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Best Shelves for Displaying Kids’ Books: Kids generally can judge a book by its cover.

By Melissa Summers

The Burning Daylight Series remains on hiatus because I am frantically unpacking hundreds of boxes. This is fine because my children have managed to burn their very own daylight without instruction by creating an elaborate ‘Box Town‘ in our box filled living room. Which is riveting of course but I thought today we’d discuss easy access book storage for kids, inspired by this post at Apartment Therapy: The Nursery and the comments on that post.

Kids are visual little people and, especially before they can read, a book’s cover art is what draws them in. Bookcases which hold the books facing out are therefore perfect for kid’s bedrooms, playrooms and kid-friendly rooms in general.

Like Apartment Therapy my personal favorite is this tall book rack from Pottery Barn kids. I love how the unit doesn’t take up a lot of floor space, has plenty of room for books and other small toys and most exciting: you can label the shelves.
Pottery barn also offers the Catalina wall hanging book rack, which takes up even less floor space, just about none. It’s also just $99. I can’t help but look at it though and wonder how easy it would be to make something similar. Martha thought so too, here’s a reasonably simple looking tutorial for making your own.

My daughter likes to read 3-5 chapter books at a time, all of which end up in a precarious pile on the nightstand next to her bed. Add the required lamp, clock, lip balm and water and you have a frustrating mess. This shelf at The Land Of Nod would be an excellent solution attached to the wall next to a bed or in a reading nook.

Similarly this Collector’s Shelf from Pottery Barn would be excellent next to a bed and an even better solution for bunk beds, no more books dropping from above or eyeballs being poked out from co-sleeping books. I know it’s a little redundant to tsk-tsk at price, but wow, that’s a bit steep. It seems if you found a display shelf at the craft store, flipped it over and added a dowel or other piece of wood you’d have the same thing for a fraction of the cost. Of course, then there’s the question: ‘But will you?’ If the answer is no, check out this Etsy seller’s version at just $15.

Another neat DIY idea can be found at duanecoBlogs, rain gutters. Inspired after seeing this idea at the Chattanooga Children’s Museum, this father of two recreated them at home for $35. My husband thought they’d look good painted to match your walls, but I like the crown moulding look of the white.

We have so many books in this house, some books must remain on regular old bookshelves. Isabel found a simple way to make even that more visually appealing to kids: arrange books by color. The rainbow effect will draw in little readers and they can ask themselves, “Am I feeling yellow today, or more blue?”

In our new house so far I’m displaying books in the family room in a basket since we lost our built in bookshelves. So far it seems to be drawing in my kids, one is sitting on the floor reading as I type.

I also use this antique trug to store books in my son’s room upstairs. I found this piece at the flea market years ago and have never been quite sure what to do with it, this seems to be the best use I’ve come up with. I’ve considered painting it and maybe shining up the copper cladding on the upper corners but somehow feel bad disrupting it’s finish, although it’s probably not original.

How do you make books accessible to your kids at home?

Melissa Summers
About the Author

Melissa Summers

Melissa Summers was a regular contributor writing Melissa’s Buzz Off.


Melissa Summers was a regular contributor writing Melissa’s Buzz Off.

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  • Denise Thompson

    August 7, 2007 at 2:28 pm

    We have tons of Christmas themed books that I pull out every year. I place them in a basket near the tree. The kids love to read them in the “glow” of the tree. There’s something special about books you are allowed to read only a few weeks out of the year.

  • melissaS

    August 7, 2007 at 2:58 pm

    Denise, we do that too. It’s one of the things I don’t love about cable and dvds, the excitement of having access to certain movies and specials only some of the year. So exciting.

  • pnuts mama

    August 7, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    well, it doesn’t surprise me to find we are on the same page again (congrats on the move, btw!) as we have been searching for a horizontal, wood, sturdy 2-shelf bookcase for pnut to house all of her books. her dad could make one (“but will he?”)but sometimes cost vs. cost of time works out to buy the thing. the company store has a nice one w/ a beadboard back for ~200 bucks. i’ll run right out to the $ tree for that.
    i love the idea of the facing out shelf, although right now we need the former due to lack of space. i think the facing out shelf would be great in spaces like where you open a door and the wall is right there, or in walk-through spaces, does that make sense? a place that is too narrow for a piece of furniture but still using the space for something practical.
    we do the “special toys/tapes/books” at holidays as well. and my MIL keeps her magazines in a basket in the bathroom and it is a great clutter keeper. also- (sorry this is run-on!)- oriental trading has a kids-crafts specific catalog (also online) that has tons of cheap kits that i would bet would be great for kids to burn tons of daylight with, after they are done in their boxtown. we made ladybug magnets from it for pnuts bday as the favor. they literally have tons of things to choose from. take care!

  • Dana

    August 7, 2007 at 9:01 pm

    Abiyoyo! That’s my kid’s favorite book. I’m not as fond of it, mostly because Max announced one morning that I had stinkin’ feet and matted hair. You know what kid, I know. I’m working on it.

  • Melanie

    August 7, 2007 at 10:16 pm

    We just have bookcases in every room, and piles of books on most surfaces, and it seems to work for us. I’m raising a reading addict here. Oh, and I’m so happy to see you have Mr. Lunch – awesome books!! The pictures blow me away with their coolness.

  • Nina

    August 7, 2007 at 11:34 pm

    We just went crazy at Ikea when we moved into our condo. We bought, let’s see, four of those expedit bookcases in different sizes and distributed them throughout the house. They were cheap and people can’t believe that we got them from Ikea. I like that they aren’t toally book-specific. We use them for toys in the baby’s room too. I do want to get one of those book racks for the baby’s picture books.

  • Cory

    August 8, 2007 at 12:06 am

    This browser box is spendy, but very well-made and sturdy. It holds books and small toys in the living room.
    Play room books are in baskets on the floors, and bedroom books are on a plain old bookshelf. I will have to try organizing them by color.

  • Kate

    August 8, 2007 at 9:05 am

    I also bought the Expedit bookcase from IKEA. They hold an amazing amount of stuff. I especially like that those really tall books fit in them.

  • lisat

    August 8, 2007 at 12:35 pm

    we had one of the pottery barn bookcases when our daughter was little. two problems: she could only reach the books in the bottom two shelves by herself, and always (and i mean always) wanted the books from the top shelves. she would get frustrated and, because she is now/has always been a climber, she would try to climb up the bookcase to get to the books at the top. second issue: they don’t hold an enormous number of picture books, so we always ended up with piles of stacked books elsewhere in her room.
    now i just take a tip from all of the kids’ libraries i’ve been to lately: we keep all of her books in large-ish, squared-off open baskets. she can get to everything, they make clean up easy, and when she’s done with the big picture books, they’ll be useful for other stuff.
    melissa — congrats on your move! and i love the trug used as a book caddy — very stylish and practical!

  • bgirl

    August 8, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    I love love love the rain gutter idea! I must do that in my skinny hallway. Congrats on the new house (and super-congrats on selling the old one)!

  • susie

    August 8, 2007 at 9:53 pm

    We bought two of these a while back. LOVE them. I also have two trugs in my sons room. And one of the sling bookshelves. He has a lot of books.

  • Ashley

    September 25, 2007 at 10:34 pm

    I LOVE the shelving books by color idea. My mom is a teacher, and is currently looking for decorating ideas for her office. I can’t wait to suggest this.