There’s no doubt that a great classroom library has a large selection of books. As teachers and homeschooling parents, we understand that children need a variety of books for reading practice and to spark or broaden their interests. Check out the 15 types of books (no, not necessarily genres) that every classroom library should have to be well stocked.
*Guest post by Sarah from Stay at Home Educator
15 Types of Books to Give Your Classroom Library Variety
My first year teaching, I took a class that had been created with the expectation of hiring a new teacher, and I inherited a lot of books from another teacher in the building. It was so generous of her to share her classroom library with me so that I had something to offer my students. Those books filled a few shelves at the back of the room. Throughout that first year I did my best to add to it.
But… that teacher, while kind-hearted and well-meaning, gave me those books because they were not received well by her own students. They then remained cast-offs in my classroom. They were old, but not classics, and well worn with smudged-off pictures from children making an attempt to get through just the first few pages before completely losing interest. Most of the books I had never heard of, let alone read myself.
This was not a classroom library I could be proud of. Therefore, it was not one I could direct my students to when they were in need of something to read.
How Did I Fix This?
I began by sorting through those books with a critical hand and replaced them with newer, or at least classic, books I knew would be of interest to my students. Books I had read myself so I could help my students use my classroom library, rather than allowing it to continue to lay abandoned. Some by award-winning authors as well as books by newer authors trying to break ground. Also, books of a variety of content, difficulty, and length.
It was a slow process, replacing all those hand-me-down books with high-quality reading material. But it was well worth the time and money. (Because we all know that classroom libraries are built out of the teacher’s pocket change and Scholastic points.) Head here for tips on how to beef up your classroom library without breaking the bank!
Why is Variety Important in a Classroom Library?
It is easy to think that if a classroom library is built of high-quality and skill appropriate text that variety is not important. But this is not the case at all! There are three basic reasons for including book variety.
Book variety can:
- spark interest in new concepts
- help activate children’s background knowledge
- help children make connections to the book
And these three things come down to what?
Simply put, having a variety of books in your classroom library motivates children to read. Reluctant readers are encouraged by being allowed to choose from a vast collection. Willing readers may look for similar books to those they already know they enjoy.
Book variety makes reading more enjoyable for children.
15 Types (not genres) of Books a Classroom Library Should Include
- Picture story books include text that is highly associated with the illustrations. This makes it possible for emergent readers to practice “reading” by telling the story through the pictures. Even children of older grades enjoy reading picture books. And just about all children enjoy having picture books read aloud to them.
- Picture concept books typically only have a few pictures per page with the identifying word printed below it. These books are good for emergent readers and ESL students.
- Traditional literature, like nursery rhymes and fairy tales, offer a printed form of stories that were originally oral. Children tend to gravitate to these stories. And now, so many authors have created their own spin-off, or fractured fairy tales. This means that there is something to please every age and skill group.
- Fables and folktales
- Informational text offers non-fiction in our classroom libraries. Classroom libraries should have an extensive collection of non-fiction books of content that interest children of a given age.
- Realistic literature is so very important to include. This type of book features real life problems that children may be experiencing themselves, such as going to a new school, being bullied, or welcoming home a new baby. There are even picture books of realistic fiction that deal with very sensitive issues like divorce or death.
- Early reader books often are familiar stories written with text easy enough for beginning readers to read them, or they feature familiar characters.
- Wordless books can carry definite story lines without the use of any text. They used to be thought appropriate for only very young children. But in reality, wordless books offer children opportunities to read the pictures. Children will often “read” a very complex story within the pictures. They are also wonderful for writing prompts.
- Big books are generally familiar stories written in a format large enough to need an easel for reading. The purpose of such a large book is that children can more easily see the text. This allows them to follow along with the teacher as the book is being read. Big books make it possible to do some otherwise small group reading practice with a larger group of children.
- Biographies are of high interest to children. Historical figures, sports and television icons are widely available in a variety of difficulty levels.
- Joke and riddle books are very fun for children. They are an excellent way for students to share reading with others.
- Poetry books are easy to forget about in classroom libraries, as some have thought most poetry too difficult for young children. However, authors like Shel Silvertein (we love Where the Sidewalk Ends), A.A. Milne, and Mary Michaels White have made poetry much more accessible to young readers, just to name a few.
- Books in a series are wonderful for encouraging reading. The same is true of books by the same author/illustrator. For example, once a child reads a book by Mo Willems (my kids LOVE the pigeon books), Eric Carle, Eric Litwin, or Laura Numeroff, they are sure to ask for more.
- Participation books get children actively involved in reading by stimulating touch, smell, and hearing. Other participation books are written as though the author is speaking directly to the reader, eliciting a response, like The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak.
- Cookbooks and craft books are often forgotten about, but provide meaningful reading opportunities. Children love to sift through cookbooks and make connections to similar dishes they have made with parents. Many times children are more than happy to read and follow step by step instructions in a craft book.
The Making of a Great Classroom Library
It is often a slow and maybe even painful task. Rather than buying up mediocre books on the cheap, teachers should focus on high-quality books by great authors in a variety of content.
High quality text + a variety of types of books = an excellent, well stocked classroom library.
Ideally, every classroom library would have a collection of all 15 of the above types of books in three to four different levels, guaranteeing that every student has access to their desired content at their own level.
But, if your classroom library is full of well-used books that are old and maybe even dusty, that’s an okay place to start. As you expand your library, focus on quality text and variety. Within a few years you can also have an extensive classroom library full of books in a variety of content and skill levels.
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