In my classroom library I have a variety of books. I have easy readers, challenging books, and books organized by genre. I also have a separate library that is leveled by DRA reading level. I am very grey on the area of leveled texts. Every year I go back and forth about how I should organize my classroom library, by genre or by level. And every year I end up doing both.
I think that students need to read both what is appropriate for their reading level and something they want to read for enjoyment…even if they can’t really read it. I feel that when you start to tell students what their level is and what section of the library they can choose from, reading starts to seem not so fun. In their mind, there is always a section that is “off limits” to them and then reading starts to become “off limits” as well. I never want a student to feel like they can’t read a certain book or that it is out of their range. If they are interested in it then they should read it. This is why the majority of my classroom library is organized by genre or subject.
On the other hand I do think it is important for students to actually practice reading, therefore reading books at their level. A lot of the time I have students read their level books during centers and enforce some of the things we practiced in guided reading that day. Then when silent reading time comes after recess they can read a book of their choice.
The rule in my room is that they must always have two books in their desks at all times. One is a book that I help them pick out(aka leveled reading book) and the other is a book of their choice. Students don’t always know that the book I pick for them is on their level. I like to use this time to see what they are interested in and it is “alone time with the teacher” where we talk about books. They feel special rather than leveled.