Personal Bookshelves

I’d venture to guess that no reader ever was excited to jump out of bed after reading to fill in their assigned reading log. I’d also venture to guess that many readers have unhappily left the comfort of their beds to do so. I, for one, would not leap out of the warmth of my bed after finishing a chapter or two to fill out a piece of paper just to prove to someone else that I had, in fact, read the night before!

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Anna’s bookshelf after two weeks of school

Rather than requiring students to fill out an at-home reading log to only prove they have read, my fifth graders reflect on their choices as readers by maintaining a personal bookshelf. I first saw this idea when visiting one of my colleague’s classrooms (thank you, Jenna Segall!). The personal bookshelf is a visual representation of books read, books to read, books currently reading, and even books abandoned. Readers may choose to include any book read at home, independently at school, in book clubs, and even class read alouds. They are welcome to add picture books, novels, fiction, nonfiction, magazines- you name it! Once or twice a week, I remind my readers to take a few moments to update their shelves. Some need the reminder while others don’t. It is up to each reader to organize and maintain their shelves in the way they they see fit. Just as the name states, these shelves are personal. The purpose is for each student to reflect on their own reading preferences- to truly learn more about themselves as readers. I do not check their book shelves for completion, rather I confer with each of my readers around their choices and goals.

Steps to Creating and Maintaining a Visual Personal Bookshelf 

  • Invite students to draw shelves (lines) on a blank piece of paper- this can be done with the back of a reading folder, on a heavy piece of card stock, or even on the inside cover of their reading notebooks (our preferred spot in 5th grade).
  • When students find or learn about a book they want to read, they draw a book on the shelf.
  • When they start reading, they color in the fraction of the book they read. So, if a reader has read one out of ten chapters, 1/10 of the book is colored in.
  • If a book is abandoned, it is left partially colored. Readers may or may not choose to come back to the book later.
  • Once a book is finished, it is fully colored in.
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Anna’s bookshelf with 11 days left in the school year

Now that our school year is coming to a close, each of my fifth graders have a record of what they have read and want to read. Today and tomorrow in class, we’ll be using our personal bookshelves to reflect on our school year as readers and to make summer reading plans.

I am so excited to see how each of my readers choose to continue their journey with books!

Happy Reading Friends,




Why I Ditched the At-Home Reading Log


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My first book for teachers, To Know and Nurture a Reader: Conferring with Confidence and Joy, cowritten with Kari Yates, is now out and available from Stenhouse Publishers. Our goal with this book was to help teachers make the important practice of conferring with readers manageable, effective, and fun! 





6 responses to “Personal Bookshelves”

  1. margaretsmn Avatar

    Such a great idea. I am totally stealing it for next year. Do you have them keep up with their genres? I can imagine you could use color coding. I have sticker charts for my students that stay up all year, but that is very public. With a personal bookshelf inside a notebook, the number of books read is more private. Can you tell I have competitive kids?


    1. cnosekliteracy Avatar

      Hi, Margaret! Thanks for the message. My kiddos decide how they maintain and organize the bookshelf. The ownership is 100% theirs.Some have chosen to divide their shelves by month or genre, but most have just added books as they want to read them. It’s a great tool for reflection.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jamie Wright Avatar

    Love the idea of drawing the books and acknowledging abandoned titles with a visual, too! We also have a visual personal reading record. We color coded by genre one year, but now we color green for dessert bookss for me, blue for good challenge for me, and purple for this book stretched me (in topic, complexity, length, new genre, or some other way). I emphasize that everyone’s purple looks different (it’s for our own reading reflection, not for comparison). As a teacher who reads lots of middle grade fiction, a lot of my own titles are green. It’s a great resource for reflecting together at reading conferences, especially with conversations about elements of books that push our thinking.


  3. cnosekliteracy Avatar

    Thanks for the comment, Jamie! I actually never considered color coding- great idea for students to be able to easily see and then reflect on the breakdown of genre.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Colleen Taylor Avatar
    Colleen Taylor

    Love this idea! Any suggestions for modifying it with 2nd graders? Thanks!


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