When I began using the reader’s workshop model, I knew that there were lots of things I would need to change and prepare for to make it successful in my classroom. Besides changing my own form of instruction from whole group to mini lessons and small groups, I realized that the biggest change would need to happen in my classroom library. Making sure that students have a large selection of books to read is very important, but in a workshop model classroom, it’s crucial. Students get to “shop” for new books regularly, so I needed to create and maintain a system that would support this! Now, I’ve made book shopping an easy, no-fuss, organized routine in our kindergarten classroom.

In my learning of the reader’s workshop model (specifically the model used by the Lucy Calkins Units of Study in reading), I was introduced to the routine of book shopping to support students’ reading growth. It’s a way for students to have access to books both on their level and in their areas of interest, and those books are how students will practice and use the strategies and skills taught within the mini lesson. Here are some things that can vary from teacher to teacher:

  • The amount of books that students choose
  • The ratio of fiction and nonfiction books
  • The ratio of leveled and interest-based books
  • The frequency that students choose new books
  • How books are stored in the classroom
I get lots of questions about book shopping and how I manage those things just listed, so I hope to answer some of the most frequently asked questions below!

How do you set up your classroom for book shopping?

The first thing I would suggest is to make sure you have plenty of books! This is where I had to do a lot of work in the beginning. My classroom library has always been full of interest-based books (pictured above), but I had very few leveled books. With the help of Scholastic bonus points and administration, we were able to get lots of leveled books to help our students shop! We use the A-D leveled libraries from Lakeshore, the A-C First Little Readers and the Sight Word Readers libraries from Scholastic, various leveled readers ordered with bonus points, and some old Scholastic decodables that are numbered 1-70.
Next, decide where you want to store these books. I have the interest-based books on low shelves that are easily accessible to students. I have ALL of the leveled books in a totally different spot. Thankfully I have room in the hallway by my classroom door to keep bookshelves, but you may find a space in your room for these books. I need to keep these books sorted by level so that I can accurately pull books for my students that will best support their needs, so because of this, I keep these books separate. I do not want my students to know that I’m pulling an A book for one person and a D book for another. So, I keep them in a separate location.
I use these bins for my tall books in my library and these bins for the shorter books. I also use my Classroom Library Book Bin Labels to keep book bins organized. **Tip: To help remember which bin to return a book to, I print these labels multiple to a sheet on a full-sized label, cut, and put inside each book cover!**
For student books, I use these bins. They are SO CHEAP yet last all year (even if they have a few tears)! Students can decorate and personalize them early in the year which is always fun. I have students store these on a bookshelf. For taking books home on the weekend, students use these canvas bags. They are a little pricey, but something that is going from school to home so often needs to hold up, and these do! I also let students decorate these with Sharpies early in the year. 

When/how often do students book shop?

I’ve played around with different days/times for book shopping, but what seems to work best for me and my students is book shopping every Monday during reader’s workshop time. On Monday mornings, students return to school with their book bag. They drop off their book bag (with books still inside) in our classroom library then go unpack and head to their play centers. During these 15 minutes, my aide and I are able to take out their old books and return them to the bins. If I did not have an aide, I would make this a classroom job for a student to help me with. It goes really fast if you have the labels inside the covers so that they know which bins to return books to! And if you need another benefit of having play time first thing every morning, this time allows me and my aide to be totally hands off so we can do this task.
Our reader’s workshop time is 45 minutes long each morning. When it’s time to book shop, I call one table at a time to get their empty book box and head to the classroom library. My aide is back there to assist if needed, but as long as my students know how many books to choose (I tell them ahead of time), then they don’t really get much guidance. I let my students completely chose based on interest. After they’ve chosen the number of books I told them, they come see me for my “suggestions.” This is when I show them the books I’ve selected for them and put them into their book box (aka the leveled books they need).
While one table is book shopping, the other kids are watching a Storyline Online story (I love this website). It’s a great way to get in an extra read aloud! As long as I put on a 10-15 minute story, we can usually get done in time. It doesn’t take kids long to pick out books if they’re the ones choosing! Once they’re all done, we have independent reading time per usual followed by partner reading and read aloud.
How many of each kind of book goes in their book box?

This part is my own preference, and some TC information may say to do something different. Again, everything I’m sharing is based on my learning of TC but adapted to fit me and my students. Early in the year, my students choose 3 books from the classroom library and get 1 leveled reader from me. Those numbers increase as we move through our mini lessons, learn new skills, and gain the stamina to read for longer amounts of time during independent reading. By the December break, my students are choosing 3-4 books from the library and getting 3-4 leveled readers from me. By spring break, its about 5 of each and will typically stay that way until the end of the year. More than 10 books in a book bin starts getting a little hard to manage (and fit)! 
I’ve never set an expectation for a certain number of fiction or nonfiction books that students need to have. You certainly could do that, but I just like my students to have a variety. I make sure that my classroom library includes plenty of both and that I’m giving them both kinds of leveled readers as well.

Just a few more commonly-asked questions:

How do you know what level the kids are on so that you can choose books for them?
I do not do running records or F&P with my kids until after spring break, so most of the school year I get to know their current levels by just listening to them read. I start by giving all of my students level A books, then making sure I am conferring all throughout independent reading time. I listen for blending, decoding, sight word recognition, corrections, use of RW strategies (especially during the Super Readers unit), fluency, and reading confidence. As my students are reading, I can determine if a book is too difficult or easy over time. At this point in the school year, my students may still be using level A books if they need that structure or may be using level C books to progress their skills.
How do you fit everything in during workshop time?
My reader’s workshop block is 45 minutes, so the biggest piece of advice I have is to make sure your mini lesson does not go over 10 minutes! If you’re using the TC units of study, this can be very hard, especially if you’re fairly new to them. They’re very wordy and overwhelming if you don’t take the time to read through and pull out the most important parts ahead of time. I’m finally able to condense my mini lessons to 10 (sometimes 12) minutes, but that’s after a few years of getting comfortable with the teaching points. The rest of the block consists of 10-12 minutes independent reading, 8-10 minutes partner reading, and 15 minutes of interactive read aloud.
Do you pull guided reading groups?

Yes and no. I pull strategy groups more than any other kind of small group, and I do this during partner reading. I like to float around conferring during independent reading time so that I can get a feel for what my students may need support with. If there is a standard that I want to be sure I’m providing explicit instruction on, i.e. retelling, then I may pull a guided reading group to further teach that skill. I will pull those groups during either independent or partner reading, and I’ll just meet with one group per day.

What program do you use for guided reading?

I only use the standards. I know which standards are naturally taught and well-covered using TC, but after a few years I see that some reading standards still need more instruction. I pull shared texts that can support those standards in a small group setting, so I base my guided reading lesson on the standard. There are many lesson outlines out there that you can use to base your guided reading lesson on!

I hope this post helped to provide clarity to those of you wanting to start book shopping in your classroom or needing to re-tool some parts of the process. If you have any questions, please reach out to our community so that we can provide even more support!

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