Best Practice – Student Generated Class Libraries

Regie Routman PD - Student Generated Classroom Library
Regie Routman PD – Student Generated Classroom Library

In 2014-2015, my school endeavoured on a year long Regie Routman PD that helped bring literacy alive in our classrooms.  As we learned different things week to week, it became apparent (if it wasn’t already apparent to us) that teaching literacy and engaging students in reading and writing is created through good habits.

In the past, I was always keen on having a classroom library that included a variety of books.  Beautiful picture books, early readers, books that had won awards, classic books, funny books, weird books and the list goes on and on.  When it came to organizing my library, I always wanted it a certain way.  I’m embarrassed to say, I wanted it levelled.  I wanted it to be easy for my students to find books that were at their “just right” reading level.  I wanted them to be practicing books that they could read, instead of books that were “too hard” or “too easy.”  In grade 1, the focus is on making sure that your students learn to read and write.  I knew, as a teacher, that one way that students become successful readers is by practicing books that they could read, that were just challenging enough.  Unfortunately, I was focused more on them becoming successful readers instead of also becoming readers who love reading.

To be fair, I have never met a student in my class who didn’t like reading.  But to be honest, I also teach 5 and 6 year olds.  It’s pretty easy to get 5 and 6 year olds excited about practically anything.  I realized that I didn’t just want them to be excited about reading, but I wanted them to develop their own personal favourites.  I wanted them to become life-long readers.

Fast forward to this current school year where students created their very own classroom library.  Here are a few things I noticed and a few things I’ve learned from the process.

  1. Students noticed the types and variety of books that were available to them.
  2. Students interests seemed to grow and they were more aware of a wider range of books.
  3. Since students were responsible for organising the books, they took more ownership in making sure the classroom library was tidy.  Although to be fair, we are definitely still working on this one.
  4. Most importantly, the reason why students need to organise their own library is because in no way at all would an adult come up with exactly the same labelling system as a 5 year old… “fighting?”

One thing that I continue to struggle with is the idea of creating a classroom library that is more fluid.  Right now, our library is supplied by a bin of wonderful books from our school library.  This tub is then rotated through the grade 1 classrooms and each month we receive a new tub.  I got the students to use whiteboards to create the labels because I wanted the students to see that oftentimes we might think something works well one way but ideas change.   When we learn something new, we can change what we’ve done in the past.  I’m hoping that throughout the year our labels and our ideas of how we organise books will change.  The problem with using whiteboards is that they’re big and bulky (so they don’t fit in the bookshelf I have right now) they get wiped off easily, and they move around.  I’m still working on figuring something out that will work for me and for my students.

What do you think about creating a student generated classroom library?  What do you see the successes are?  What is another way/system to organize our books?

An organized mess.
An “organised” mess.

One thought on “Best Practice – Student Generated Class Libraries

  1. I do love how easy it is to excite younger students, it sometimes makes me sad that students lose this passion.

    I wonder if we can create signs instead of whiteboards, we can do a digital design lesson to talk about some principles of design and then use the ipads to create one? We could still change it as the library evolves, could be a group of students passion project or something.


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