I looked at the our coffee table with disdain, yet again, since it was hemorrhaging books. Picture books. Board books. Isabelle’s books. It
was becoming had become an eye sore. I had to do something with it. Before Thanksgiving. Before the night was out. Before one of us accidentally tripped over another book yet again.
“Isabelle,” I said, tapping my daughter on the shoulder to get her attention. “Do you want a special place for your books?”
She looked at me strangely. Not just strangely. She looked at me with her teenager face. She had no idea what I was talking about.
“You know how you keep a few of your books here?” I said gesturing to our wall unit. “Well, what if we take all of your books that are under the coffee table and put them on these two shelves in the wall unit? Then, these shelves would be all yours! You would have those two shelves just for books!” My enthusiasm was growing with each sentence. “You’d like that, right?” I paused. “Would you like to help me move your books from the coffee table to the wall unit?” She paused. Maybe I was getting too wordy. “Do you want all of your books to go here?” I pointed to the two shelves that could belong to her and only to her.
“Ahp,” she said. (That means yes.)
“Yes?” I asked. (She may say “ahp,” but I always say the word “yes,” since I want her to start saying “yes.”)
“Sssss,” she replied. (That’s what she says when this exchange takes place over 50 times a day.)
“Let’s do it together! Will you help me?”
I began taking books out from the bottom shelf of our coffee table and placing them on the floor in-between the coffee table and the wall unit. Isabelle helped me unload the books and put them in a stack. Then the real work began. We had to sort the books. I decided that picture books and larger board books would go on the bottom shelf and that small board books would go on the top shelf. Why? Because it needed a system of organization and there was no way I was going to leave it up to chance (or to an almost two year-old).
I explained the system to Isabelle and together we sorted the books. “This one is a small book so it goes on the top shelf…” “This is a picture book so it goes on the bottom shelf…” My husband, who had no idea what we were doing, walked over and handed me a book from the pile.
“I don’t think this is Isabelle’s,” he said handing me a book on adult writing strategies.
“It isn’t, but it is,” I stated. “She adopted it as her own. ” And with that I placed the professional development that should go in my office on her top shelf.
I repeated the top shelf/bottom shelf lines until all of the books that were on the coffee table got stacked up neatly in the wall unit. And then, I silently hoped that I wouldn’t find the books strewn all about the floor the next day.
* * * * *
This afternoon I got home and found Isabelle and Nancy, her babysitter, reading a few picture books on the couch.
“I’m so sorry I forgot to tell you that we moved Isabelle’s books from the coffee table to the wall unit!”
“Oh, she knew where they were,” Nancy replied. (I glanced over the titles on the couch. They were the ones that used to live under the coffee table.) “She went right over to the cabinet and took them out herself.”
Atta girl, I thought.
* * * * *
And tonight, when I got home from my board meeting, I scanned our great room and found just an Elmo phone beneath the coffee table. All of her books are in the wall unit cabinet. They may not be stacked like they were yesterday, but they’re all there. Behind the cabinet doors. Not strewn about. No longer a tripping hazard or an eye sore!