Classroom library center for your preschool, pre-k, or kindergarten classroom.
What is a classroom library?
An organized and functional classroom library that children can use independently is a vital component of every early childhood classroom. In Pre-Kindergarten or Kindergarten, a classroom library should be a place where students can go to look at, or “read” books. The classroom library area should be a clear, defined space in your classroom with places for students to sit and read. Some items you can add to create a more “homey”, personalized touch are lamps, curtains, chairs or furniture, and beanbags. By creating an inviting area for reading, students are more likely to want to spend time in the library center.
Why should I create a classroom library?
One of the main objectives of any early childhood teacher is to instill a love of reading and books in all students. Reading requires much skill and practice, and to practice you need books. It’s simple, the more children are exposed to books, the more they learn to love them.
How do you organize your classroom library so young children can use it independently?
One way that I have found that works very well with four and five year olds is to categorize the books by theme, and then color code the books with colored sticky dots. Each book tub has a picture label on the front as well as a colored sticky dot. The book boxes are available to every student, every day of the year and are never put away, but instead remain as permanent fixtures in our library center.
Each book in each box has a corresponding sticky dot on the lower left hand corner so the books can easily be matched to the boxes by the students. When I ran out of colors of sticky dots I started adding a gold star in the middle of the dot or another, smaller sticker. I do add books by season or theme and rotate them out in one particular tub. You can also use a book display shelf for these thematic books so they don’t get mixed up with your regular classroom library books.
HINT:When adding colored dots to your books or boxes always cover the dots with clear book tape or they will be picked off by curious little fingers
I had a bulletin board titled “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Look Who’s Reading in Our Room” that featured pictures of the students reading.
Above you can see the Class Library as it was set up in my classroom in 2010.
My classroom theme that year was Growing Readers so I decorated my entire classroom with a garden motif. I got the idea to make the classroom library into a garden from the book Places and Spaces by Debbie Diller. The classroom library features a green rug that represents the “grass”, purchased from Wal-Mart for $20. The planters lined up along the wall make great book tubs, purchased from Home Depot. There is a white wicker end table in the corner with a basket lamp filled with flowers- I had these in my guest bedroom. The seating are two canvas cubes with storage inside purchased from Home Goods on deep clearance but you can easily make your own crate seats. There are two lanterns hanging from the ceiling from World Market, $4 each but they often have them at The Dollar Tree. In the corner there is a decorated coffee can with large pointers for students to use with the word wall and little pointers to use with the books. I also had my word wall in my classroom library.
Where do you get the books for your classroom library?
This is the sad part of teaching, you will usually have to provide the books in your classroom library yourself. Building a classroom library can take years, don’t expect to accumulate as many books as you see pictured here in your first year. The following is a list of resources that new teachers can use to build their classroom libraries:
- Scholastic Bonus Points: Learn how to get more bang for your buck from Scholastic book clubs.
- Scholastic Warehouse Sales:
- Goodwill, Salvation Army, or other used venues
- Yard Sales and Library Book Sales: Some of the best bargains around can be found at yard sales or your local library’s annual book sale.
- Ebay and Craig’s List
- Teacher Discounts: Many book stores give teachers a discount. Stores such as Barnes and Noble, Half-Price Books, Books-a-Million, Buck-a-Book and others all offer a teacher discount.
What types of books should be included in the class library and how many?
- Including books by favorite authors, good non-fiction, and books your students have shown interest in are all factors to consider when choosing books for your classroom library.
- Be sure to include books you have read to the class in your classroom library. Nothing makes a book more appealing to a child than a book that the teacher has read aloud. Including books you have read aloud to your students in your classroom library also allows for independent practice of reading. Nothing is more rewarding than seeing your students fight over copies of Brown Bear, Brown Bear because they all feel comfortable and successful “reading” it independently.
- The number of books included in a classroom library is simply as many as space and budget will allow. The more books children are exposed too, the more likely they will find ones that they like and which inspire them to learn to read and love books.
- Don’t forget to include class made books. Class made books are very inexpensive ways to add books to your library area. I try to make one class made book for every theme that we study and add it to our class library or circulate it in a Buddy Bag. The possibilities are endless for class books and the children really love them because they helped in the process. Class made books will help inspire even the most reluctant reader to pick up a book.
What if I don’t have enough space in my classroom for a library center?
This is a common problem and one way that I have found to help solve this issue is to get creative. In some classrooms the library also doubles as the circle area or word wall area because there simply isn’t enough space to allow for a separate area. The most important thing is to provide access to as many books as possible.
My students mistreat the books in the classroom library, what should I do?
This is another common problem, but a simple one to solve. First, you must introduce your library center as any other center in your room. Do not let the students go to the library center on the first day of school and wreak havoc. Many children do not know what to do with a book and have never held one by themselves before. I have seen books used as skateboards, chew toys, chairs, ice skates, boomerangs, you name it! I cover my library center with butcher paper and only provide one tub of “disposable” books for the first few days of school. Each day I select a book from the basket and we review the rules of how to handle a book together as a whole group. I demonstrate how to hold a book (in your lap), where the front and back of the book are, how to turn the pages (by the corners gently), how to close the book (gently), and how to return the book to the place where I found it (don’t throw it in the general direction). I never assume that the students already know these things that we adults take for granted. If you make the effort to show your students how to treat the books in your class library they will learn to love and treat books with respect instead of mistreat them.
Next, play the “Book Game” with the whole group. I select a book from the basket and pass it to the first person next to me, they have to orient it in the right direction and open it, then close it and pass it along to the next person in the circle. It sounds silly, but it really helps reinforce good book behavior. We cheer and clap at the end to celebrate our new found knowledge and love of books. You can play music as you pass the book to make it more fun.
My students don’t like to go to the library center, what can I do to make them like it more?
- The best way to get your students to develop a love for reading and books is to provide a time during the day in your schedule for B.E.A.R (Be Excited About Reading) or more commonly referred to in older grades as D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything And Read) or simply S.S.R. (Silent Sustained Reading). B.E.A.R. time is a time when ALL students are expected to be reading or looking at books at the same time, including the teacher. In Pre-K and Kinder classes it is not necessary to require absolute silence as the older grades do.
- Read books about books. See the list of our favorite books about books at the bottom of this page.
- After B.E.A.R. time you can play another game; the “Favorite Book” game to encourage your children to think and read. Select one child to choose his or her “favorite” book from the class library. Allow the student to sit in your chair and ask him why this book was his favorite, what his favorite part of the story was, and any other questions you can think of. Then, read the book to the class making sure to explain that the book is special because it is “____’s favorite”. This game helps children understand that books are special and should be treated with love and respect.
- By taking the time to introduce books and discuss them you are showing your students how important books are to you. If books are important to you, they will also be important to your students and you will have more students who enjoy visiting the library center.
More Centers from Pre-K Pages
Recommended Books and Resources