In Part 1 of my blog series, I went a little into the background of my classroom library and why it changed. I went from cringing when my new books were being read, to LOVING to watch my kids devour them, even if they then became “gently loved” and damaged. The bottom line is, if you want your kids to grow as readers, then they need to read, and those books need to be on their level. The first place to start with building a classroom library is to level your books.
Now this task can be very time consuming and sometimes a difficult one. Before you can start this process, you need to decide which way you are going to level your books. Are you going to use the Lexile level, the Guided Reading level, or grade level equivalent? A quick google search of guided reading conversion chart brings up a plethora to choose from.
There are a couple of different sites that you can use to find levels on your books. I used Scholastic Book Wizard and AR Bookfinder. These two sites are the biggest free ones to use. There are a couple other sites or apps you can use, but you had to pay for those. Now here’s where it gets difficult. After you decide which system you are going to use to level your books, you may not find it on your “chosen” website. So now what do you do? I was only using AR Bookfinder because the school I was at took AR tests, so my kiddos needed to know which books they could test on. When I couldn’t find a book level on AR, I would jump to Scholastic. So I had to use multiple websites to look up some books. Now it gets even more difficult!! Something in me said to check it out on both sites…. big mistake! Each website had different information!! So now what do I do? I decided I couldn’t label a book one level, if it could be too easy or too hard. So, I chose to start all over. I looked at several different conversion charts I found on the internet, and decided to come up with my own, converging the ones I found useful in my classroom. When I came across books that weren't the same, I'd error on the high sided one, just to be safe. I made each grade level a different color to help me monitor my students choices by just glancing at the sticker color in the corner.
My old library was organized by genres, but that wasn’t working in my current classroom, because my students would choose whatever books they saw that looked good, no matter what the sticker said. So I decided that it would be better to organize them by their Guided Reading level. I know that this isn’t going to solve the problem completely, but it cut down on it. The funny thing is that in fixing one problem, I created a new one. My students would take two books, peel off the sticker of the one that they could have, and trade it with the book of one they couldn’t. It drove me crazy. I had to have a “come to Jesus talk” with my kids several times, and finally had to start making kids who checked out books (more on that later) with stickers that were switched miss recess, and the problem took care of itself. I could tell which stickers were tampered with because the edges were messed up, but I never told them that.
Now I am not by any means claiming that my way is perfect, correct, or fool proof, but it’s what works for my classroom. That is the key to any classroom, finding what works for you and your students.
Please check back for Part 3 of my series where I will wrap up how I keep track of my books, how my kids check them out, and the overall look of my classroom library. Thanks for reading!
Great adventure awaits you!