Overwhelming. This is the only word I could use for many months as I thought about the transition from my third grade to a kindergarten classroom library. The first step was easy — pack away my chapter books. I could do that at the end of the school year. I kept my nonfiction, biographies, and poetry texts for the initial move because I knew I wanted to include those genres. But I wasn’t sure what would be appropriate for these younger students. It had been six years since I taught kindergarten, and thinking about transitional readers is very different than thinking about emergent readers.
As I set up my new kindergarten library, I had books and boxes everywhere. I wrote down three goals for myself. First, I wanted the books accessible to the children all the time. Second, I wanted a variety of genres available. The third goal was to organize the books in a way that the students could manage and help maintain the classroom library.
Consulting the Experts
When I need help in any areas of my life I find books to guide me. I found four books with valuable information for me to read and ponder. I felt like a student myself as I used the table of contents and index to locate just the information about setting up a classroom library. I didn’t have time at the moment to read or reread all four books.
More Than Guided Reading: Finding the Right Instructional Mix K-3 by Cathy Mere has a chapter titled “Growing Our Libraries.” This chapter guided my thinking for sorting my large collection of books into smaller groups, making it manageable and appealing to younger readers. I also found support from this text with the task of reorganizing the library. Here are Cathy’s encouraging words, “I have found that a well-organized and thoughtfully planned classroom library is essential. The library requires as much thought as any of the other instructional decisions I make.”Beyond Leveled Books, by Karen Szymusiak, Franki Sibberson, and Lisa Koch has a fantastic section titled, “A Classroom Library That Teaches Early Readers About What It Means to Be a Reader.” Here I found suggestions for favorite authors, characters, nonfiction topics, song books, and familiar stories. There is also a list of “Books We Love” to place alongside leveled books.
I felt out of the loop with early literacy, and the titles suggested in Beyond Leveled Books were both familiar and new. The booklists and suggestions were a great crash course, and I was caught up quickly with new titles and thinking about libraries in the early grades. Within this text Katie DiCesare (a guest author) shared her thinking for setting up a first-grade classroom library, introducing me to the idea of using a dot system for organizing leveled books. Kathy Collins in Growing Readers helped me think about reorganizing leveled books by similar features (i.e., lines of text, picture clues and support). I think this will be much more manageable for the students than the more arbitrary classification found with a number or letter system. The last resource I used, Is That a Fact? by Tony Stead, is the go-to book when thinking about nonfiction book tubs. Tony urges us to have more than one or two nonfiction tubs, and to organize them with a variety of text levels.
I dove into my book collection and began sorting, keeping my goals in mind. I found nonfiction was easier to start with; I could carry over many of my tubs from my third-grade classroom library. The biggest change here was to rename my tubs, using language kindergartners could understand. “Geology” became “My Earth” and “Human Body” became “Me.” I also reorganized my tubs with topics I thought the younger students would be interested in, and placed topics of interest around the room in different locations. For example, a tub of books about guinea pigs and a tub about turtles were placed next to our classroom pets.
My picture books were sorted in many different tubs by author. Many tub collections were created from looking at what I had, again keeping in mind interesting topics or needs for our youngest readers. There is a “People” tub in the nonfiction section which features biographies. I kept a collection of poetry books, and I picked fairy tales and sorted them with multiple versions for the most popular stories. I really enjoy using literature with my math lessons, so I created six math literature tubs and placed them with our math manipulatives, sorted by topics/math strands for kindergarten.
The biggest challenge was to think through how I could help students maintain the books, placing them back in the same book tub to be used again. Previously my books were categorized with tape on the spine, using colored electrical tape to designate each genre. This worked for third graders, because they could read the titles and book tub labels while thinking about genres. However, this would be challenging for early readers. I borrowed an idea from a friend of mine, Maureen Knotsman. She had a picture clue for each book tub word label, and placed a copy the picture clue on the back of each tub word label. The picture clues were easy to find using the internet and conducting image searches.
I made multiple copies of each image within a sheet. The photo clues are about an inch to an inch and a half square. Taping these onto the books was something I was trying to avoid, and then I got smart. I’m going to recruit parent volunteers right away when school starts to place our picture clues on the back of each book. Then as new books come into the library we can stamp them by owner — the school or Mrs. Robek. We’ll tape the genre coding on the side, in case I leave kindergarten someday and need to recode the books. We’ll then place the picture clue on the back. With time, minilessons, and modeling, I know my new young students can easily manage and use this library system.
Suggested Book Tubs for Kindergarten
Favorites: Froggy, Five Little Monkeys, Scaredy Squirrel
Topics of Interest: Family, School, Holidays, Seasons, It Could Happen to Me, Your Big Backyard, Things About Where I Live
Nonfiction: Art, How To, Maps, Places, Space, My Earth, Seasons, Weather, Plants, Spiders, Bugs, Frogs, Penguins, Dinosaurs, Pets, Birds, Worms, Reptiles, Vehicles
Authors: Jeremy Tankard, Mo Willems, Ellen Stoll Walsh, Emily Gravett, Lois Ehlert, David Shannon, Doreen Cronin, Tomie dePaola, Jan Brett, Pat Hutchins, Ezra Jack Keats, Denise Fleming, Jan Thomas, Mem Fox, Leo Lionni, Donald Crews, Kevin Henkes, Eric Carle
Different Takes on Traditional Tales: Three Bears, Three Little Pigs, Three Billy Goats Gruff, Little Red Hen, Little Red Riding Hood, Gingerbread Man
Others: Good Books for Picture Reading, Rhyming, Songs, ABC, Mother Goose