Inside: Come be inspired by some brilliant classroom library ideas and see why a reading nook is a must in every classroom PLUS learn how to set up your own perfect reading center. This post contains affiliate links for your shopping convenience.
Why the Classroom Library Matters
If you’re a teacher, chances are you already have a classroom library set up in your room. But you may not fully understand the importance of this special space. Every classroom needs a library, or a reading center, for several reasons.
First, we want our students to fall in love with reading. While little ones might not be able to read *yet*, we want them to LOVE the idea of reading and books and illustrations from DAY ONE. The classroom library gives them a safe space to explore books even before they can actually read. Your students’ experiences in your reading center will set the stage for a lifetime of reading.
Second, we want students to understand that books are prized and revered…that books have a special place of honor in our classrooms. It’s critical to show little ones that we care for and protect important things. Classroom libraries are often one of the first places students are able to sort, organize, and care for such important materials. Students who see the value of their classroom library will ultimately see the value of books.
Finally, a classroom library communicates to every person who enters your classroom that LITERACY MATTERS in this space. By setting up the perfect classroom library, your room will be transformed into a place where literacy comes first. When literacy is important to you as a teacher, it becomes important to your students. Even the youngest learners will value reading and will want to become readers in this kind of environment.
Keep reading for some brilliant classroom library ideas you’ll want to implement in your own space.
Deciding Where to Set Up Your Reading Area
The first decision you need to make is where your classroom library will be located. It’s best to choose a quiet(ish), low-traffic area of your classroom so students aren’t distracted as they read. A corner of the classroom is the most ideal choice. You also need an area that can accommodate whatever shelving, rugs, and seating you plan to use. I’ve found an incredibly helpful tool you can use to map out, not only your reading center, but your entire classroom. Be sure to check out Scholastic’s Class Set-Up Tool to help you plan your classroom setup.
My own classroom library is nestled just behind my desk in a corner of the classroom. There’s a bulletin board on the wall behind the reading center, and I use it most of the year to showcase environmental print. I cut the legs down on a small coffee table and placed it in the library area. It’s the perfect size for students to sit and read a book. This colorful lamp provides great light for students as they read. Now, I’d love to share some specific classroom library ideas you can use to help you set up an inviting area in your room as well!
Add Comfy and Inviting Seating
Every classroom library needs some cozy and inviting furniture for children to relax on as they read. Something as simple as bean bags or as elaborate as a small sofa can make the perfect reading nook in your classroom. Ideally, you want to have enough seating options for 3-4 children to sit and read comfortably. It’s also a great idea to choose seating that can be cleaned easily. Finally, look for furniture that will last for years. Sturdy pieces may cost a bit more, but they’ll save you money in the long run!
Here are some beautiful and affordable seating options for your classroom library. Each piece comes in a few different color options as well. When in doubt, go with a neutral that can fit with any theme from year to year.
- These Big Joe Cuddle Chairs are the perfect size for preschoolers or kindergartners. They are super comfy and EASY TO CLEAN–which is a must in any classroom!
- A classic kids’ rocking chair is a favorite, too. Add a comfy throw pillow, and your little ones will be all set to relax with a good book! There’s just something about rocking while you read to bring a senses of nostalgia.
- This futon is kid sized and would make the perfect addition to a larger classroom reading area. It’s very reasonably priced, too!
- This more compact Big Joe chair is another great classroom option. It has the comfort of a bean bag with the added back support of a chair. Best of all, it’s lightweight and portable so it can be moved around the room.
- Floor pillows are the perfect option if you’re limited on space. They can be stored up against the wall or under shelving and then pulled out when they’re needed.
Cozy Things Up with a Rug
Adding a rug to your reading center is a must! Not only does it provide a cozy and inviting area to sit, but it also helps to define your space. If you aren’t currently using a rug in your reading center, try adding one. Be sure to choose a rug that can be cleaned easily–either in a washing machine or with a steam cleaner. You’ll definitely want to clean your rug each summer. A neutral rug can mix well with any decor theme, but I must confess that colorful rugs are my favorites! I’ve chosen a few of my favorite (affordable) rugs to highlight below!
- I love the neutral gray background of this rug. Plus, the pops of bright colors fit in perfectly with my colorful classroom! This rug just may be my *new favorite!*
- I’m absolutely obsessed with this black and white abstract rug. It’s 5 x 7.5 feet, and it’s the perfect neutral to go with ANY classroom! This room would fit with any decor theme and would last for years.
- If a colorful classroom is your thing, then this may be just the rug for you! It kinda reminds me of the classic children’s book Elmer! Don’t you think?
- A colorful alphabet rug is always the perfect addition to a preschool or kindergarten room. And this one’s super affordable!
- And this handprint rug is just FUN and bold–perfect for little learners! All those colors are beautiful.
Storing and Displaying your Books
Finding the perfect way to store and display your books is the next big step in setting up your classroom library. If you want to go the cheap and simple route, you can purchase bins from any dollar store and add labels to the front of them like I did here. Love these labels? You can find them here.
Or, if you’d rather go with shelving that actually showcase the covers of the books, I’ve got a few of my favorites to show you. Forward facing titles are very important for little learners. They won’t be enticed by titles or authors on the spine of a book, because they can’t read those yet. Cover images and colors are what will draw them in, so it’s best to choose shelving that will allow students to view the front of the books.
It’s also best not to display as many books at one time as I did above if you’re setting up your library for preschool or kindergarten. (The massive library I showcased above was from my first and second grade classrooms.)
I generally set up about 20 theme related books at a time and keep our other titles stored away from the reading area. This keeps little ones from being overwhelmed by the choices. I love using these labels to keep my stored titles organized so I can get to them quickly and easily. Now, check out these classroom library ideas for shelving.
- This bookshelf has space at the top for forward facing titles, but there’s room underneath to store baskets of additional books if storage is limited in your classroom.
- To save floor space, instead of a traditional bookcase try installing these acrylic floating shelves. These floating bookshelves are inexpensive and would make the perfect classroom library addition! Plus, they allow you to place titles forward facing which is so important.
- If you do have room for a bookshelf, this one is my favorite. It hugs the wall to save space, and there’s plenty of room for forward facing titles! You can screw this bookcase into the wall to keep it from tipping over.
Ideas for Stocking Your Classroom Library
What good is a beautiful reading nook without books to read? The task of growing your book collection can seem overwhelming at first. But, stocking your classroom library doesn’t have to make you go broke! I’ve found tons of wonderful books at my local thrift store for 25 cents each. I try to check in one weekend a month to find new titles. Be sure to ask your thrift store when they set out new merchandise so you can get first choice!
You can also stock your classroom book nook with $1 books from Scholastic Book Club. Each month there’s a $1 book selection that I make sure to grab. You can even use bonus points you earn through student book orders to help stock your classroom library with FREE books. Check out this trick for getting EVERY student in your class a free book each month…all while earning bonus points to get FREE books for the classroom library. It’s GENIUS!
Another way I’ve built my classroom library is by asking past students to donate any books they outgrow once they leave my classroom. Parents are always happy to share outgrown titles. I like to add a label with that child’s name and the year I taught them inside the cover of the book when they donate it.
Be patient as you try to build your classroom library. Over time, you’ll have more than enough books. It may take you a while to get there if you’re a new teacher, but YOU WILL get there soon!
I’ve got a FREE printable list of the perfect books for 4 and 5 year olds. You can click the image below to download it.
Did any of these brilliant classroom library ideas inspire you? Be sure to pin this post and then comment to let me know which ideas you loved.
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