZING IDEAS! Definitely trying some of them in my classroom this year. Thank you for sharing.



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