Save Your Classroom Library and Your Sanity

Posted: August 12, 2017 by Lindsey Nagorski

So its the first day of school and you want your students to do some reading.  You send them carefully over to your beautifully organized classroom library (that you no doubt spent several ulcer inducing hours on this summer) and within a matter of minutes it’s destroyed and you’re fighting back tears (and maybe some rage haha).  Sound familiar?

As teachers we all want to foster a love of literacy and send the message that in our classroom reading is important and fun from the moment our students walk in… but we would also like to stay sane (there will be many other opportunities for us to lose our sanity no doubt).  That is why for the first few days of school I use browsing bins!

The process is quite simple really… I take several bins or buckets and fill them with a variety of high interest texts that are around the different reading levels of my students.   Now, I am currently teaching first grade so my bins are obviously going to be filled with mostly picture books.  I would encourage you though to continue to use picture books regardless of the grade you teach.  I’ve done this as a 5th grade teacher as well and my students loved it!

I then place one bin at each table or zone (if doing more of a flexible seating approach) and rotate them each day for then next few days.


These bins serve a variety of purposes, but to keep it simple I’ll just give you my top 3:

  1.  To send the message that reading is important and fun and held in high regard in this classroom.  By having books out for student use from day one I am encouraging them to explore topics and genres in a way that is not overwhelming or threatening.  There is no library system to navigate and no pressure to be reading at a certain level.  Instead they’re just picking a book that interests them!
  2. As an early finisher-  Reading is always an academic choice in my class.  I don’t ever want students to think that when they are done with their work it is “free time”… I do however give them “free choice” when they are finished with their work, and reading is the first choice activity that they earn.
  3. As a filler- every experienced teacher knows that no matter how carefully you create your plans for the first few weeks (or ever) something is bound to go awry.  The first few days can also be mentally taxing for little brains as they transition back to school.  Sometimes we just need to push the pause button for a moment, dim the lights and take a break with a book!

I will do many lessons involving the books in these bins over the first few days including how to care for our books, what to do if a book is ripped or broken, and eventually how to self select books from our classroom library/ use our personal book bins.  They have saved my sanity (well… they’ve certainly helped) over the last several Septembers and helped me be able to focus on other aspects of setting up my classroom management.  Give them a try!