One of the shifts that’s been kicking up some dust around here is the organizing, leveling and genre categorizing of our classroom libraries to make way for Reader’s Workshop with even our youngest of students.  Check out Ms. L’s Kinder library over at HV:

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How about Ms. M’s 5th grade room at WT:


As many folks start to become more adept at administering Running Records using Fountas and Pinnell’s Benchmark Assessment System (Do you know your grade level benchmark for the upcoming report card period? Take a look at this handy-dandy chart as a guide), people are eager to get the “just right” levels of books in their classrooms that support their varied readers.

Why Create a Leveled and Genre-organized library?

If you support the idea of “meeting students where they are”,  a foundational belief that Balanced Literacy is grounded in, then a classroom library that is accessible for all is a means to that end.  Additionally, if you’re considering implementing Reader’s Workshop into your practice, then a burgeoning and well-organized library is the key for supporting engaged and independent readers.  Check out the comments that WT 2nd grade team has made in regards to using their classroom libraries to launch Reader’s Workshop:

“Kids are reading more and are more engaged!”- N.F.

“Kids are more self-aware of just right levels!” – M.O.

“It’s fun to bring in our own reading lives!” – C.H.

The second grade teachers at WT have just finished up their first “Launch Unit” of Readers’ Workshop.  On Monday, they’ll embark on their second unit called “Investigating Characters”.  Where did they get their user-friendly, easily digestible, day-by-day lessons?  Right here on Teachers Pay Teachers.  It appears that you can get most, if not all, Lucy units on this site, a la ‘Cliff Notes’ style (We love Lucy’s, but they’re a bit, er, text-heavy for our harried teaching lives, no?)  You can also find the K-5 Writing Units distilled into one-page mini-lessons.

Over at HV, Kinder teacher Ms. L says that she’s never had kinder students so engaged by books (even if they’re just moving their finger along the page and inventing the story) so early on in the year.  She’s been getting them motivated by talking about reading stamina.  They’re up to 15 minutes of engaged, independent, quiet reading and they’re only five and six!  Check out this cool bar graph that first grade HV teacher, Ms. G, did to get her students motivated to read long like real readers!  Lucy talks about stamina and there’s some great “launch” mini-lessons from the Daily Five book in the “Read to Self” chapter.


How Does a Leveled and Genre-organized library move me towards implementation of CCSS?

CCSS demands that students “read widely”  and “read from a balance of fiction and informational texts” and that they do so with greater independence than was required in the past.  One way we can meet these demands is to create a daily structured time for independent reading in our “just right” books.  Obviously, organizing the library is but the first step.  Next comes thoughtful mini-lessons, coaching, conferring, small groups and formative assessments grounded in the books that students are reading.  All fodder for future blog posts!

How does a Leveled Library Meet the Needs of all Learners?

For some English Language Learners, reading grade level texts can be challenging.  Very often ELs don’t have the English supports at home and/or lack the structural, visual and context cues in a text due to unfamiliarity with the English Language.  For ELs, then, having books at their level in the classroom will lower their affective filter, give them the fluent practice that they need and allow for input to be more comprehensible.

We all have had (or currently have) the kid whose reading is so off the charts, he/she is bored and unchallenged by grade level curriculum.  A leveled library where students are offered choice meets the needs of these high-achievers as well.  Harry Potter at age five?  If that’s your “independent” level, have at it!

Yeah, yeah…well, what about Middle School (or 4th and 5th graders)?

Check out this post on Edutopia about combining choice, leveled books and blog writing to engage students and create “a community of passionate readers.”  When students have a sense of agency in their reading and feel their task is purposeful, reading really can become revolutionary.

How do I Create a Leveled and Genre-organized Library?

1.  Beg, borrow and steal books from garage sales, book drives, parent donations, DonorsChoose grants, Scholastic Book Clubs, library discards and anywhere and everywhere you can get your hands on them.  Another great resource is the Children’s Book Project on 43rd Avenue in San Francisco where you can have 75 FREE books for each visit!  Limitless visits!

2.  Use these resources for leveling:

*Go to and click on Book Wizard.  Type in the title of the book and it will often give you the GR (guided reading) level.

*Use this tome by none other than Foutas and Pinnell which offers a comprehensive list of leveled titles, K-8.

3.  I read somewhere that a classroom library should be 1/4 leveled with 3/4 organized around genre and interest bins.  Some great bins of books that I’ve seen around the District are:  Our Favorite Series Books, Graphic Novels, Historical Fiction, Biographies, Author Study bins, Poetry and Song, Earth and Space, Dinosaurs, Things that GO, How-to Books, Our Favorite Characters, Our Favorite Read-a-louds, & Books that make us weep or laugh.

If your classroom library has been at the forefront of your teaching for years or if you’re a newbie in utilizing it as a way to promote engaged, independent and “just right” reading, please leave your comments below!  Also, who’s willing to showcase a library or have me video you in a mini-lesson?  Reply below!

What questions, concerns, instructional practices etc. would you like to see addressed on this site?  Next up will be:  Demystifying the mini-lesson!