13 Questions to Ask When Choosing New Books for Classroom Libraries

Whether you’re freshening existing classroom libraries or starting a classroom library from scratch, consider how the books you choose will help students develop a lifelong love of reading.

Here are some key questions to keep in mind when selecting titles for a classroom library.

1. Are there enough books in this classroom library?

The first step in giving students a choice in what they read is providing enough books. Booksource recommends 300-600+ books per classroom and at least seven books per child. No matter how large or small a classroom library is, there is always a new story worth sharing.

2. Is there a good mix of fiction and nonfiction books?

Both fiction and nonfiction books are essential for teaching students new concepts and expanding their worldviews. Encourage readers’ analytical thinking and creativity when you share a mix of both! As kids read more fiction and nonfiction books, they are exposed to many different perspectives. Soon they will be able to form their own educated opinions about the world around them.

3. Will these books excite students?  

While it’s easy to select titles that are informative, students remember new information better if the books are funny, surprising, beautifully illustrated or unique. Do you know what kinds of titles students are most excited about reading? Adding high-interest titles like graphic novels, adventure stories or humorous reads is a good place to start.  

4. Do these books include popular authors and series that can engage even the most reluctant readers? 

Once one kid is going bananas for the latest and greatest book or series, suddenly the entire class wants to get their hands on it. Try getting to know what the students in your school and beyond are buzzing about. Then add the most engaging and relevant titles to classroom libraries and watch them fly off the shelves.  

5. Does this classroom library feature a range of
literary and informational genres? 

To engage all the readers in a classroom, consider adding books from many different genres. Whether it’s short stories, poetry collections, fantasy novels or historical fiction, every student is going to gravitate toward a different writing style and subject matter.

To get kids excited about history, social studies and more, it’s helpful to include a variety of informational genres including biographies, autobiographies, narrative nonfiction and expository nonfiction. You never know which format will resonate most, so share them all!

6. Does this classroom library offer a range of reading difficulty?  

Does the classroom library have enough above, below and on-level books to meet every student where they are? Does it include enough high/low titles? Consider guided reading and Lexile levels to provide books at the right grade and interest level for students.

7. Do the books provide cross-curricular opportunities? 

Books can give students a new way to understand a lesson with which they are struggling. By adding titles in content areas like social studies, S.T.E.M. and more, you can help students get excited about a subject they formerly disliked and build cross-curricular confidence.

8. Do these titles give students enough variety and choice in what they are reading? 

To help reluctant readers become engaged readers, try giving them a voice in what they get to read. When you provide a wide variety of titles, every student in the class can find a book to which they relate. Consider including multiple books about the same topics, and use Booksource’s classroom library management tool, Booksource Classroom, to track which titles are the most popular.

9. Do these titles support Social Emotional Learning and help students navigate their world? 

The world can be an overwhelming place at any age, and books can provide a healthy outlet for students coping with the challenges of day-to-day life. SEL books are great for promoting empathy, teaching students how to resolve conflicts and showing kids how to cope with big feelings.

10. Are these books diverse and inclusive? Do they represent all students in the classroom?

It can be difficult for students to enjoy reading if they don’t see themselves or their communities in the stories they read. When a classroom library is diverse and inclusive, it lets every student know that they are welcome. Sharing books with diverse perspectives also helps students learn about experiences different from their own. Consider books with incidental diversity, where the characters are diverse without making diversity central to the story.

11. Does this classroom library have a good balance of classics and new titles? 

While there are plenty of time-tested classics worth keeping on your shelves, it’s important that at least 30% of the books in your classroom library have copyright dates within the last five years. Outdated ideas in some older books may detract from the plot. Newer titles can explain the same important lessons in a more relatable way.

12. Are the books in my classroom library still accurate and relevant? Do I need to replace them with up-to-date titles?

As we learn more and more about the world around us, the information we believed to be true as little as a few years ago may already be outdated! Do your best to periodically evaluate every nonfiction title in your library for accuracy and add fresh new reads.

13. Do these books work well for read alouds, reading groups or book clubs? 

Read alouds are essential for fostering a love of literature and increasing vocabulary at an early age. Make sure to choose stories with memorable rhyming patterns, colorful illustrations and call and response opportunities. 

Likewise, it’s important to consider which books might be appropriate for group reading time or book clubs. Try to select fast-paced titles that would appeal to many students with many different interests.

How is your current classroom library or libraries successful? How could it be improved?

Feeling overwhelmed with all these things to consider? We can help!

Connect with a friendly and knowledgeable Booksource team member for free, personalized assistance with building classroom libraries that engage readers.  


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