In this post you will get my top tips for how to build, curate and organize an amazing, inspiring, educational and manageable home library for your homeschooled kids (that your whole family will love)!
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Building a Home Library
I am a huge book lover! I never lost my love of children’s books, and reading favourites to my kids is one of the things I love to do most as a mother.
We also have been homeschooling now for FIVE YEARS, and have amassed quite the collection of books to go along with that whole thing.
But the mystery of how to curate a home library that really works for your family? Well, I have come a long way but I am still not sure if I have achieved that!
In order to organize my thoughts on the topic, I have broken this process down into five main steps. However, these steps aren’t necessarily to be done in order, and they also aren’t “one and done” check the box and never do it again type of steps.
Nope, it turns out that building and curating a home library is an ongoing and maybe even lifelong process. As kids grow, your family needs and preferences change, and you’ll find you need to re-do parts of this process.
If you are new here, welcome! I’m a homeschool, homebirth, homemade mom of 5 boys. Check out my about page to meet me and my family.
Onto the steps!
Steps For How to Curate Your Home and Homeschool Library
Step 1. Assessing the Books You Already Own
Chances are, you already have a bit of a home library. You have books from your childhood, your baby shower, birthdays, library sales and ones you’ve picked up on your travels. College textbooks you haven’t gotten rid of.
It is important to assess these books you already own, i.e. your existing library.
What are the Essential books for a homeschool home library?
In my opinion, every family should have a Bible, a dictionary and thesaurus, and a few other reference books on hand.
Reference Books to Own
- Holy Bible
- Encyclopedia, or at least a Children’s Encyclopedia
- A Local Nature Guide
Catholic Family Reference Books to Own:
- Catechism of the Catholic Church
- A book of Family Prayers
- A book of the Saints
Step 2. Researching Books for Your Home Library
I know, I know! Starting with the boring stuff right away. But the truth of the matter is, if you want to know what books to buy, you need to do some research.
There are three main ways I see this happening:
1. Researching Books In Person:
In person book-seeking happens in a few ways:
- In Person Book Snooping AKA No Shelf Control: You have got to be a bit nosy for this one! Whenever we are anywhere with books, I like to try to take a peek. Bookshops, libraries, my friend’s houses. Basically anywhere with a shelf is fair game to see what books are there, catch your eye and look good.
- Talk about books: Asking people what books they are reading, what their kids love, and what they recommend is another great in-person way to do research.
2. Researching Books Online:
The Internet is a marvelous place. There are so many book reviews, book lists, bookstagram-ers and so forth that you can learn from. In particular I love the website, membership and podcast Read Aloud Revival. They have recommendations for every age and stage of kids as well as interviews with authors and other great book lover content.
Places to learn about books online:
- Facebook groups such as Reshelving Alexandria
- Instagram hashtags, such as #bookstagram, #booklover, #kidsbookstagram, and so on
- Youtube book reviews and homeschool mom channels
- Plugged In media reviews are great for checking specific titles you’re interested in
- Goodreads is neat for keeping track of books and finding more similar titles
- Pinterest is a great place to search for booklists!
- Google it – use specific search terms, such as “best books for Christian homeschool moms”
3. Reading Books about Books
Did you know people write books about what books to read?
Some good ones I have encountered are:
- Before Austen Comes Aesop by Cheri Blomquist – this is my favourite!
- Jim Trelease’s The Read-Aloud Handbook
- A Time to Read: Good Books for Growing Readers
- Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt
- Give Your Child the World
Go With your Tastes but Also, Variety is the Spice of Life
Don’t forget to vary your subject matter as well as your genres. Reference, classics, poetry, picture books, fiction and non-fiction, graphic novels, biographies and DIY, there are so many wonderful types of books out there! I would not aim to get one of every type, but don’t stick to just one type either.
There are naturally going to be genres to which you gravitate and others you don’t. I love historical fiction, myself, but my horror genre is fairly limited with just Dracula, Frankenstein and maybe some short stories that would count.
3. Sourcing Books for Your Library
How can you source all these books for your home library, especially since most of us are on a budget?
First of all, a good home library is built over time! Especially if you are beginning with babies or kindergarteners, you will have plenty of time over the years to add to your collection.
Buying New Books:
This one sounds fairly obvious, but buying books new is a great option, especially for books you’d like to have in great condition and you know you will use. Since we use Charlotte Mason style homeschooling, a lot of our “curriculum” budget goes to buying the books we will be reading that year!
Cheap or Free Books:
I like to keep a list of books I am seeking in the Notes App on my phone. That way when I am out and about I can easily scan shelves for books we’d like. I will also snag books by our favourite authors or illustrators. We have found many treasures this way.
- Thrift stores
- Garage sales
- Little free libraries
- Library book sales
- Used book shops
- Better World Books
- ABE Books
- Amazon (used)
- Facebook Marketplace
Giving Books as Gifts:
There are many occasions when a new book is a great gift. We give books as gifts for baby showers, birthdays, Baptisms and First Communion. Then we add to our Christmas books collection by our children one new Christmas book each Christmas Eve (or St Nicholas Day this past year). We encourage the kids to add books they would like to own to their birthday and Christmas wish lists.
Start a book business?
For two years, I worked with Usborne Books at Home and earned so many books for free as well as a paycheque. I no longer work with them because I am too busy now, but it was great fun and is a great option for homeschool moms. Even hosting a party can get you a lot, and I love their non-fiction books for kids.
4. Purging Books
I absolutely LOVE books, but I have too many humans to look after to keep unlimited book inventory. Usually 1-2 times per year, we sort through books to purge and donate.
“WHAT?!” You may gasp. “Why would I get rid of books if I am trying to collect books for a library?!”
Well my sweet friend, the reasons for decluttering are different for every person. I find some great reasons to purge and donate books are:
- they have fallen apart and are beyond repair or not worth repairing (looking at you, lego books)
- you or your kids have outgrown them and they are not worth keeping for the next genertion
- you or your kids cannot manage the amount of books you have
- you need space for more books
- your clutter threshold is lower
- you can’t afford more shelves or your shelves you currently have are bowing in the middle by sheer weight
- you are moving house and books are heavy
I love Dana K White of A Slob Comes Clean for decluttering inspiration. She always says to get rid of the garbage and easy stuff first. Inevitably on my bookshelves, there are scraps of paper, broken toys, and cheap kids books that have been destroyed by my four sons.
5. Organizing Your Home Library
Ok great! You have amassed a wonderful collection of literature for your family. But where is that delightful picture book you read every spring? Well, maybe somewhere in your now-hundreds of books.
There are so many ways you can organize your home library. Which is the right way for your family is absolutely something you need to figure out on your own. And just like clothing and toy storage, this will need to adapt as your kids grow.
Here are some ideas for organizing your home library:
- By Subject
- The Dewey Decimal System
- By age (baby books, toddler books, kids books, and so on)
- By size of book
- Even by colour!
Alternative Book Storage Ideas (If you run out of Shelf Space!)
Bookshelves can be expensive and take up a lot of space. While I would totally go for the Beauty and the Beast style library (with ladder, please!) the book storage that works best in my actual real home with my real humans isn’t quite like that.
Here are some great book storage ideas you can use around your house:
- these picture ledges work great for front facing
- these fabric racks
- my kids might have a little too much fun with this rotating rack
- the IKEA FLISAT doll house
- these FLISAT shelves are a favourite of mine
- baskets and crates work amazingly well for kids book storage
For chapter books
- these narrow book trees
- these wall mounted shelves
- this HEMNES shelf is nice and narrow to fit a smaller space
How we organize our home library: Organizing by Age, Size and Subject:
There is such a huge variety of size in children’s books, that one of the most practical ways of organizing the books is simply by size. We tend to have some very large non-fiction books and some of our nursery rhyme and bible storybooks are oversize as well. Our chapter books can fit on completely different shelves from those oversize books.
We also don’t want our toddlers accidentally damaging our picture books. To help with this, we keep baby and toddler books on lower shelves or in large baskets so they can easily access their own books. We keep adult books up on our highest shelves because we are much taller and also need to access them less often.
Since I often group our books by topic, I can easily pull out seasonal books or topical books for unit studies. Read all about how to make your own unit study and grab a free printable planner here! I love our front-facing IKEA bookshelves for displaying these choices.
When it comes to organization, grouping by series override these other things. For example, we keep our Usborne books together rather than separating them by topic. They are just so pretty!
The Inspiration for Curating Your Home Library
This week on Instagram, my Charlotte Mason homeschool friends and I were talking all about building your home library. You can see all their posts by checking out the #cmhomelibrary and be sure to follow the tag #CharlotteMasonMondays so you don’t miss any of our fun topics.
When Will I Know My Home Library Is Complete?
I’m pretty sure a library can never be complete! This whole curation process is ongoing. As your family grows, your interests change, and your shelf space fills, you’ll find yourself repeating some or all of these key steps.
You can see all my posts on home education here.
If your kids need a little encouragement to read more, check out my nautical-themed reading logbook printable here.
Thankfully, it is a fun adventure!
Read about our Minimalist Homeschool Year here.
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