EASY Home Library System (Using Stickers!)

I love keeping a large collection of  picture books at home for my kids, especially religious and seasonal picture books! At some point in my homeschooling journey, I realized that my home library wasn’t getting utilized to its full potential because if the books aren’t organized, they’re impossible to find at the right times. So I set out to put a new system in place for our children’s books- a system that has worked in our home for over 5 years now! This home library system works even with little ones touching and using the books because it is easy for kids to navigate and return the books to their proper place themselves. Check it out!

I am always on the lookout for awesome kid books for our home, but if they aren’t organized enough to use, they become a burden in the home rather than a blessing. So I am going to share 3 amazing tips with you to make a functioning children’s library in your home that your children can maintain themselves!

What I Needed In A Home Library System

  • a library system that kids can actually maintain themselves
  • a library system that helps kids find something that is the right level for them
  • a library system that allows for books to actually be utilized because they could be found when the proper topic or season arrives to use them
  • NOT a complicated computer library system or an expensive system

Tip 1: Choose The Right Shelves For Your Children’s Books

To keep books from becoming a sideways disorganized messy pile, I strongly suggest shelves that are sectioned in cubes. It is FAR easier for children to keep books upright and orderly on these shorter lengths of shelves than it is on long traditional bookshelves. Because children’s books tend to be small, it is very hard to stand them up… basically the whole shelf has to be full or they fall over. Otherwise they need to be carefully placed and tilted the right way… all details that children tend to overlook. I have found FAR better results from just this one tip of moving to the square shelves.

Also, shelf them according to child ability! Meaning the books that are for smaller kids go on the lowest shelves, the higher shelves are reserved for bigger kid books. This is just good logic because the short kids can’t reach books on tall shelves, so you’re keeping the age appropriate choices within little arms reach. The Montessori system is big on this type of organization, and so am I.

Tip 2: Baskets For The Littlest Books

The square shelves help with a lot but… it’s nearly impossible to keep really really small books (such as board books or very early readers) tidy on a shelf for little kids. So for the smallest books, I have some of the square basket thingies that fit into the square shelves, and this works great for those pesky tiny books.

Tip 3: Sorting Children’s Books With My 2 Sticker System

I came up with this system over a few years of trying different things to sort our children’s books and I LOVE it! Basically, you have 2 sets of stickers that you can label the books with. I use basic color coding label stickers for indicating reading level, and those cheap foil star stickers to indicate the subject matter of the book.

Not every books needs 2 stickers! But each book can have 2 stickers if you want to, or just 1. Here is a chart for how I color coded our children’s books.

So for instance if you have a book that is a level 2 for reading level, but it is religious, it would get a round blue sticker, then a gold star sticker right in the middle of the blue circle sticker. After placing the sticker, I always place a piece of clear tape over the stickers and wrap the edge of the book a little bit on both sides. This assures that over time the stickers stay firmly in place without peeling.

Each cube on the shelf also gets a colored sticker label, just like the books. That way, kids will know how to put them away. Again, you want to have the lower-level books on the lower shelves. This way, the age appropriate books will be found where the littlest readers can find them.

easy way to organize children's books

How I Color Code For Reading Level Of Book

I generally use this site to determine the reading level of the books. Their system has changed a bit since I labeled mine, but basically you may decide one color stands for pre K through kindergarten, the next color stands for 1st through 3rd, etc. Just decide and let the site determine for you so that you don’t stress yourself out of spend too long sorting your books. If I have a whole series, I make sure to kind of determine the “average” reading level and label them all the same.

  • Yellow- Beginner Books. These are truly for emergent readers, so The Bob Books, Dick and Jane, Level A from the Little Angel Readers, Books with labeled pictures, The Pre-Primer from Seton, our readers from All About Reading, some random Abeka readers we have, easy I Spy Books, and books with songs or prayers that the kids already know and therefore can just “follow along”.
  • Green- Level 1 Books. Grades 1-2 for me. These are the books at my house where the children really start reading independently. Still easy to read stuff, but actual reading.
  • Light Blue- Level 2 and 3 Books. Again, I used the same site to determine the level, and for simplicity’s sake, I combined 3rd and 4th grade levels.
  • Dark Blue- Level 4 and 5 Books. Reading levels 5th and 6th. Anything after this really ends up on the shelves in my living room on the sort of “young adult” shelf and not with my children’s picture books.
  • Orange- No Word Books. These are your really “fun” books! Books that fall into our orange sticker category include wordless books (all told with pictures) Where’s Wald or I Spy type of books, How to draw books, how to fold origami, etc. It’s surprising how many of these kinds of books we collect, and the kids love them.
  • Black- Children’s Reference. I had my kids color some of my labels black with a sharpie (since our pack didn’t come with black) and used them for reference books. I tried to distinguish between reference, and non-fiction, because Lydia actually adores the Usborne Beginners Books, etc. For this category, I put only books that kids would never actually sit down and read. For instance, a really lengthy, wordy book about space, our children’s encyclopedia of animals, children’s dictionary, etc.organizing children's books the easy way
  • No Sticker- I didn’t force myself to label them all if I didn’t want to. We have one shelf for “no sticker” books but they usually just consist of the books I have purchased at my last thrift shopping session and I have’t gotten around to labeling them yet.

How I Color Code For Subject Of Book

  • Gold Star- Religious/Virtue Based Books. So now I can put a book that is for a Liturgical season or feast day right on the shelf with the other books with no problem whatsoever surfacing it when I want it! You just quickly go to the gold star sticker shelf… there they are!
  • Green Star- Nature Study/Science Books. Really if it’s anything about Science or nature, animals, etc I give it a green star sticker book. I am really into the Charlotte Mason method so I have tons of the green star sticker books!
  • Blue Star- Art And Music Books. I collect Art and Music books for when we have artist and composer studies in our Charlotte Mason style learning. This could include books about the Nutcracker, different children’s books about artists or famous art, etc.
  • Red Star- History/Math Books. Kind of a weird combination maybe, but it works for us! I don’t have very many Math themed picture books, but for the ones I do have, it’s nice to be able to find them when I need them. 
  • Silver Star- Poetry/Nursery Rhyme Books. I love to collect children’s poetry books! You name it, I love it haha. 
  • Purple Star- Audio Books. I have a collection of books that I have created QR codes for and taped them inside the children’s books. They can scan the code with our tablet and it either plays an audio recording of the book or goes to a YouTube video where the book is read aloud.

If you want to implement the 2 sticker system, I have some printable home library keys for you to hang on the wall! This way your kids can understand the system, too. If you want to use exactly my system, that is available, but I also have an empty page and you could fill in your own categories if you want to tweak the system to work with your specific books. You can find these pages with my reading chart downloads for kids.

Christmas And Easter Picture Books

For the Christmas and Easter books, I labeled them with red stickers, and actually put them in the attic with our Christmas and Easter decorations. That way, they will be special, and come out just at the right time, without cluttering my book shelves year round. Now I know what you’re thinking- pretty much any Catholic book can be considered seasonal. For instance, Angel in the Waters can be brought out for month for life in October, or the St. Valentine picture book could just be reserved for February… but I didn’t do this. I left those with the picture books to be enjoyed year round. We will still bring them out on their feast days.

Once you have all of your books organized and labeled, put them on your labeled shelves and have a sit-down lesson with your kids training them on how to use the system. They can maintain this themselves! When my kids were little and they made a mess of the books, I would put the books on “time out” by taping off the shelves with blue painters’ tape. This went for whatever they did not properly maintain. I would tape it shut and leave it for a week, then they could have a chance to try again.

This system has been working unbelievable well for my family for almost 5 years now! The books have stayed organized, and we’re getting a lot more use out of them.

Remember to leave a few unlabeled shelves for your unlabeled books. Teach your kids that only books without the colored stickers go here- it’s not a free-for-all shelf. 😉

I also think that no matter how many times you tell a child not a judge a book by its cover, well… they’re going to anyway. For this reason, I absolutely adore shelves like these that display books from the front for children. I was lucky enough to find ours at Goodwill for $10. I use it to display books that are currently useful to our family, such as books that go along with what we’re studying in school, or seasonal books for the month. That way, I can kind of “feature” whatever books I currently want them to read.

organizing books for kids

Here are my children in our school room, enjoying all of our children’s books (that they can actually find)!

realistic reading nooks for kids

We also love to collect book character stuffed animals and display them on our shelves! The kids use them as reading buddies.

The kids like to choose books to display on the top shelf and pair them with random stuffed animals or toys that we own, and I think that’s awesome! It rotates a lot. Sometimes they pair funny things, but I roll with it. I’m just glad they’re excited about books!

Here you can see Madeline, Paddington Bear, Angelina Ballerina, Classic Pooh, Babar, Peter Rabbit, Harry The Dirty Dog, and Horton Hears A Who taking a Magic School Bus ride together. 🙂

Your New Library System Can Encourage Reading!

I made customized reading charts for my children, and they get prizes when they fill them! I can require how many of each book they read. For instance, 10 gold star sticker books, 3 green star sticker books, etc. This way I can make sure they are reading books of all different subject matters! The rainbow star stickers stand for you can read whatever color you want as long as they have a star. Depending on your own reading level, you may be required to read books of a certain color for them to count towards your chart. If they read a book with a blue circle sticker AND a green star sticker, they can choose which thing they want to mark off of the chart, but just 1.

Feel free to print my reading charts for kids that match the library system! 

I even make charts for little ones that just include things like listen to an audio book, build a puzzle, build with blocks etc. for my pre-readers. That way everyone has the chance to earn a full sized candy bar by filling a chart!

A Few More Tips For Maintaining Books With Kids

  • When I buy paper back books that I want to last long term with this many kids, I absolutely cover them in contact paper before putting them on the shelves.
  • My library books never get mixed in with the “regular” books. They live in a rolling crate in my dining room so they are always separate, and easy to return to the library.
  • I don’t worry about the stickers “ruining” our books because there’s no point in owning them if I can’t utilize them.
  • Definitely you need to declutter your books before beginning- get rid of books that are badly damaged, are junk, aren’t worth reading, whatever. You have permission to get rid of any book you don’t want in your home for any reason. Don’t hold onto stuff out of fear.

Comments

  1. Lauren Sullivan says

    What a great system! My children are a little young for chapter books, but I’ll be using this system with them. I just need to get over my fear of leaving them unsupervised with expensive, beautiful books!

  2. Great ideas! One way we work around the little, floppy aspect of children’s books and little hands is to put those type of book in a basket. This way they know exactly where their books are; they can pull it off the shelf and flip the books until they find the one they want. It also makes it easy for getting the books back where they belong.

  3. Great post! I love how you organized. I just started pulling my seasonal books out and keeping them in a special, easy to grab place this year. My question is how did you get your little sticker dots to stay on the books? I tried using them and they just kept falling off. I ended up buying different colors of electrical tape to color code them instead. 🙂

  4. Michele Stefanowicz says

    Pish-posh on the stickers – I want one of those black wire book organizer/cart-thingies! 😀 What is it called and where did you get it?! (p.s. no insult intended to your idea; it’s a great one!)

  5. I love this so much. We had almost the exact same system for our VHS tapes years ago, only we also had a catalogue of them, b/c they were for grownups. Anyone coils easily flip through the book, find a title they liked, and then get that tape out without reading every label. One of the best organizational tools I’ve ever seen. It was my sister’s idea. Can’t wait to try this.

  6. Love this idea! Wondering how you keep your one year old from pulling all of the books off the shelves, though. I have a one year old and one on the way, and the bottom two shelves of all of our bookcases are empty because he constantly pulls things off the shelves.

    • Well, I have 3 older kids as well that help me keep an eye on her. I’m not saying it never happens, but we work hard to train “no”, and she’s a pretty good listener. Not all of my 1 year olds have listened as well as my current 1 year old. She really doesn’t go upstairs in our schoolroom by herself, and even if she does pull books off the shelves, my other kids will put them back. The benefits of having older children… 😉

  7. Can I ask where you purchase or acquire your religious books?

    • All different sources. I do find some of them at used book stores, but mostly I order them online when I see free shipping deals or I ask for them for the kids for Christmas.

  8. I did something similar a while back and it really did help. I wanted to be able to get my finger on books that were art vs history vs science so blue is history, pink is art, green science, etc. only the circle stickers started to fall off. I didn’t think about putting a piece of tape on them! how funny am i??
    thanks!

  9. What a fantastic system! I’d love to find a shelf system like that and do something like this with our books. We have a regular bookcase now and your right,it’s annoying to use with children’s books!

  10. Love this idea!! You have inspired me to finally organize and cataloge the childrens books! Were you able to find all of the books you own on the scholastic site? If not, how did you determine the reading level for the ones you could not find? A lot of the kids books we own aren’t on there and I am getting a little frustrated.

    • If they weren’t on that site, I tried to flip through and determine them myself. Most of ours were on there except the religious ones. Again, some of them I left without stickers if they were stressing me out. No biggie. 🙂

  11. Dana (A Slob Comes Clean) says

    Great job, Lacy!!

    And I, too, am in love with that shelf thingy!!!!

  12. Elizabeth W says

    Thank you so much! I love the reading level sticker idea. I am so going to utilize your organizing technique for my children’s book collection as well as my adult books. I have organized my adult religious books into Marian, Saints, and Theological, also according to religious Orders I have studied.

  13. Thank you so much for this. We just finished setting this up. My kids are the same ages as yours – they are thrilled – such a pleasure to see them so excited about reading all the books that have been here all along. I am most especially pleased to have some of religious books more accessible – I also held tightly to the notion that I should keep those separate but was always a bit bothered by the fact that they weren’t a part of our everyday. Great solution, now Mary and St. Francis are sharing shelf space with Cat in the Hat, all is right in our world ;).

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