Teaching My Baby To Read

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Organizing Your Home Library

(Our current set-up)

When I first started my blog early in 2011, my son Bruce was five and a half years old and reading at about the 3rd grade level. I wrote a post about how I organized our home library to support Guided Reading.

(Earlier in the year)

Since then, Bruce has entered first grade, had a birthday, and is now reading at the fourth or fifth grade level.  My husband has brought down even more books from the garage, and our home library/playroom has gotten a bit hairy. So today I tackled the mess. Luckily for me, Jenna(2.5) is the rare two-year-old who is not a “dumper”. For some reason it has never occurred to her to empty out one of the Guided Reading baskets, even though she is now tall enough to reach them. This has continued to allow me to organize our chapter book collection thematically and by author.

It would be better to have sturdy wooden or plastic boxes for this system, but the drawer organizers I purchased from Ikea are a lot cheaper, and do the job in a pinch.

If I had more space, I would continue the box system on into the picture books, but that is simply not an option unless I purchase more bookshelves (and had space to put them). So for now, masking tape has to suffice. As you can see, not all of the books are organized. The rest could be labeled “General Fiction”, but I didn’t want to be too neurotic!

There is an empty basket near the recliner in the corner for Jenna to dump books that she has finished reading. That way I can put them back myself in order, and keep tabs on what she’s looking at. Having a “return basket” is also a tip you could use if you had a nanny. That way you could see what books your child was reading while you were at work.

If you turn a lot of our books over, you will find the Guided Reading level written on the back with Sharpie. An alternative way to organize your box system, is by actual Guided Reading level. In many Balanced Literacy classrooms you will see a K box, an L box, and M box etc. The benefit to having the Guided Reading level on the back of your books is that it helps you and your children choose books at the appropriate reading level. Jenna is not ready for this to make a difference of course, and Bruce is way beyond needing this type of assistance. But for beginning readers, this can really work wonders.

It takes a lot of time to look up and label the Guided Reading level of each book, but an additional bonus is that it will help you quickly assesses and monitor your child’s reading level. You simply pull down a book and see if your daughter can read it. If it’s too hard, move back in the alphabet; too easy, move ahead. Just right books are ones where a child makes no more than three mistakes on the first page.

Looking back through all of these pictures I keep thinking to myself “Holy cow, that was a lot of work!” But as a former teacher, I know that organizing a classroom library helps kids feel less overwhelmed by their reading options. It can also help reluctant readers gain footing on the path to becoming strong readers. Once they find the type (or box) of books they like, they know where to start. Hopefully, once they start reading, they will never stop.


  1. Heidi Morgan says:

    I laughed at your nanny comment because that is exactly what we do! We have a return box in the living room and another in the girls’ room. It’s a big help to know what they are reading while I am not home. Last week I found a bunch of dinosaur books in the basket from DD7 and thought, oh she has a new interest! Time to do a dinosaur search on Amazon 🙂

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