As anyone in education (from home-school parents to tenured public school teachers) knows, book baskets are kind of a big deal. If, however, you’re new to the game and find yourself thinking, “Book baskets? What are book baskets?” then you’ve come the right place. Today, I’m here to tell you some basics as well as give you a few specific book basket ideas for your classroom. After reading this post, you’ll be well prepared to get your classroom library set up and ready for eager minds!
So what exactly are book baskets? Essentially, book baskets provide a system of organizing your library by theme. It allows students to focus on one general area of study at a time while teaching them about general organization and categorization.
There are a few basic elements.
The main element is, as you might suspect, the basket itself. You can get them in brilliant colors (as our title suggests) of all different shapes, but you can also get them in more neutral colors if your classroom calls for it. I recommend Really Good Stuff Plastic Storage Baskets in rainbow colors or ECR4Kids Bendy Bins for simple colorful ones, and if you think you’ll add a lot of props (keep reading to see what I mean by props), I’d recommend the Storex Classroom Caddy.
Another important element is the book basket labels. The sky is the limit with these. Honestly, if you’re a crafty person, you can fashion some pretty fancy ones with a trip to the craft store and some basic computer know-how. However, if you enjoy the ease of shopping for them, I’ve put some specific suggestions below.
Now that you have the baskets and the labels, what exactly do you put in your book baskets? As you might expect, you add books! Shocker, I know! The main thing here is to find books that match the theme or designation for each basket. Finally, you can add some extras to your baskets depending on the topic. For example, if you’re teaching younger children about animals, you can add pieces for a felt board or add figurines. While this is optional, it does add a more tactile dimension to your baskets.
Now that you know the basics, let me show you a few great ways you can use book baskets to really wow your kids!
Author-Specific Book Baskets
Let’s face it, while there are thousands of writers out there for school-aged children, there are a few trending favorites. If you really enjoy a certain handful of authors, why not center a few book baskets around them. Eric Carle, anyone?
These chalkboard labels are cool. They stick to your basket and you can write on them with a chalk pen. They’re made of vinyl plastic, so they won’t rip or ruin easily.
Genre-Specific Book Baskets
Mystery, fantasy, science-fiction, history…you can organize your book baskets by genre. This is especially good for older students, or maybe for your home library. It also allows students to identify which genres are their favorites. If they really take to a book in a certain basket, they might just enjoy the rest. It will allow them to identify certain literary themes within each genre as well.
These labels are also a win. They come with an attached clip, which you can use creatively…perhaps to assign each student to a different basket each week or so.
Emotion Book Baskets
Emotions are hard even when you’re an adult. With the push in our culture for more emotional awareness, why not help your kiddos out by creating separate book baskets for a handful of emotions? You might find it easier to find books for younger kids, but with a bit of creative thinking, you can expand it to older students as well. If you still have trouble finding specific books, try stepping outside the “norm” and use these baskets for activity sheets or games that could help students learn about each emotion and how to deal with some of the more difficult ones.
If you’re looking for labels that are a bit different than ones you have to write yourself, try using emotion flash cards as the label. Here are actual picture cards, but you can also go with something animated.
Holiday Book Baskets
This one is a no-brainer because there is so much you can do with holidays at any age…so many books & so many activities…
For each holiday, try adding in more extensive cultural information. For example, with Christmas, try to find books on how it’s celebrated in different countries. This could open up a lot of conversation opportunities with your students.
Leveled Book Baskets
Leveled book baskets are good for a couple different scenarios. First of all, they’re good for classes that are multi-level. You might some students start out at a lower reading level, and some that are really advanced. Secondly, these book baskets are great for showing skill progression throughout the year.
Good ol’ multi-colored dots might be useful for this organization method. This pack by ChromaLabel includes 38 different colors so it’s easy to color code between-level reading material as well.
Preschooler/Kindergartner Themed Book Baskets
These baskets are pretty simple as preschoolers and kindergartners are sponges with all the new information they take in with broad categories. Animals, colors, numbers & counting, days of the week, seasons…the list goes on and on.
You could print out and laminate colorful theme-centered labels for this one, but if you’d rather try something less labor-intensive, give these fun and playful Superhero labels a try.
Geography Themed Book Baskets
The great thing about geographically centered book baskets is that you can focus on one location at a time and learn about what that place has to offer in terms of geology, culture, language, and history. It could also aid students in writing a report about a certain area. You could assign each student a themed book basked and have them write or give a presentation about what they learned.
Check out these state flag stickers! They could easily be used as a labeling system.
Morning Book Baskets
Morning book baskets or morning time baskets actually started in the home-school community. However, it’s something that could be used in a traditional school setting as well. Let’s face it, the morning time sets the tone for the day. If the day starts of hectic and crazy, that could lead to potential melt downs throughout the day. If the day starts calm and organized, it could lead to more productive energy and focus. There are hundreds of ideas for morning book baskets on internet, but regardless of how you work it, the idea is to have focused quiet time in the start of the school day with some reading or a calm activity you can do with your students. You could easily do a different mini-theme each week or so. This will help give a preview of the rest of the day and quietly get your students to bring their brains around to the topic(s) of discussion for the day.
Since morning time is a special time, try setting aside one special basket for this time and switch out the material as the theme for the morning changes. This woven wicker basket is a good option, although there are several options out there.