Why I Don't Level My Classroom Library

Hey friends!  I want to preference this post by saying these are my opinions.  There is probably research out there to contradict what I do as well as support what I do.  Please do not take this post as this is the 'right' way.  Just some things to ponder over ;)  

So you've all seen those pictures on blogs, Pinterest, etc - of those AMAZINGLY beautiful classroom libraries.  Not a book out of place, color matching book containers, and newly placed labels gracing the front of each bin.  Makes me DROOL!!  Grab your tissue now - drool zone ahead!  

Beautiful isn't it!?  Yeah - that's NOT my classroom!  That would be the amazing Reagan Tunstall's classroom.  My classroom, yeah, it doesn't look like that.  The bins are broken, they are mismatched (not my choice - because my budget doesn't allow me to buy new ones), and there are books crooked and laying on top of other books.  Do I WANT it to be like that?  No, but the reality of it is - that's what it has to be and that's what it becomes due to the fact that I don't level my library.  There are many reasons why I don't level mine.  Again, there are pros and cons to both ways - I'm just sharing my thoughts ;)  

You've all heard of the 'walk of shame' right?  When a student gets in trouble and they have to walk over to move their clip on the clip chart or flip their card, or whatever the system might be.  It's embarrassing.  Have you ever thought of that or those students who are always having to pick from the 'lower' book bins?  Let's face it.  The students KNOW what the levels mean.  Whether we do A, B, C or Lexiles, or levels like 1.0 - 2.0, etc.  They figure it out.  How would you like it if you were the child who always was picking from those lower bins?  The other students would look at you and wonder why and YOU would look at them and wonder why...  As minimal as it may seem, I don't want there to be any doubt in my students' reading abilities.  I want them not to have any type of book segregation that may come about due to my organizational need to level my book.  Now - do I have the level on them somewhere physically on the book?  Yes!  Inside the front cover only where the student opening the book could see.  

There are natural categories to books and I want my students to experience those categories.  So when I organize my books, I do them all by genre.  This then allows the students to understand similarities between books without me even having to 'teach' the genres themselves.  Now, I do obviously teach genres - but you would be amazed at how quickly the students understand genres when they are choosing them and understanding them on their own without me giving them the specifics of each category.  

Not leveling my books allows my students to SEE what other books are out there that are not technically on or in their level/range.  If I have my books leveled and they are told to keep to that specific level(s) then they don't get to see the other books that are out there.  Seeing books that aren't on their level gives them something to look forward to.  A motivational tact if you would.  I've had MANY conversations with students about 'I can't WAIT to read this book!  I'm going to get there Mrs. Harris!"  And that's all because as they were searching through the various levels of books, they were able to see books at all different levels.  I also think this is good for their understand of the different types of books - picture, chapter, etc. 

That's basically it.  Like I said, these are just my thoughts and opinions.  There may be logic to them or it just may be my crazy way of thinking but hopefully I gave you something to think about :)  I'd love to hear what you do to organize your classroom library!!  


  1. I agree with you and I never leveled my books until I moved to my current school. They do AR. I'm not fully on board with AR but ... That's another topic. Anyway I have leveled my books but I let my kids pick books outside of their level but not test on those. This seems to take the focus off who is reading what and works in my classroom. Pauline at first grade by the sea

  2. My goal this summer was to level my classroom library. It's the middle of July and I have yet to start, but I decided (after buying LOTS of the already leveled 1-4 books from yard sales), that I will only use those as the leveled readers and have the rest of my library "normal." It just seems like the easiest thing for me AND for my students!

    Thank you so much for sharing your point of view on not leveling your library. I agree!

  3. AnonymousJuly 23, 2015

    I don't level and I don't mind misplaced books. I think most books can fit in more than one category anyway. I have six basic baskets that change a little throughout the year. When the firsties come, those that can read beginning readers are ahead. By January, they are often the ones looking for beginning chapter books. Hopefully by January, I'm putting the really easy readers away for next year's firsties. I do it all by rule of thumb and experience. As long as they have books and are reading I'm happy.

  4. lol....I'm the opposite of your library. My books are leveled and sorted for AR. I have to say that I do see it both ways but I enjoy having it sorted. I actually wrote about my library earlier this week here - http://sailingintothirdgrade.blogspot.com/2015/07/how-i-run-my-classroom-library.html - if you want to read my side of it. Have a great rest of your summer!

  5. We have a bookroom, and at my school teachers use leveled books for "independent reading" during work stations. But when students go to the "classroom library" during work stations, they are free to choose any book :)

  6. Very nice post .Your post is really helpful for us .By your post we can take information about it.


  7. Thank you so much for your thoughts. My Donors Choose project was just funded for a leveled Reader library. I have read others comments and I think I'll have both leveled and sorted by genre. I've always had my books sorted by genre. I totally agree with you that we're don't want our students to feel labeled negativly.


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