The classroom library is an important part of your classroom. Teachers spend time, money, and energy building a place where students want to settle in and get lost in stories. But sometimes we forget that the library also needs to be decluttered. It can be hard to get rid of books, but it must be done. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you begin to declutter your library.
What to Remove From Your Classroom Library
Books with Harmful Stereotypes
Rudine Sims Bishop wrote, “Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real, imagined, familiar, or strange.” Kids need to see people of color represented in a variety of ways – authentic ways. Really look at your book collection (the text and illustrations) with a critical eye. Do these books perpetuate stereotypes, or do they share authentic and accurate portrayals of different cultures? And if you choose to keep books with harmful stereotypes on your shelves, are you having conversations with your students about what they are reading? If not, it’s time to remove them once and for all.
There is a big difference between a well-loved book and a damaged book. A well-loved book might have a few tears, bent or loose pages, and scribbles. It might have been re-stapled or taped back together. However, a well-loved book can still be read from beginning to end without missing out on the story. On the other hand, a damaged book is one that will not stay together, has missing pages, or cannot be read due to torn pages or markings inside the book. If a book falls into the latter category, it’s time to remove or replace that book.
With every group of students comes new interests. That means that books that were popular one year might be the same books that go untouched and collect dust the next. Instead of letting these books take up valuable real estate in your classroom library, pull them from the shelf. If the books haven’t been touched in five years, it’s probably time to donate them or pass them along to another teacher who wants them. But if you think they’ll surge in popularity again, put them into storage until that time arrives again.
Nonfiction texts are a vital part of your classroom library, but the section that needs to be reevaluated frequently. These books often get updated as new discoveries are made. Informational texts can become outdated very quickly with certain topics. If a publisher has updated a book, it’s time to pull the outdated copy off the shelf.
Books with Multiple Copies
Book clubs and small group novel studies are an important part of the way I teach reading. That means I keep multiple copies of these books on hand. However, that doesn’t mean these book sets need to take up space in your classroom library. There really isn’t a reason to have more than two copies of any book in your library – especially if those same books are available to check out from your school library. Instead, keep the extra copies in your cupboard, in a storage tub, or even at home until you need them.
Repurpose Old Books
Do you cringe at the thought of tossing out or recycling books? Try repurposing them! If you have picture books with some of the pages still intact, here are some ideas you can try:
- sequencing – laminate pages of the book and have students put the story back together
- puzzles – take a single page from the book, cut into puzzle pieces, and place in a Ziploc baggie
- framed library art – grab some cheap frames and hang these pages near your classroom library
- art supplies – cut the pages into small pieces and students can use to make a collage
- writing center – add the pages to your writing center for instant inspiration
Have another way to repurpose your old books? I’d love to hear about it!
If you’re just starting out in the classroom, be sure to check out these tips for building your classroom library.
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Looking to add books to your classroom library on a specific topic? Check out my book lists.