board books · home library · OBSERVATIONS · picture books · slice of life

Garnering a Spot on the “Real” Bookshelf

Some of Isabelle’s books are now housed in a cabinet on the bottom left of our wall unit. She’s responsible for the upkeep of the shelves now, which is why they’re a little disheveled. But that’s okay. She’s not even two yet!

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!

The AFTER Picture (There’s no chance of a before photo!): Now that I have our coffee table shelf back I have to figure out what to put there. Hmmm… Can’t put the Scrabble game back there since its pieces are a choking hazard. Will keep thinking about this.
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16 thoughts on “Garnering a Spot on the “Real” Bookshelf

  1. Stacy,
    What a great idea to teach her how to organize her books at such an early age-thanks for the inspiration! I love how you created buy-in! I’ll have to try this with Nattie!

  2. Stacey, Ingrid & I just went through all the books in this little shelf she keeps here, but I didn’t think about sorting, we were just choosing what were the favorites we could be sure to read. I liked hearing your language with Isabelle. She is ‘getting’ it obviously, & one of these days, will blurt out all the sentences. What fun language is!

  3. She looked at me with her teenager face. …and so it begins! Isabelle is a girl who knows prime real estate when she sees it, and (naturally) she accepts it!

  4. Your tale of “finding a spot for the books” is wonderful and I can “picture” her bouncy curls climbing off the sofa for another book and then another book. I’m thinking I might just try this strategy with my husband tomorrow night, before Thanksgiving. There are Smithsonian, Time, and Wine Spectator magazines (among many others) providing challenges to finding a spot for a mug on our coffee table!

  5. It’s feels so good to have the time to unclutter. It’s like the first few hours after you dump out your purse and sort through things. It’s like being a different person. Thanks for sharing.

  6. “She looked at me with her teenager face” What a great line, Stacey! It made me laugh out loud. They do that, don’t they? Look at you sometimes and you can see the future.

    How important she must feel to have her own space for books. And she knows book are important enough to take care of. Cool!

  7. I remember how my girls used to love to sort through the books and add them to the bottom shelf of the family bookcase. One day they would sort books by size, another day by subject. Now, at ages 12 and 13, they have their own bookcases in their bedrooms (though they still spill over into the parlor) – sorted into series, authors, and favorites.

  8. This made me laugh. Toddlers are fun, right? We have a special shelf for my children’s books, and when Claire wants one she removes all of them from the shelf, then picks the one she wants off the floor. I’m thinking she needs a book display shelf so she can see all of them all the time!

  9. What strikes me in this slice, is that every move you make as a mother is so intentional. Even the little nuances–your language, your response to her language, your conversation with your husband even. I enjoy reading about your thoughtfulness as a parent as much as I enjoy picturing Isabelle’s actions!

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