Spring Cleaning the Classroom Library

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Lori Sabo

April 8, 2010

I usually wait until the heat of summer to re-sort, weed, and organize my classroom library. It's a big job because I've been collecting books for 27 years. But I got to thinking, Why not start now? If I do a few tubs a week, I'll be finished before school gets out!

The reason I usually wait until summer is that my students all have books in their book boxes and I thought I needed to wait until everything was turned in, but I realized I don't have to worry about that at all. Favorite, beloved books that are in boxes don't need to be weeded out. They are being read, so they automatically get to hang around through next year. 

So here is the plan: I'll go through a couple of tubs a day, pulling out the damaged, too-many-of, no-longer-interesting, and out-of-date books. I'll set them aside in a cupboard or box until the end of the year. Cleaning out a few tubs at a time doesn't feel daunting, and it will be great to be finished when school lets out for the summer.

On the second-to-last or last day of school, students will return their books to the proper tubs (this is easy for my students because each tub is numbered and each book is labeled with the corresponding number). Each student will be assigned a few tubs. They'll check to make sure each book belongs in that tub and the cover is facing forward, and voila, the entire library will be ready for fall.

On the last day of school, I'll place the culled books on tables for children to take home. Many of my children come from homes without books, so these become important summer reading opportunities. I'll donate any leftover books to charity or to the public library for their used-book sale, or offer them to new teachers (it seems like only yesterday that I took every single free thing I could get my hands on).

Trish Prentice has a few more ideas to make end-of-year classroom library maintenance efficient and collaborative. These simple suggestions send a very strong "I value and trust you" message to students, and we're sure you will find one you'd like to add to your end of the year routine!

  • Pass out baby wipes so they can clean the book tubs. It's amazing what collects at the bottom of the tubs...bits of paper, hair barrettes, lots of dust and more!
  • Remind the children to put the "broken books" in the Book Hospital tub.
  • Create a box to collect books that slipped in without a tub label...sometimes that happens.
  • Ask children to pull books out of tubs that they would never read. Once that is done, spread them all out and see if everyone agrees. If someone sees a book they have read and liked, they can rescue it by putting it back in its tub. But if everyone agrees that a book needs to go then it probably does!
  • Have students pick a book they love and write a note about it; then tuck the note inside for children to find next year. "This is one of my favorite books because . . . " You could brainstorm a list of topics the children could write about...favorite character, setting, illustrations, favorite author, etc. The only stipulation would be that they can't tell the ending of the story. I think it would be important for the teacher to review all the notes before they were placed in the books. Perhaps you could use some fancy paper clips or sticky note to attach the notes to the cover page. What a fun surprise for the children next year. This would a community building, memory-making experience for two sets of students. It would also be a fun way to spend a morning!
  • Have a discussion on your book system and library organization with the students and get their ideas. Someone might have a perfect solution for a problem you didn't even know you had.

Thanks, Trish!

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