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great tips on how to organize (and when to get rid off) kid books

POYEL: Organizing Children’s Books

Hi friends, I know I promised you a big eBook reveal today but, alas, technical difficulties have arisen.  Hopefully all will be well and back on track soon. Until then – here’s Annie with a new POYEL project!

We know it can be difficult for many people (read: parents) to part with treasured children’s books, even if their kids have long since outgrown them. Children’s books are one of the few instances in which I just can’t condemn such sentimental attachments to material belongings; I have a major soft spot for children’s books, as does the rest of my family, and, in fact, we still regularly gift them to each other.

But just as children outgrow clothing at a rapid pace, so, too, do they outgrow books. All children’s books are not created equal, nor are they intended for every age. It’s important to regularly edit the contents of your children’s bookshelves to ensure that they continue to have access to books that cater to their current reading level or developmental stage.

Conduct a yearly or bi-yearly book edit, wherein you remove all the books from the shelves, and analyze each individually. You may wish to involve kids in this process depending upon their age.

If you have more than one child, edit all bookshelves at the same time, that way you can shift between offspring accordingly: books outgrown by the oldest can be passed down to the youngest, and so on.

I would urge you to distinguish between those nostalgia-books and the books in the current reading rotation. Remove the dearly loved and retired books from the shelves, and opt instead to store them in something like this Clear Watertight Tote or this Plastic Book Storage Box. Doing so will ensure the books stay protected from the elements, and that they won’t be occupying prime shelf real estate.

Rather than give all the outgrown books to cousins or to friend’s children, I would encourage you to just pass along the few really treasured reads— perhaps the more obscure titles or longer chapter books that they’re less likely to already own. Most families you know will probably have a bevy of books. Resist dumping your book load onto loved ones, who are probably trying, themselves, to keep their kids’ bookcases under control.

If you’re interested in donating gently used children’s books, you can certainly utilize the common charitable organizations such as Salvation Army or Goodwill. You might also check with your local library to see if its currently collecting books for donation. If you’re interested in donating to more book-centric charities, you can look into:

Books For Africa

This organization has one goal in mind–to end the book famine in Africa by distributing books to children of all ages. Since 1988, its shipped over 28 million books to 49 different countries. Be sure to review the book donation guidelines, as there are some limitations on what they’ll accept.

Better World Books

Better World Books will gladly accept your gently used books at one of its many drop-off bins around the country. If you don’t live near a bin, Better World Books will provide a shipping label, and all you have to do is box up your books and send them on their way. The organization then sells books through its online marketplace, raising funds for non-profit literacy organizations. It has re-used or recycled over 80 million pounds of books and raised over $10 million for global literacy and local libraries.

When you’ve finished conducting your routine edit, you’ll be ready to return books to the shelves. When doing so, the most important factor to keep in mind is height; the books that children are most likely to read on their own should be on the lowest and easiest to reach shelves, while books intended to be read by parents or adults to children can be kept higher up.

Good luck organizing, and be sure to let us know what book makes your list of most important reads.

Til next time!

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Annie Traurig is a professional organizer and the founder of Live Simply. She works with clients locally in Seattle, as well as worldwide through virtual services, teaching them to expel the extraneous and instill their lives with lightness, laughter, and ease. She believes complication is avoidable, the clarity of priorities is freeing, aesthetics are paramount, and humor is the ultimate necessity.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Cindy October 4, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Great article about the need to cull through our kids’ books. My three children are each one year apart, but since my oldest is in 1st grade, now, they’re all on very different levels for independent reading. Other than our own observations/kids’ interest, are there any recommended resources as to which books are best for certain ages/reading levels?


cynthia October 7, 2013 at 11:54 pm

There are many sites out there giving recommendations of stories for children to read. Many libraries are great about proving such a resource list. I know our library is very good at keeping this updated. One of my favorite sites to go to is http://www.scholastic.com/parents/ . You can search for individual books, find out which books are best for individual age groups and even look up best books by learning style. Two other sites I have come across that have lists set up by age group or grade: http://fun.familyeducation.com/book-lists/literature/72201.html and http://readingtokids.org/Books/BooksGrade.php . Every couple months I like to print off a list or partial list and then go down the list borrow those books from the library and check them off as we read them.
As you said, you obviously would keep your children’s interest in mind. My oldest now picks out his own with little help, but we do go over the AR (accelerated reading) list together and discuss some he may be interested in.
Good Luck and happy reading!


Cindy October 15, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Thanks for the resources!


Jennyroo October 5, 2013 at 1:17 am

I think one of the most important things to keep in mind is don’t completely get rid of your simple board books/Sandra Boynton/Dr. Seuss, etc. type books until your children start reading. They go through a phase where those books are too babyish and they don’t want you to read them aloud anymore… But then once they start reading themselves they are the perfect books to get back out and have your child read aloud to you. Few words, simple text, loads of repetition… Perfect for those first months of new readers. A few of my mom friends who only had one child had already ‘downsized’ their bookshelves and they regretted it when their child was learning to read. Luckily I have three kids so when the first was learning to read he could enjoy reading the board books on his little brothers’ bookshelves.


Cindy October 15, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Good point!


Kally October 27, 2013 at 4:58 am

I’ve always offered the books that my daughter had grown out of to her school – they’ve always seemed delighted!!


Rick November 7, 2013 at 3:33 pm

That is a great collection. I love that fact that two of my favorite authors, Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton are represented.


Angela January 9, 2014 at 9:40 am

I recommend contacting schools as there are so many young teachers who don’t have the funds to create a classroom library and they would LOVE donated books to have for their classrooms!


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