organizing books in a preschool classroom

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.

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7 thoughts on “organizing books in a preschool classroom

  1. can i ask you a very basic and probably obvious question that, to me as a just-barely-beginning student teacher, is not at all basic and obvious? if you are doing guided reading in your classroom, how on earth do you manage to get anything else done? i think there’s a lot of great strategies and ideas in guided reading, but i am completely overwhelmed at the prospect of doing it in a classroom.

    (i am looking forward to the day when i will have my own classroom and be able to organize my own books…i can’t find anything in my practicum classroom!)

  2. I hate to say it, but I don’t know the answer. Yet. Last spring I learned how to do the Fountas & Pinnell guided reading assessments, and this fall we are embarking on learning how to actually do guided reading in the classroom. I will be learning how to teach the other children to work independently, I just don’t know how yet.

    Also, I am not entirely sure I’ll be using it in MY classroom, as I teach preschool. I think I’ll adapt it. But as a mentor teacher, I will be helping K-2 teachers do it in their rooms.

  3. My students don’t take books home, they take toys. **sigh** I’ve done pocket and backpack checks several times already this year. Unfortunately the children who most often do this, are the ones who’s parents won’t (or don’t) care to stop the behavior. And often we don’t miss the toy until it is too late to figure out who took it.

    Great book organization! I love it.

  4. I found your blog via a Word Press tag feed (first grade) that I follow and read a couple of entries this morning. This really stuck out to me and I tried it today with my first graders and it was exactly right. First of all, it kept us from trying to shove too many books on the shelf, but they felt this absolute sense of pride when they put the books away and stepped back to see how the shelf looked.

    I’m really glad you shared this, thank you. I look forward to reading more from your blog!

    ~kirsten

  5. Pingback: Get Organized: Good Ideas for How & Where to Store Your Stuff - Hello Little One Blog

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