A library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life.

Henry Ward Beecher

At BLPS, we believe that reading for pleasure is essential to learn a new language. Reading storybooks gives us insight into the way that language is used in real-world situations, in a way that grammar textbooks could never do.

Reading as a Reward

One of the main ways to get kids to read – surround them with books! Even if you teach in a school that has a great library, most children don’t visit it unless it’s mandated by their schedule. Of course, a few kids in your class will voluntarily go and borrow books, but what about the majority of your class?

Suppose they were surrounded by books of all topics, given the responsibility of taking care of this treasure trove of books, play games related to these books… will they be motivated to read more?

Logically, yes! By creating an environment where reading is not looked at as something that is mandated, but something that is to be enjoyed, we help create lifelong readers. If the act of reading is seen as a reward for a job well done, rather than punishment, it will make the kids want to read more!

  • A kid finished their classwork before everyone else? – Let them read a book!
  • A child did extremely well in an assessment? – Let them pick a book for the entire class to read during storytime (from the available choices of course).

Having a literacy-rich environment is essential to develop the necessary language skills, especially in India, where English is not our mother tongue. 

In order to create life long, discerning readers, all you need to do is to turn reading into a reward. It’s that simple!

Set up a Classroom Library From Scratch

Step 1 – Find Your Space

The majority of Indian preschool and primary school classrooms are not that big. Shelves, if they are present, are mostly used for class notebooks and other material. But don’t worry! There are ways to get around this.

Dedicate one corner of your classroom to the library. Depending on the layout of your classroom, pick a place that’s out of the way but still easily accessible. If possible, make the corner as cosy as you can. Here’re some ideas to get you started – 

  • Put a rug in the corner to demarcate a cosy reading spot.
  • Add a few stools (or beanbags). You can also stack some pillows in the corner so that children have a place to read other than their desks.
  • Put up posters and lettering in your reading corner.

Step 2 – Sourcing the Books

If you’re just starting to set up a classroom library, then start slow! Remember, quality over quantity works best. Try not to add any book to the library that you haven’t read. Pratham’s Library in a Classroom initiative is a great starting point to set up your classroom library.

If budget is a concern, talk to your students’ parents and request them to donate some books. You can ask your kids to bring their favourite books from home and share it with their class. Talk to your school’s librarian and see if you can borrow books for a longer period of time to keep in your classroom. Second-hand children’s book sales can also be a great resource. 

Make sure you have a variety of books. As you add more books to your collection, fill the gaps in reading level, genres, authors, and so on. 

Talk to your school and convince them that allocating a small sum for a classroom library is essential for your students’ success.

Step 3 – Organizing your books

Most International schools recommend having 20 books per child. So, if your class has 30 kids, that amounts to 600 books. This is not feasible in most Indian schools, due to budgetary or space constraints.

If your classroom shelves are filled with students’ notebooks and other resources, don’t worry. You can still organize your classroom library. All you need are plastic tubs.

Use these baskets to create ‘book bins’ and sort your books into different bins. As your collection grows, add more categories and more bins!

Use the organizational system that works best for your class. You can choose to organize by reading levels, genres, authors in alphabetical order, etc.

One way that works really well is to organize by topics. Young children are constantly fascinated by the things they see around them. If they have an easy way to learn about the topics that interest them, then they will be more inclined to read about it. 

An important part of setting up your library is labelling your book bins. This ensures that students know where to find a particular book and it will help them to return it to the right place.

Step 4 – Involve your Students

Why not involve them in setting up your classroom library? This will give them ownership of the library and make them more willing to interact with it. 

Use their help right from the start. At the beginning of the school year, ask them to bring their favourite book from home to keep in the library that year. 

Once you have a decent collection of books, ask for their help in categorizing the books. Come up with various categories together and write down a list of categories that they are interested in. This will help you while sourcing books down the line.

Watch this video and see how a primary school teacher involves her students in setting up their classroom library.

Step 5 – Managing the Library

At the beginning of the school year, include library duties as part of your classroom routine. Talk to your students in detail about how to use the library. You can initially pick a class librarian who will be in charge of making sure the books are in the right place. Slowly phase out this job and make your kids understand that they are to be responsible for returning the books on time and to their right place.

book return and book hospital rack of a classroom library
Source: teachernook

Make sure to talk to them about how to carefully handle books. While reading from a book during storytime, exaggerate how carefully you turn the pages and how you use a bookmark instead of placing the book face down in the middle of the story.

There are many different ways to keep track of the borrowed books. The good old-fashioned way of writing it in a register never fails. You can also use post-its and stick it in place of the borrowed book. You could take it one step further and use an app like LibraryThing or check out this list of best classroom library apps.

Step 6 – Keep it relevant

Just like my advice about your classroom walls, make sure to update your library every six weeks, in order to reflect the theme and topic that you’re currently discussing in class. In our KG curriculum, LilBI, we provide a related storybook for every theme and recommend other storybooks that will enhance their understanding of the topic.

At least once a month, do an activity that involves the library. One excellent idea is to play a scavenger hunt where the kids have to find books related to certain genres. You can make it as vague or specific as you like. The kids don’t even have to read these books, just the act of finding them will be enough to get them hooked.

You can also have a regularly updated ‘staff picks’ like the ones you see in book stores. Of course, the ‘staff’ here will be your students. You can also have parents and other teachers recommend their favourite books (just make sure you have multiple copies of the book first!)

Conclusion

To recap, make reading an omnipresent feature in your classroom and watch your kids transform from a bibliophobe to a bibliophile!

If you need more guidance to set up a classroom library, reach out to us at contact@multistory.in and we’ll be happy to help you out! 

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