When I first started teaching, I taught kindergarten in an urban school, to children who did not have books at home. I was a teacher who did not yet have a book collection, so I went to the library weekly to pick up books for my classroom. And from time to time, those books would disappear.
I understood why it was happening, as the children had no books of their own and coveted the beloved stories we read together, but it was hurting my bank account, as missing hardcover books averaged $15 at the time. I started to get tired of paying fines for missing books, and thought about how I could avoid this problem.
My solution was to arrange the books on a flat, open-face bookshelf so that each book fit nicely into its own spot. Then I made masking tape labels for each book and put them on the shelf in each book’s spot, so that when you removed the book, you’d see the label for its place. Here’s a picture:
This helped the vanishing books problem cease, as I could tell at a glance what book was missing, and send my assistant out for a quick backpack search to locate it. But I realized that it was helping the children respect the books and take good care of them, and it was also helping them with reading skills, as they started matching the letters and words in the titles to the letters and words on the tape labels.
I have been doing this ever since. Each time we switch to a new theme, I get out my books on that theme, and arrange them so they all fit on the shelf like a puzzle. Then I label the shelf behind each book, so that the children will be able to put them back in the right places when they are done. Here are a few more pictures:
Last year when my school started moving toward guided reading, I realized that I didn’t have enough books out, so I added genre baskets:
The ones under the blocks are where I have counting books and favorite authors; the ones above the blocks are where I have ABC books, Spanish-language books, and books about colors.