Back in September, I moved into a classroom with a book corner that made me want to weep. There were two bookcases. They were overflowing with books. Every shelf had books two deep. It was, quite frankly a mess. No matter how often it was tidied, within a day or two, it was back to looking unloved and unkempt. My Platform 9&3/4 was up on the wall. I’d added fairy lights, a curtain and cushions, but it wasn’t right. It didn’t work for the children. Despite it being full of books, I constantly heard children saying they couldn’t find anything they wanted to read.
So I set to work. I removed all of the guided reading sets from the shelves into boxes ready to find a new home for them. It still left one bookcase two deep in books. I then started the process of making sure all the books were lexiled, labelled and ordered. I now knew what we had too much or too little of for our class. Some books were donated to other classes, some to the school library, and those that had been loved until their pages were falling out were consigned to upcycling projects or the recycling bin. And still, there were too many books for the shelves we had. And still, there were children who said they couldn’t find anything they wanted to read.
The other Key Stage 2 classes had to carry out the same task, so that we knew, as a school, where we stood in terms of availability of books for children to borrow in their classes that met their needs. We were able to move books around so that each class had the correct lexile range, as well as a range of non-fiction and poetry.
I also helped the Readers Manager with an audit of the books we had across the school. We had an issue with the range of books in our reading scheme. I have long bemoaned the fact that some children raced through it, decoding beautifully, but not understanding any of it. We needed to increase the breadth of books in each stage. That would cost money. A lot of it. We also needed more books with lower lexiles across all of Key Stage 2.
As we worked our way around the school, we found a trolley in the Cupboard of Doom, it was full of sets of books, other reading scheme books; fiction, non-fiction, poetry. I did a quick google and found the ORT comparisons for them. We had just solved our breadth problem. Then, there was the cupboard full of books that were rarely used for guided reading. Another quick google gave me the comparative lexiles for each stage. Could these be broken up, and shared throughout class book corners to solve that problem? We didn’t see why not, and neither did the Head when we explained our plan.
It meant there was a lot of work to do. I now had a trolley, and a cupboard full of books that needed labelling and distributing around the school. As with all great ideas, it meant hours of work. But, it would be worth it. As new books were delivered to different classes, the children’s eyes lit up. Their reading choices had just trebled. I put ours in magazine files next to our book corner. There wasn’t enough room to put them neatly on the shelves. We needed another bookcase.
I also set up my bookshelf. It was, literally, two small boxes of my own books that I had read and enjoyed, that I could recommend to the children. Some are even signed copies by the authors, which makes them even more desirable! As this year has gone on, any that I’ve won in giveaways, I’ve read, and then added to my bookshelf. Any that I’ve read as ARCs that I think the children would love, I’ve preordered and had delivered to school to share with the children. I even have a book to sign them in and out so I know who has what, and which ones are most popular.
I researched different genres and bought books that, personally, I wouldn’t have chosen to read before, but thought might appeal to certain children. Books like My Brother Is A Superhero by David Solomons and The Mighty Dynamo by Kieran Crowley. I really enjoyed them, they went on my shelf and they are rarely back on it. I now had too many books for my little boxes. I needed another bookshelf!
I spoke to my class teacher about it. She knows I can be very OCD about tidiness, especially when it comes to books. There was no way around it. We needed another bookcase. My nesting instinct was in full swing. I blame the fact that we know The Call is imminent, the Dementors (OFSTED) are circling. I went to speak to our Reading Manager, there had to be a way to get one.
“You’re after something,” she said, as I smiled at her. Now, she loved what I’d done so far in our book corner, but knew what I meant when I said without another bookcase it would never be the child friendly, well organised space I wanted it to be. There was definitely no money in the budget for one which is when I said enough was enough, I was going to buy a new bookcase myself. “No you are not!” was the very firm reply, “there must be something in school somewhere.”
Then, she had an idea. She knew where there were some DIY shelves that might just do the job, if they were strong enough. She had used them years ago when she was in Year 1, and knew they weren’t being used anywhere. “Stay with my class, I’ll go and check the storeroom.” She found the boxes with the poles and corners, she found the stack of shelves, and sent for children to carry them back to my classroom for me. A bit of a clean, and they’d be perfect.
My class teacher looked at the boxes, looked at me and let me get on with erecting the shelves, reorganising the books, and labelling it all while the class went off to do PE. I was so excited, I forgot to take a before photo. The books were finally one deep. Some remained in magazine files, neatly labelled, on top of one of the bookcases.
The children came back from PE and looked at their newly organised book corner. “Wow!” “We can see all the books!” “That looks amazing!”A few needed to change books before home time. The class teacher and I watched as they browsed, and put books back in the right place!
We’ve done it. We finally have a book corner that works for the children. They love going in it. They love being able to see all of the books. It’s now what I have wanted it to be since September. It’s an oasis of calm in the classroom where children have the space to look at books together, talk about books together, choose books together and read. (And, they’re keeping it tidy.)
As for my bookshelf, it’s no longer a couple of boxes, I have four whole shelves.
I wonder how long it will be before I need more…