Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Organize Children's Books, Grow Interested Readers

I had the sad realization that my kids would soon be growing out of children's picture books in the next few years.  Yes, I know, all ages can enjoy children's books, and we're definitely not going to stop reading them, but by and large we're really going to have to move on to books made for an older audience soon.  Brown Bear, no matter how cute and colorful it is, just doesn't capture the imagination of a seven year old quite the same as a toddler's; the teacher always sees the children looking at her in the end.

Since children's books have been on my mind I am dedicating this post to the organization of children's books.   I am also including some tips on how to nurture your child's interest in reading.

 #1:  Out with the old.  Get rid of books that are bitten, torn, or otherwise sadly mistreated.  Also, get rid of the books that have no value whatsoever.  If you don't like the pictures or the text, just get rid of it.

#2:  In with the new.  If you don't already have a vast collection of children's books, start collecting them from garage sales, thrift stores, used book stores, and clearance sales.  

#3:   Don't just organize.  Display!  It is best to store books at the child's eye level or on the floor in a basket with the front cover facing forward.  Books should be at a height where children can access them without help.  This also means they can be responsible for putting them away!  

#4.  Think out of the box.  In the picture below you see a galvanized rain gutter that my husband cut to fit the size of our sons' bedroom wall.  We taped up the rough edge and fastened it to the wall with screws.  This is a very cost effective "bookshelf."  What else could be used to display books?

#5.  Modify.  I painted this old shelf a vibrant yellow for the boy's playroom.  My husband, Mr. Incredible, cut strips of wood and fastened them on to the front edge of each shelf.  This allows the books to be displayed with the cover facing forward and prevents the books from falling off the shelves.
#6.  Keep books separate from toys.  Books are too easily damaged to be thrown into a toy box along with Mr. Potato head and a pile of wooden blocks.  The picture on the left shows the yellow bookshelf in the boy's play room.  Toys are kept separately in a toy barn (I'll save toy organization for another post.) 

#7.  Rotate.  If certain books are stored downstairs, rotate them with some books upstairs.  Switch books that are at the end of the shelf with the books that are in the middle.  Grocery stores do the same with their products to create interest and get you to spend more money!

#8:  Teach children to respect books.  I do not allow my kids to draw on or tear pages in books.  If a book gets torn I make a big deal about taping it up immediately.  If the book is fragile keep it out of sight and bring it out for supervised times only.  Small board books and cloth books are best for very young ones.

I couldn't resist putting in these pictures of my "Free One" enjoying board books when he was only months old.

#9.  Read to your kids.  This may seem obvious, but how many of our "well organized" bookshelves never get touched?  If you don't already have a scheduled time to read to your children, pick one (or two or three) and start today.  Our favorite times to read are after lunch and before bedtime.  My oldest son is starting to read more difficult books, so reading is hard work for him.  (There have been tears lately.)  So I think it is important that he continues to have a time each day when he can just sit back and listen to a good story.  It is also good to encourage siblings to read to each other.  In the picture below, the Free One is reading Curious George to his little brother.

#10.  Read Yourself.  OK, now I sound like I'm just repeating myself, but I want to emphasize that it is important that your children see you reading for your own enjoyment as well.  They usually want to do what they see mom or dad doing, so pick up a good book for yourself and don't feel guilty when you hear yourself saying "just a minute, I'm at a really good part!"


  1. love it! great job! We try to do all of these...I have been in a "gotta go to the thrift store and look for a few new books"!! =) I have a hard time tossing some of the really tattered ones that were so well loved.
    So many good memories! =)
    Love the play room! It looks like fun! =)

  2. I agree, every now and then you gotta freshen up your book "wardrobe." If the tattered books have sentimental value then I think a few of them would be worth holding on to. Our Curious George collection just had a major facelift involving a huge eraser and duct tape! Thanks for the comment : )

  3. Here's a great half step towards getting kids interested in reading more. Audiobooks. Not quite as good as actual reading, but it's a step in the right direction. There's lots of sites where you can download them for free. Here's one that we use a lot.

    1. Duncan, thanks for the reply. Audiobooks are great! They keep my kids content while I'm trying to get something done, plus they are great for car trips! Thanks for the suggestion. That looks like a wonderful site for girls. Tennille


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