Essay Library School Bulletin

library center for your preschool, pre-k, or kindergarten classroom.

What is a classroom library?

An organized and functional classroom library that children can use independently is a vital component of every early childhood classroom. In Pre-Kindergarten or Kindergarten, a classroom library should be a place where students can go to look at, or “read” books. The classroom library area should be a clear, defined space in your classroom with places for students to sit and read. Some items you can add to create a more “homey”,  personalized touch are lamps, curtains, chairs or furniture, and beanbags. By creating an inviting area for reading, students are more likely to want to spend time in the library center.

Here is the rain gutter book display shelf with a dust jacket pennant banner displayed in our classroom library.

Classroom Library Broadcast

Why should I create a classroom library?

One of the main objectives of any early childhood teacher is to instill a love of reading and books in all students. Reading requires much skill and practice, and to practice you need books. It’s simple, the more children are exposed to books, the more they learn to love them.

How do you organize your classroom library so young children can use it independently?

One way that I have found that works very well with four and five year olds is to categorize the books by theme, and then color code the books with colored sticky dots. Each book tub has a picture label on the front as well as a colored sticky dot. The book boxes are available to every student, every day of the year and are never put away, but instead remain as permanent fixtures in our library center.

Each book in each box has a corresponding sticky dot on the lower left hand corner so the books can easily be matched to the boxes by the students. When I ran out of colors of sticky dots I started adding a gold star in the middle of the dot or another, smaller sticker. I do add books by season or theme and rotate them out in one particular tub. You can also use a book display shelf for these thematic books so they don’t get mixed up with your regular classroom library books.

HINT:When adding colored dots to your books or boxes always cover the dots with clear book tape or they will be picked off by curious little fingers

I had a bulletin board titled “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Look Who’s Reading in Our Room” that featured pictures of the students reading.

Above you can see the Library Center Sign and the crate seat.

Above you can see the Class Library in one of my previous classrooms.
My classroom theme that year was Growing Readers so I decorated my entire classroom with a garden motif. I got the idea to make the classroom library into a garden from the book Places and Spaces by Debbie Diller. The classroom library features a green rug that represents the “grass”, purchased from Wal-Mart for $20. The planters lined up along the wall make great book tubs, purchased from Home Depot. There is a white wicker end table in the corner with a basket lamp filled with flowers- I had these in my guest bedroom. The seating are two canvas cubes with storage inside purchased from Home Goods on deep clearance but you can easily make your own crate seats. There are two lanterns hanging from the ceiling from World Market, $4 each but they often have them at The Dollar Tree. In the corner there is a decorated coffee can with large pointers for students to use with the word wall and little pointers to use with the books. I also had my word wall in my classroom library.

Where do you get the books for your classroom library?

This is the sad part of teaching, you will usually have to provide the books in your classroom library yourself. Building a classroom library can take years, don’t expect to accumulate as many books as you see pictured here in your first year. The following is a list of resources that new teachers can use to build their classroom libraries:

  • Scholastic Bonus Points: Learn how to get more bang for your buck from Scholastic book clubs.
  • Scholastic Warehouse Sales:
  • You can read more about these sales and watch the video on the blog.

  • Goodwill, Salvation Army, or other used venues
  • Yard Sales and Library Book Sales: Some of the best bargains around can be found at yard sales or your local library’s annual book sale.
  • Ebay and Craig’s List
  • Teacher Discounts: Many book stores give teachers a discount. Stores such as Barnes and Noble, Half-Price Books, Books-a-Million, Buck-a-Book and others all offer a teacher discount.

What types of books should be included in the class library and how many?

  • Including books by favorite authors, good non-fiction, and books your students have shown interest in are all factors to consider when choosing books for your classroom library.
  • Be sure to include books you have read to the class in your classroom library. Nothing makes a book more appealing to a child than a book that the teacher has read aloud. Including books you have read aloud to your students in your classroom library also allows for independent practice of reading. Nothing is more rewarding than seeing your students fight over copies of Brown Bear, Brown Bear because they all feel comfortable and successful “reading” it independently.
  • The number of books included in a classroom library is simply as many as space and budget will allow. The more books children are exposed too, the more likely they will find ones that they like and which inspire them to learn to read and love books.
  • Don’t forget to include class made books. Class made books are very inexpensive ways to add books to your library area. I try to make one class made book for every theme that we study and add it to our class library or circulate it in a Buddy Bag. The possibilities are endless for class books and the children really love them because they helped in the process. Class made books will help inspire even the most reluctant reader to pick up a book.

I created a set of 44 printable labels for the book boxes in your classroom library. Free favorite author book bin labels can be found here.

What if I don’t have enough space in my classroom for a library center?

This is a common problem and one way that I have found to help solve this issue is to get creative. In some classrooms the library also doubles as the circle area or word wall area because there simply isn’t enough space to allow for a separate area. The most important thing is to provide access to as many books as possible.

My students mistreat the books in the classroom library, what should I do?

I created a packet designed specifically to help you teach your children how to care for books. Click HERE for details and see a preview.

My students don’t like to go to the library center, what can I do to make them like it more?

  • The best way to get your students to develop a love for reading and books is to provide a time during the day in your schedule for B.E.A.R (Be Excited About Reading) or more commonly referred to in older grades as D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything And Read) or simply S.S.R. (Silent Sustained Reading). B.E.A.R. time is a time when ALL students are expected to be reading or looking at books at the same time, including the teacher. In Pre-K and Kinder classes it is not necessary to require absolute silence as the older grades do.
  • Read books about books. See the list of our favorite books about books at the bottom of this page.
  • After B.E.A.R. time you can play another game; the “Favorite Book” game to encourage your children to think and read. Select one child to choose his or her “favorite” book from the class library. Allow the student to sit in your chair and ask him why this book was his favorite, what his favorite part of the story was, and any other questions you can think of. Then, read the book to the class making sure to explain that the book is special because it is “____’s favorite”. This game helps children understand that books are special and should be treated with love and respect.
  • By taking the time to introduce books and discuss them you are showing your students how important books are to you. If books are important to you, they will also be important to your students and you will have more students who enjoy visiting the library center.

More Center Ideas from Pre-K Pages

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Posted by Pre-K Pages on Thursday, April 7, 2016


Introduction: The Center's Establishment and Early Years

In "A Design for an Anytime, Do-It-Yourself, Energy-Free Communication Device," a 1974 article in Harper's Magazine, historian Daniel J. Boorstin praised the "wonderful, the uncanny, the mystic simplicity" of the book. The next year President Gerald R. Ford named Boorstin as the 12th Librarian of Congress, and two years later, Boorstin proposed legislation to Congress to establish a Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. With the enactment of Public Law 95-129, approved on Oct. 13, 1977, Congress endorsed a program to "stimulate public interest and research in the role of the book in the diffusion of knowledge." President Jimmy Carter approved the legislation to indicate his "commitment to scholarly research and to the development of public interest in books and reading."

The Boorstin initiative for a Center for the Book was endorsed by a Publishers Advisory Group, one of eight outside advisory bodies established in 1976 as part of a year-long Task Force on Goals, Organization, and Planning that was chaired by this writer. Dan Lacy of McGraw-Hill headed the Publishers Advisory Group, which urged the Library to create "a new body to fill and greatly to enlarge the role of the former National Book Committee," which had promoted books, reading, and libraries from 1954-1974 with support from the publishing community.

The legislation creating the center authorized the Librarian of Congress to raise private funds to support the center's activities; indeed, there was an understanding with Congress that the center's program would be privately funded. The first contribution, $20,000 from McGraw-Hill, was used in 1977 and 1978 to convene four planning meetings to discuss the new center and its potential activities. Other major contributors in 1978 were Time-Life Books and Mrs. Charles W. Engelhard Jr.

Today, the Library of Congress funds the center's four full-time staff positions, but its entire program and all of its individual projects are supported by private contributions from individuals, corporations, or foundations, or transfers of funds from other government agencies.

The Center for the Book's 25-year history, summarized below, reflects two simultaneous trends since the center's creation: the gradual emergence of reading promotion and literacy as major concerns of the U.S. book, library and educational communities; and the gradual "decentralization" of the Center for the Book idea and projects to the 50 states and the District of Columbia.


One of the first items of business for first lady Barbara Bush on Jan. 30, 1989, was to invite Librarian James Billington and John Cole to the White House to ask how she could help in the Center for the Book's forthcoming Year of the Young Reader national reading promotion campaign. She immediately accepted an invitation to become the campaign's honorary chair and subsequently agreed to serve in the same capacity in the Year of the Lifetime Reader (1991) and Explore New Worlds-READ (1992).

The New Deal Arts projects of the 1930s and the 1940s were the topic of a Dec. 8-9, 1995, Center for the Book program, "Amassing American ‘Stuff': The Library of Congress's New Deal Arts Collections." Twenty-one veterans or observers of the New Deal arts projects and curators from throughout the Library came together for two days of interviews, reminiscing, and discussion.

The Center for the Book's April 9-10, 1997, program about the history of the "Rivers of America" book series (65 titles, published between 1937-1974), led to the recent gift to the Library by Carol and Jean Fitzgerald of their "Rivers of America" archives (see p. 4). Pictured here is the cover of "Ohio" (Rinehart & Company, 1949).

Books, Reading & Technology

Television was the dominant communications technology of the mid-1970s, and one of Boorstin's immediate goals was for the Center for the Book "to do something more to integrate television and the printed word within the educational process." In 1978 the belief that television was a promising vehicle for promoting books and reading was controversial; today,it is taken for granted. The Center for the Book soon became a pioneer in using new media to remind people of the "wonderful world of books."

Immediately following its first symposium,"Television, the Book, and the Classroom," held at the Library on April 27-28, 1978, the center developed a joint promotion with CBS Television: 30-second Read More About It! messages following major CBS programs. Similar projects with cable, public television and other commercial television networks soon followed. The center prepared nearly 400 Read More About It messages for CBS Television before the project ended in 1999.

In 1983, Congress authorized a Center for the Book study about "the changing role of the book in the future." A major conclusion focused on the threat, not of technology, but of "the twin menaces of illiteracy and aliteracy—the inability to read and lack of the will to read," two menaces that had to be defeated "if our citizens are to remain free and qualified to govern themselves." New technologies were to be enlisted "with cautious enthusiasm in a national commitment to keep the culture of the book alive."

Today the center continues its interest in technology and print culture through different projects and programs, often with state centers. Read More About It! continues on the Internet via American Memory's Learning Page, where users interested in learning more about digitized Library of Congress collections can find reading lists from the Center for the Book that send them to their local libraries and bookstores to "Read More About It!"

The Study of Books, Printing, and Libraries

From the outset, it was expected that the Center for the Book would encourage the traditional, scholarly study of books and of the role of books in society. And it has. Approximately one-third of the Center for the Book's 107 publications since 1978 (54 books and 53 pamphlets) have been on historical topics. Today the center is a key organization in the new scholarly field of "book history."

Fifteen librarians, scholars, publishers, collectors, and editors from throughout the United States met at the Library on April 13-14, 1978, to discuss contributions the new center might make to the history of books, printing, and libraries—and to what was beginning to be called "print culture studies." Lectures, conferences, and publications began almost immediately. In 1979 book historian Elizabeth Eisenstein became the center's first resident scholar. "The Early Illustrated Book," the center's first major scholarly conference (1980), honored the great Library of Congress donor Lessing J. Rosenwald. In 1994, the center won an award for its contribution to book and printing history from the American Printing History Association, and it hosted the second annual conference of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP). In 1998, it hosted a program marking the 50th anniversary of the American Library Association's Library History Round Table.

The International Role

The Center for the Book's international program had two "founding impulses:" (1) the Library of Congress is a "world library," acquiring materials in most formats and most languages from most countries; and (2) when the center was founded, "the international flow of books" was an important topic of concern to publishers and librarians alike. On February 23, 1978, in cooperation with the Association of American Publishers (AAP), the center sponsored a meeting to explore issues related to the international flow of books and about how it might become a useful catalyst in U.S. government international book and library programs.

With support from the U.S. International Communications Agency (USICA), a 1979 conference at the East-West Center in Hawaii on "The International Flow of Information: A Trans-Pacific Perspective" culminated in a two-week tour to the United States for the 17 participants from 12 East Asian and Pacific Rim countries. In 1983, the center sponsored and published "U.S. Books Abroad: Neglected Ambassadors," a study by publisher Curtis G. Benjamin. From 1987-1994, in cooperation with the U.S. Information Agency, the center helped organize and staff a U.S. government exhibit booth at the Frankfurt Book Fair. From 1987 to the present, the center has helped inspire comparable book and reading centers in libraries and educational institutions in England, South Africa, Scotland, Australia and Russia.

Honoring Books & Book People

Shortly after its creation, the center began organizing and hosting events that honored "the book," important individuals in the book world, and notable series of books.

In 1979, the center and the Authors League of America sponsored "The Book," a lecture by historian Barbara Tuchman, a member of the Center for the Book's first National Advisory Board. Other programs have included: "Books in Action: The Armed Services Editions," a 1983 celebration of the 40th anniversary of the paperbacks distributed to American servicemen and servicewomen during World War II; "Amassing American Stuff," a 1995 symposium and oral history project featuring the publications and participants in the New Deal Arts projects of the 1930s and early 1940s, with a special emphasis on the Federal Writers Project (1935-1943) and its publications; and "Rivers of America," a 1997 symposium and oral history project marking the 60th anniversary of the 65-volume series of illustrated books about American rivers published between 1937-1974.


The Muppets were featured in the poster and bookmarks produced by the Center for the Book and the American Library Association for Building a Nation of Readers, the center's national reading promotion theme for 1997-2000. Reproduced courtesy of the Jim Henson Co.

Promoting the creation of literary maps for schools, libraries, and homes has been an important Center for the Book reading promotion project since 1992, when it received a major grant from the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund for "Language of the Land," a traveling exhibition of literary maps from the Library's collections. Pictured here is one of the more than 225 literary maps depicted in a subsequent publication, "Language of the Land: The Library of Congress Book of Literary Maps" (1999).

The Community of the Book

As its program grew in the early 1980s, the center began to gather and publish information about its organizational partners. Its first directory was "U.S. International Book Programs 1981," a 61-page booklet that described 32 organizations and their programs. Between 1986 and 1993, it published three editions of "The Community of the Book: A Directory of Organizations and Programs." The third edition (1993), a 150-page book, provided detailed descriptions of the programs of 109 organizations, by then all "reading promotion partners" of the Center for the Book. The introduction, "Is There a Community of the Book?" by this writer, asserts that indeed there is such a community; it stretches from the people who create books, the authors, through book designers, publishers, printers, booksellers, distributors, librarians, scholars, educators and students, to the general public and especially to the reader. The Center for the Book attempts to harness the energies and organizational skills of book professionals and the entire "community of the book" to bring authors and readers closer together.

Directory information about the Center for the Book's organizational partners, state centers, and many other national and international organizations concerned with books, reading, literacy and libraries is now available on the center's Web site ( It includes links to other Web sites whenever possible. More than 300 organizations are included.

Promoting Reading

The concept of "reading promotion," while not well-known when the Center for the Book was established, nevertheless was an "implied" national mission for the new organization. In 1981, the center launched Books Make a Difference, the first in a series of reading promotion projects that also incorporated themes that other organizations were encouraged to use, such as Read More About It! and A Nation of Readers.

In 1987, the center launched its first national reading promotion campaign, "The Year of the Reader." From 1989-1992, first lady Barbara Bush was honorary chair of three other national campaigns: "Year of the Young Reader," Year of the Lifetime Reader, and "Explore New Worlds—Read!" First lady Laura Bush is honorary chair of Telling America's Stories, the campaign for 2001-2003.

Also in 1987, the center initiated its "national reading promotion partners'" program. Today more than 90 national organizations—private and governmental— concerned with promoting reading and literacy are Center for the Book partners. Each is encouraged to share program information and to use Center for the Book promotional themes and organizational networks to benefit their own projects.

State Centers

State centers were not part of the original Center for the Book plan. While the idea had been discussed as early as 1979 at a national Center for the Book program in California, the first formal proposal for an affiliated state center was submitted in 1984 by Broward County Library in Fort Lauderdale. Florida's argument that the national Center for the Book's mission needed grassroots advocates at the state level was persuasive, and the Florida Center for the Book was established the same year. Basic guidelines for state centers were created: each needs to be statewide in its book, reading, and literacy promotion activities and to raise its own funds; and each must use its affiliation with the Library of Congress judiciously as both incentive and leverage in obtaining statewide involvement and support. Most state centers have an institutional home—a state library, a large public library system, a university or a state humanities council. State centers must apply to renew their affiliation every three years, outlining in their applications past accomplishments as well as future programming and funding plans.

In 1987, when James H. Billington became Librarian of Congress, there were ten affiliated state centers. With the approval of the New Hampshire Center for the Book in December 2002, the total number of affiliates reached 50—in addition to the D.C. Center for the Book, which is hosted by the District of Columbia Public Library. Today the most popular state programs are state book festivals; state book awards; the creation of state literary maps and state author data bases; state literary landmark projects; the "Letters About Literature" project, which promotes student essay contests about how books and authors helped shape or change a student's life; and "One Book" projects in which an entire community reads and discusses a single book.

Promoting Libraries

In the mid-1980s, the American Library Association (ALA) and other library groups began a renewed public relations effort on behalf of libraries. Because the Center for the Book's state affiliate program was underway, the center was a natural and willing partner. In 1985, the ALA chose A Nation of Readers, a Center for the Book promotion theme, as its theme for National Library Week and for a traveling photography exhibition co-sponsored with the center. The next year the center hosted its first annual Library of Congress reception to celebrate National Library Week and became a supporter of Banned Books Week.

From 1987 to the present, the center has hosted programs and sponsored publications on many library-related topics, including the role of the public library; libraries and scholarly communication; libraries and learning opportunities for children; libraries and Head Start programs; "USIA Libraries Abroad" (1993); the history of libraries in Washington, D.C.; libraries and literacy; and the history of national libraries. In 1996 the University of New Mexico Press published, in association with the center, "Library: The Drama Within," a book featuring photographs of 48 libraries around the world by Diane Asseo Griliches. In the spring of 2003, the center will host a joint ALA-Library of Congress traveling photography exhibit, "Beyond Words: Celebrating America's Libraries."

Promoting Literacy

When the Center for the Book was established, "literacy" promotion was not yet a popular concept. In 1980, the center sponsored its first program that specifically mentioned the topic: "Literacy in Historical Perspective," a conference that emphasized how historical research about literacy could help contemporary policymakers. The center's literacy promotion efforts began with its 1989 Year of the Young Reader campaign. Aided by a presidential proclamation and the efforts of honorary chair First lady Barbara Bush, the campaign enlisted several dozen literacy and reading promotion organizations as Center for the Book partners.

In 1992, the center launched a five-year Library-Head Start program to demonstrate how libraries that serve young children can work with Head Start teachers in children's literacy and language development projects. In 1996, it supported and published a major report that urged the strengthening of adult literacy programs in public libraries. Since 1998, the center's major literacy effort has been its administration of the Viburnum Foundation Family Literacy project, which provides for the planning and promotion of family literacy programs among rural public libraries and their community partners. More than 175 small public libraries have participated in the project.

The National Book Festival

The Center for the Book played a key role in the first two National Book Festivals, which were held in 2001 and 2002 in Washington, D.C. Hosted by first lady Laura Bush, the Festival is organized and sponsored by the Library of Congress.

In late summer and early autumn of 2002, 22 state centers hosted events and programs that promoted the forthcoming National Book Festival. The events were funded by grants to the national Center for the Book from AT&T and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

The Center for the Book's efforts focus on the festival's author and reading promotion programs. At the 2002 Festival, there were five pavilions for author and storytelling performances and two reading promotion pavilions: the "Let's Read America" pavilion at which 60 of the Center for the Book's organizational partners distributed information about their programs; and the Pavilion of the States, highlighting information about library, literacy, and reading promotion projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and four U.S. territories. Most of the state tables were staffed by people from the state—state librarians, center for the book coordinators, representatives from state societies based in the Washington, D.C., area, or staff members from Congressional offices.

The National Book Festival is strengthening the Center for the Book by reinforcing its current programs and by expanding its reach to include new audiences and organizational partners. It is helping the center come closer to fulfilling the ambitious vision expressed of it by Boorstin at the planning meeting held at the Library of Congress on Oct. 20, 1977, one week after the center was founded: "You may wonder why the Library of Congress, which, of all places on earth, is a center for the book, should now become a place for the establishing of the Center for the Book. It is to organize, focus, and dramatize our nation's interest and attention on the book, to marshal the nation's support—spiritual, physical, and fiscal—for the book."

John Y. Cole is the founding director of the Center for the Book.

Back to January 2003 - Vol 62, No.1

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