July 15, 2013

Middle School Book Room Update and a Freebie

I've blogged two times before this post on our middle school book room that was created last year.  To see the previous blog posts visit this link:

Previous Book Room Posts

I seem to learn over and over again that being open to change and constant reflection is the only way to thrive in the education environment these days.  Beginning the middle school literacy program during the 2012-2013 school year, it would be absolutely silly for me to have the attitude of "keep everything the same" and "what I did the first time is the right way".  My mind is always churning with ways to make things more efficient, productive, etc.  I also am pretty darn lucky to work with some of the most awesome language arts teachers around, who I am constantly having conversations with, getting feedback from, and learning from.  Being reflective and collaborating with others, along with being open to change simply makes everyone's practices better.  It also has positively impacted our middle school book room! :)  We have made several additions and changes to our book room over the summer in preparation for the 2013-2014 school year.  Below are pictures of the changes, along with some fun tips for any of you out there who are interested in creating a middle school book room and want to pick up a few ideas.  Also, play close attention at the end for a link to my book room freebie that I created that includes titles organized alphabetically by levels, signs that can be printed out for the book room, checkout sheets for teachers who allow students to read parts of guided reading books outside of class, and book fine templates for if students lose a book from the book room.

A common question that I get is: How do you know the level of the books?  My district uses Fountas and Pinnell's Literacy Collaborative Teaching framework, so we obviously level our books in the book room using F&P's leveling system.  There is a place online to type in book information to find the titles:

Fountas and Pinnell Leveled Book Website

There is also a print resource titled, The Fountas and Pinnell Leveled Book List K-8+.  The link to this item is below:

The Fountas and Pinnell Leveled Book List K-8+

Book Room Materials and Tips:

We use big packs of velcro to help with our check-out system.  On the front of every book box the title of the books in the box are stuck to the front with velcro.  If a teacher wants to check out that set of books, he or she just takes the title and velcros the title underneath their name on the check-out board.
We quickly discovered this year that it was hard to keep track of books that we had multiple sets of.  A quick and easy solution has been to color code book sets with these stickers.  If a teacher grabs the title with the small green sticker, he or she should then grab the coordinating book bag with the large green sticker.  Below are pictures of book boxes where you can see how the stickers work for multiple sets of books, as well as what the velcro on the front of the boxes with the book title labels looks like.

Book Checkout and Return: Having the labels from above on each box, teachers are able to quickly grab the label that they want and stick the label underneath their name on the book checkout signs.  At the beginning of the year we had one checkout board for all the language arts teachers.  We soon realized that teachers were checking out way more books for guided reading and literature study that could fit underneath their names (definitely a good problem to have since this shows how much the book room was being used) so I created larger posters with more velcro space for each teacher.  We also found that it was much easier if teachers just returned book sets back to the bins.  There is a parent volunteer who comes in at least once or twice a week to return books to the shelves.  She also checks each set of books to make sure the correct number is returned and then places the books and labels back in the correct spot.  Having one person be in charge of this piece has been instrumental in keeping the book room a well-organized, functional resource.  Having the same system in how books are put away, as well as having someone check to see which books are missing keeps everything working smooth.  Trying to use a set of books with a group of five students when the set of books has been depleted to four copies obviously won't work.  The hard work that she puts into our book room makes guided reading at our school attainable because our book room is so well maintained by her.  Take a look at our checkout signs and return bins from the picture below.

Literature Study:  

A huge change that our book room went through this summer is the addition of a literature study section.  Once teachers learned about literature study during professional development this year and implemented it within their classrooms, students and teachers alike fell in love.  The big difference between guided reading and literature study is guided reading has students grouped homogeneously while literature study has students grouped heterogeneously.  The Literacy Collaborative intermediate framework recommends having both guided reading and literature study be part of small group reading instruction at the middle school level.  The goal of literature study is to get students richly discussing text with one another.  The books in the literature study section are not leveled because grouping is heterogeneous and literature study books are chosen because we feel they will bring up rich discussion.  To see my blog post on how to set up literature study visit this link:

How to Implement Literature Study

Check out the pictures of our literature study section below.  The literature study section is organized alphabetically by genre.  Each genre is in a different colored book box and the label is color coded to match the book box for easier return.

The non-fiction section is red.
 The realistic fiction section is green.
 The Science Fiction/Fantasy section is blue.
 The Historical Fiction section is yellow.
The Graphic Novel section is also yellow.

Updated pictures of our middle school book room are below:

Book room signs on book room use are hung in the book room.  Pictures of these signs are below:

I keep the handouts below right in the book room so that teachers can just grab a copy and use if needed.

It's so fun to reflect back on where the book room started and where it is today.  I also like to think about how it will continue to evolve in order to be the best possible resource it can be for small group reading instruction at the middle school level.  As a huge thank you to my blog, TpT, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook followers, I have created a freebie that includes the titles organized alphabetically by level that are in our middle school book room, the sheets above about middle school book room use, book fine sheets, checkout sheets for classroom use, and the return bin labels pictured above that I laminated and taped onto small laundry baskets for book return.  

I hope that more districts out there do what my district did and invest in a book room that can be a beyond incredible resource for teachers in providing small group reading instruction to students.  To have to resources on hand in a place where book sets are leveled and right there is something that not many schools have.  It's kind of like when you have an elliptical in your house versus at the gym.  Everyone knows exercise is good for you and that you should do it, but if it's right there in your own home as a resource, you're so much more likely to do it and be successful.  I feel like guided reading and literature study instruction is the same way.  Teachers know that it's best for students and want to do it, but if the resource is not right there in the school organized by book sets and levels, it's much harder to organize and pull together on your own.  I hope this post inspires more districts to take the plunge and create a book room!



  1. Hi Kasey!
    I loved your blog - such great ideas! I just finished up my 10th year as a middle school Language Arts/Reading teacher and will be a literacy coach at one of our elementary schools next year. I think we have plans for a book room....so this will be a great resource! It's great to share ideas with other friends online....thanks for your post!

    1. Hey Michelle,

      I just went to check out your blog because I am so excited to hear from another literacy coach. I am your newest follower on Bloglovin'! :) I agree, this online, blog world collaboration is something that I didn't even know was possible and now I'm so hooked!! I'm so glad that this blog post will potentially help your school make a book room! Let me know if you have any questions.


      P.S. I absolutely LOVE the name of your blog and the little story behind the blog name. Too cute! :)

  2. Replies
    1. It really does work out great! Simple, yet we know where books are and makes it easy to return back to the shelves as well.

  3. It feels so nice to find somebody with some original thoughts on this subject. Really thank full to you for starting this.
    Online Degree Programs

    1. Thanks, Stephan! My main goal of my blog is to get information out there about how to make a balanced literacy program work at the middle school level and give ideas and thoughts to what has worked and why from my experience. I'm glad that you enjoyed the post!

  4. Wow, wow, wow! What a book room... I am having book envy. :)Thanks so much for the through description for your library!

    The Brown-Bag Teacher

    1. It is quite the resource. The nerd in me sometimes just likes to sit and stare at it :). I don't do that too often though, lol! We're extremely lucky to have it, no doubt! You're welcome for the information about our book room! :)

  5. I came across this post on pinterest - I was hunting for pictures of literacy coaches' rooms because I'm going in tomorrow to put my room together for this year and I want to make some changes. Thanks for the ideas! New follower!

    Buzzing with Ms. B

    1. Thanks so much Chrissy! I'm always happy to connect with other literacy coaches and get ideas, too! So glad that this post could inspire some new ideas!

  6. I just found your blog and I love it! Thanks for sharing your book room. Last year I organized a book closet for my school and it was a chore. We still have hundreds of books to go through, but the teachers are super excited that they have new books to use whenever they want.

    I blogged about it here: http://tipsandtricksteacher.blogspot.com/2013/03/building-guided-reading-closet.html

    Happy New School Year!

    1. Hi Annie,

      Thanks for visiting my blog! I just checked out the blog post on your book closet! I agree that it is QUITE the chore! I loved your pictures and am definitely interested in your blog as well so thanks for finding me! :)



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