Yesterday in Rolla, MO several teachers asked me how to keep classroom libraries organized. As I wrote about in Literacy Work Stations on p. 31, I recommend that you do this by setting up the library with your students. This is great to do early in the school year.
Start with empty bookshelves. Clear a shelf at a time, if you’d like. I like to have the whole class sort and organize the books into two piles– fiction and nonfiction. Seat your class in a circle on the floor. Then think aloud about what makes a book fiction (made-up story, characters and setting, problem and solution…) and what makes a book nonfiction (facts, photos, true information). Place labels (index cards work well) for FICTION and NONFICTION on the floor and show kids how to sort the books into these two piles. Pass out several books to two children at a time. Ask them to look at the book together and determine if it’s ficiton or nonfiction. Then go around the circle, have the pairs tell which kind of book theirs is, and have them put it into the appropriate pile. This may take several class periods to accomplish. Store the books in labeled boxes each day. After the books are sorted into fiction and nonfiction, work together to sort the nonfiction books into smaller groups. Children will come up with ideas, such as weather books, animal books, poetry books, and people books. Make category cards for labeling the classroom library baskets. Add illustrations. (I like to use Google images.) Likewise, sort the fiction books into groups with the children. These may be sorted by author, genre, easy-to-read, chapter books, leveled books, etc. You might designate one classroom library area for fiction and another for nonfiction.
In upper grades, you might want to add genre posters to your classroom library as you teach different genres. You can find wonderful genre posters on this website. I’d love to hear about and see your classroom library! Send pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org.