Organizing Children's Books

I love books. So does my husband. And we longed to have children who loved books, too. Happily, our children live up to our dream - in large part because interesting children's books have been a part of their lives since infancy.

Even before we had children, whenever I visited a thrift store, I looked through the children's books and purchased classics or other impressive titles. Once the children were actually born, I continued to increase their library with thrift-store purchases, while grandparents, aunts, and uncles purchased them new books. Now our children's library must be in the hundreds.

We don't have the luxury of an extra room to act as the family library. (Oh woe!) So we have bookshelves scattered throughout the house. In fact, the only room without bookshelves is the bathroom. This can make it challenging to find the book we're looking for.

Simple Organizing for Children's Books

I've found that organizing books by topic works very well. For example, I know the children's bookshelf in the living room contains classics, while the bookshelf in the hallway houses nonfiction. In the children's rooms, the bookshelves hold titles that are very girly or early readers (for my 6 yr. old daughter) or board books (for my 3 yr. old son).
I also sub-categorize some books. For example, on the nonfiction shelves, history books are separate from science books, which are separate from the Bibles. (Yes, we have a collection of different children's Bibles!) If I have enough books of a particular type, I sub categorize further. For example, in the science section, the books on animals are separate from the books on outer space. If there is a particular author my children really like, I always put his or her titles together, too. For example, all the Berenstain Bear books are in one spot on the shelf, and so are all the Jan Brett books.

Placement: High or Low?

I have a single shelf for holiday books. The shelf is high up because there's no need for my kids to get to those books when they are out of season. When they are in season, I bring the books down to the single shelf that sits next to the living room couch, where we normally do our reading. I also keep books here that are current favorites, or that I want to be sure to read to my children soon.

In addition, I keep all picture books on the lower shelves, and fill the upper shelves with books that are either too mature for my kids at this time or that are chapter books requiring more of a time commitment than picture books.

Safety First!

Since allowing my children to access books whenever they want them is important, my husband secured all the bookshelves to the wall. (This is actually a great idea for all bookshelves in the house, especially if you have young children.) I don't use the type of children's shelves that display book covers, rather than spines. Not only has this not prevented my kids from loving and accessing their books, but it's made it possible for my children to own more books.

Keeping Children's Books Organized

It's true that it's difficult for young children to return books to standard bookshelves. But I'm okay with that. With a library as large as ours, I want to always be able to easily find the exact book we want to read - and I know if I let the children return books to the shelf, it's unlikely they will end up in their correct location.

I've considered several methods of organizing books in such a way it's easier for my children to remember their correct location; I thought about using label maker stickers to put on the shelves underneath the books, for example, but felt we needed a more visual method, given my kids' ages. I've also considered putting color coded stickers on the book spines, but found they tend to fall off unless you secure them with packing tape. I didn't want to permanently mark up the books - and I wasn't sure my kids would remember which colors stood for which topics, anyway.

I also considered making cardboard dividers, shaped like large file folders, with appropriate clip art images on over-sized tabs. (For example, the section on animals could have a picture of a dog on it, while the section on health could have a sketch of a skeleton.) But I didn't think they'd be durable enough for my children.

Just a few days ago, I noticed Simple Mom showcased some children's bookshelves; I don't like the idea of alphabetizing my children's books, as shown there (I wouldn't remember the titles accurately enough for this method), but I may copy the foam divider idea, replacing the letters with clip art images.

For now, though, I have a simple system. We stack the books we've read that day near the couch. At the end of the day, I return the books to their proper storage location. I plan to purchase a bin or basket to stick the recently-read books into - something I can carry as I move books back to their home bookshelf. This will also make it easier for my 6 year old - who is beginning to learn about organization - be a helper.

How do you organize your children's books? For more tips, see "Home Library Organization."


  1. I have 2 big baskets in the Living room (where we spend most of our time) where we keep the books we are currently reading and the books from our public library. I have another basket in the kids room with small picture books and early readers for the children that don't know how to read yet. They like to drag a book to bed with them every night.

    In our "office" (previous formal dining room) I have 2 tall bookshelves filled with books. The Textbooks/ curriculum style books I keep on the top shelf so that only Mom can get to them. I have 2 lower shelves with books that my DD9 reads and workbooks and MAth game books she uses. On the lower shelves also I have more board, picture books (usually older books/ used/ cheaper books that I don't mind the small children using and if they rip or damage, it's not a problem. Long ago, I realized that some books will get damaged when little hands use them. So I have a shelf for those.) for the little ones.

    the shelves in the middle I have other books like Science research books, audio books, bibles, and other things that the children that read can reach and use.

    I have decided NOT to create a "huge" library at home because with some many books available I think unless I will live my whole life in ONE place, it's just too much for me! I get claustrophobic with too much stuff, even if they are books, which I love.

    So I am constantly swapping my least favorite books at paperbackswap dot com. Sometimes I sell them. Sometimes I donate them to my library.

    I am constantly buying new books too, so I make a point to get rid of some before I bring in the new ones.

    Like you I organize my books by subject and whom they pertain to. In the guest room, I have all my homeschooling and Christian life books... mostly books I read and like to keep as a reference for future use. My guests are welcome to read them while staying with us. ;)

    BTW, I read your guide to starting seeds. My DD9 helped by making the newspaper pots as per your guide and we should be starting some seeds soon. The guide is excellent. We are planting a garden this spring. :) Thank you so much.

  2. I'm glad you like the seed starting ebook, Tereza! And thanks for the book organizing ideas.