Some thoughts on organizing your Children's Section

Take My Advice-I’m Not Using It!

I love bookstores, all bookstores, in-print, out of print, paperback exchanges; whether they are dusty, dark and cluttered, or well lit and meticulously organized, if you take me to a bookstore that has a good selection of books, especially children’s books, be prepared to only see the back of my head the whole time we are there.

While I understand that the arrangement of the book sections in a store is a function of available space vs. titles available vs. market interest, there is a certain amount of organization I really appreciate when I’m a scouting for children’s books. That being said, I’d like to offer a few opinions on what features, for me, would make an exceptional out-of-print children’s book section and a couple of generalities that I’d like in any bookstore.

For the children’s book section my first suggestion is to separate the series books from the non series titles. Collectors of series books are almost always looking exclusively for series titles, and while they may be willing to pay three figures for the last book in the Trixie Belden series (which is a paperback at that!) they are probably not going to be interested in buying your nice edition of Wind in the Willows. I think I would also expand the traditional definition of series books to include those books like Stine’s Goosebumps, or Martin’s Babysitters Club which have very dedicated readers and run to so many volumes that they can fill up a bookcase by themselves.

If you have the space, and enough inventory, I also suggest separating out the Little Golden Books as well as any novelty toy books into a separate section and, if space allows, have some face up display. These books tend to be what my husband calls “kitten books”- very few people really plan on buying a kitten, but then you see it and it’s so cute… And of course every good children’s book section should have a low table, a little chair and a basket of books so that the next generation of collector can get their start.

There is the logical separation of picture books and juvenile titles, based on size difference alone, but I’ve never understood the need that some stores have to further parse both the picture books and juvenile titles into smaller and smaller subsections. Unless you have a massive inventory I don’t think there is any reason to separate either the picture books or the juvenile titles into fiction, non-fiction, fairy tales, adventure stories, poetry… And while 99% of my scouting is for hard cover titles in dust jacket, if you have a relatively small inventory of children’s books I don’t particularly have a problem with shelving paperback and hard cover books together.

For those truly exceptional children’s books whether it is the a fore mentioned Wind in the Willows or a modern pop up in pristine condition, if you don’t have room for a display case, please consider a VERY HIGH shelf. There is nothing more depressing than finding a collectible book that I would love to buy that has been damaged by casual handling in store. And on that subject, even more important than keeping the books alphabetized, make sure the books are either standing straight up or laid flat on the shelf, there is nothing that that is worse for a books, especially thin picture books, than being left canted long term on a shelf. (Besides it drives me crazy, like a kid that is always slouching).

And finally, for bookstores in general, while I honestly enjoy browsing tall stacks and dim corners, I have to sing a word or two in praise of good lighting and wide aisles. As my eyes get older and my backside broader both lighting and clearance are becoming much more important to me. And while I’m on the subject of age related decrepitude, a publicly accessible bathroom trumps lighting and aisle width every time ?

Posted By Dana Richardson of Windy Hill Books

3 thoughts on “Some thoughts on organizing your Children's Section”

  1. This is more or less the set up I have here, minus the table. No room! It’s been replaced with a small basket of kids toys tucked in a corner for the ones that are too little to pick their own books and would much rather shake those maracas or stack some blocks then pick a book. It keeps the 3 and under set entertained by something other than pulling books off the shelves which the older kids or Mom look at books.

    I only have four subject based divisions because they’re how parents ask for things. I have the nonfiction separated from the fiction. In the fiction I have the scifi/fantasy/horror separated from the general fiction. And then I have the animals in their own section, with that subdivided into ponies, puppies, kittens, and everything else. It makes it soooooooooooooooo much easier when a parent comes in and goes “my child is crazy for horse, show me the horse books.”

    I have the huge series and Golden books pulled out on their own as well.

  2. Great advice from both Dana and Nora. We have done much the same things in our Children’s section, along with tiny chairs in the same aisle (we ousted the tables, took-up too much room). While we also have an “Animals” section, we don’t try to sub-divide it as finely as Nora does. For the youngest readers, we have separate sections for the Disney, Richard Scarry, Rugrats, etc. series books, as well as a childrens “honor book” section, for the adults who request those.

    For the ‘older youngsters’, we separate our stock into adventure/sci-fi & fantasy/classics/”spookies” (where the Goosebumps and other kids’ghost story series are kept together.

    One other thing, we also have separated a sizeable portion of the children’s books into “reading levels”; which is more for the adults who select a variety of books by age or school grade levels for their children or grandchildren.

    Although some children select their own books, most of our sales for the younger sets are to parents and grandparents. So, we cater to the shelf organizations they prefer. Asking your customers their preferences will soon tell you how to best organize your store.

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