Bright Ideas in August

Today I'm sharing with you how I arrange, organize, and implement my take-home library! My students fill out a reading log each night and I send home books at their reading level for them to read.  I did this for 4 of the years I taught in Oregon (in kinder, 1st, and 3rd), didn't do it when I taught 2nd grade on Lanai, and am implementing again in 1st grade on Maui.  I didn't do it on Lanai because I didn't have enough extra books for it.  And you know what? I noticed a huge drop in my students who filled out their reading log and read at home.  When I send books home each night for my students to read, they don't have the excuse that they "don't have anything to read" at home! 

First up, collecting books!

When I taught in Oregon, I was lucky enough to have an educational foundation in my school district that gave out grants to teachers.  I won a grant for a take home library my second year there.  I bought collections of books from Scholastic that were appropriate for grades K-2. At the time, I taught kindergarten and found that I needed to supplement for the lowest levels.  Luckily, I had worked with a Title I teacher a few years prior who had boxes upon boxes of books and she gave some to me! Many of them were old leveled readers, but that meant that there were the lowest levels available.  

Here is a basket of old leveled readers at my new school that I'm going to use for take-home books.

Next up, leveling them! 

Every school I've worked in (until now) used the Developmental Reading Assessment, so I leveled my books with DRA levels 1-38.  In DRA, 1-3 is kindergarten, 4-16 is 1st grade, 18-28 is 2nd grade, and 30-38 is 3rd grade.  The levels are kinda funky.  There is 1, 2, and 3.  Then 4, 6/8, 10, 12, 14, and 16.  Then 18, 20, 24, and 28.  Then 30, 34, and 38.  I like the DRA assessment because it gives a lot of good information on who each student is as a reader and also gives suggestions for what to practice to help them move forward.  By using this assessment, you can group students by level or even by strategy that they need to work on.  It does take awhile because you have to read with each student, but I appreciate it because I get to know my students so much more.  

But my new school doesn't use DRA.  We do STAR testing 3 times a year.  It's an online reading test.  That means I don't read with my students until they are in groups.  I'm nervous, but I've heard it's pretty accurate.  The STAR test gives students a grade level rating, which is different than the DRA.  My students rated at a 0.5 (middle of kindergarten) to 1.7 (7th month of first grade).  So now I need to re-level my books to reflect the grade level rating.

There are many other leveling systems you can use and conversion charts are an easy google search away.  You can level your books by Fountas & Pinnell's Guided Reading Level, Reading A-Z, Lexile, or even Reading Recovery (if your school is so privileged to still have that awesome program).  I recommend deciding on one leveling system and sticking with it. 

To find all the levels, I first started with Scholastic's Book Wizard.  Then I would google search the title in parenthesis, the author in parenthesis, and the words "reading level" in parenthesis.  I would most likely find a website that has the information.  

On my older books that are labeled with DRA levels, I had made address label stickers with the level number on them.  I cut the labels in half before putting the sticker on the top right corner of the book cover.

The old leveled reader books in my new classroom already have circle stickers on them.  I think just writing the level on the sticker with a Sharpie would be a great option.  

Since my new school uses the STAR test, I'm going to change all the levels on my books to the grade level equivalent.  I'll probably use address labels and have to peel the old labels off my books. 
So after all my books are labeled and I know my student levels, they can start taking them home.  I keep my books in these Sterilite drawers.  I have 4 sets of them and label each drawer with one level.  Kids pick a book from their level and put it in their homework binder.  If they don't bring it back the next day, they don't get to bring a new book.  So the rule is: if they forget the book at home, they'll have to read it more than once.  Which is not a terrible idea. Students become better readers by reading text that is familiar.

I don't use a check-out system or keep track of who has which book.  If they bring it back the next day, they can get a new one.  If they don't, they'll have to read the book at home twice.  I'm sure I lose a few books each year doing this, but I feel that not having to deal with the hassle of keeping track outweighs that risk! 

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  1. I am starting at a school that uses the STAR test for AR this year too. Just a heads up, but the "grade level equivalent" listed on the Scholastic Book Wizard App does not match up to the "grade level equivalent" that STAR uses. I was really sad when I found that out, but the difference was almost a whole grade level!

    1. Thanks Stephanie! I'll make sure to really look over my conversion chart before writing the level on the book!

  2. I love color coding!!! Makes things so easy for the kids! They can easily pick which book is at their level and even better know where to put them back! Great idea!

    Jennifer from
    Simply Kinder

    1. YES! Especially for kinder and 1st!

    2. I love my leveled books! My school uses the STAR program with AR. I leveled all my books with the help of my daughter by using the company's quiz store. Go to and you can type in the title and it will give you the level and point value of each book. If your school has the web access to the quizzes for students, they can even take tests on books that you have that are AR, even if your school library doesn't have them! My 3rd graders LOVED my classroom library. Hope this helps with leveling your books!

  3. I am a bookworm and sometimes I find my books so cluttered already that I just don't know what to them. Maintaining a library at home is a bright idea. Thanks for sharing these tips!