After consulting with the team; the school librarians, students, and classroom teachers we set out to begin the work of updating the classroom libraries. The discussion with the school librarians enabled us to think about their process for weeding out books, categorizing texts, arranging displays and choosing new books to order and how we would begin a similar process in each classroom.
As the process started we kept Pernille Ripp’s words in the forefront of our minds, “Sometimes you don’t have to have a perfect system for it to feel perfectly fine. The students make our book-loving classroom their own so they change the organization of books, the shelving of them, and even how we read them. I don’t mind, I just have to let go sometimes and trust the students.”
Step 1: We met with each classroom to begin our discussion with teachers and students. We discussed the first step would be weeding out books that were outdated, contained misinformation or were worn from being “loved” too much. Fortunately, we have a staff member that is affiliated with an organization that will gladly take gently used books. So it was decided we would donate multiple copies of more than 2 or books slightly worn.
Step 2: We started in the nonfiction section of the library. It was decided to start there for two reasons. One, it would be easier to categorize informational books. Two, the nonfiction section of each library, unfortunately, contains a smaller collection of books. As a whole group, we looked at about a dozen books and discussed how they might be categorized. Students quickly started making decisions.
In the primary classrooms, we started with books about animals. As anyone that has taught a primary grade knows it is a popular topic and there were MANY books that fit into that category. We quickly realized we would need to divide that topic into a variety of subtopics. These were the beginning categories.
Animals that Fly
Animals that Live in Water
Books that Contain a Variety of Animals
Step 3: Next, it was decided that we would meet in small groups during lunch to continue the process. After meeting with a group of five students we were able to make wonderful progress and created additional categories.
Reptiles and Snakes
The students in the intermediate grades were able to quickly work through the first step. The categories that were initially formed were very different from the primary classrooms. We started with two broad categories of Science and History. Next, they divided History into subcategories.
Women in History
Government and Economics
US History Before the 1800’s
History After the 1800’s
Cultures Around the World
Other categories included.
Q & A
Pamphlets & Magazines
Biographies & Autobiographies
Wonders of the World
Step 4: After all informational books were categorized students noticed that some of the topics contained only a few books. Discussions then centered around combining categories. Also, students began to craft a wishlist of information books to fill in the gaps within a category or a new category.
It was so exciting to see the involvement of all the students! Students were interested in books that had perhaps been sitting on a shelf for the whole year. Not realizing it was part of the classroom collection because previously they were organized by level, not a topic. They made many comments in regards to finding the new system for organization much more useful. Stay tuned as we tackle the fiction section of the libraries!