Growing Your Children's Book Collection

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Here's the thing, I don't buy books. For myself that is. In the last decade I can count on one hand the books I have purchased for my personal collection. Why is that? Simply because I can get most everything I want to read at the library. And I don't have a burning desire to grow my own library anymore. Also I don't own a tablet so all of my book reading happens the old-fashioned way, hefting heavy tomes or slinging lightweight reads.

But when it comes to children's books that's an entirely different story. True I had a handful of children's books before Amelia arrived, but now that reading has quickly become one of her favorite activities I am constantly on the lookout for new and notable selections. Here are a few ways I vet new picture books before adding them to our permanent collection.

1. Scout out the new picture book section in your local library. A no-brainer, right? Most libraries identify their new books by marking the spine with a sticker and designating them to a specific location in the library. Not sure where the new books are located? Ask your librarian.

2. When it comes to finding holiday books I like to check out a bunch of them at one time. This gives me a chance to take them home and read them without being rushed. Again, many libraries separate these books from the rest of the collection and will sometimes only make them available during the month of the specific holiday.

3. When I say new picture books that doesn't just mean recently published titles. It also includes new-to-me publications that could have easily been popular in say 1972. That said, it's always a good idea to look at award winning books (Caldecott, Geisel, Newberry, Mark Twain, etc.) and the nominees for a particular year.

4. Read reviews online. To be honest I don't do this as regularly as I should. Goodreads has a Choice Award section where you can locate top nominated picture books and even peruse previous years. Similarly the American Library Association (ALA) makes all kinds of online lists of award-winning picture books available. Also, The Read-Aloud Handbook has a list of tried-and-true recommendations. Finally, the New York Times features the 10 best illustrated books at the end of each year.

5. We live in an high density library zone. Meaning I have access to over a dozen libraries in a 15 mile radius, including one of the top 25 largest libraries in the nation. Which is kind of great! You may not have the same luxury, but if you do, or even if you have a couple in neighboring cities/counties, I suggest looking at other library collections. This is a great way to find children's books you might not otherwise come across.

6. Follow other bloggers and social media gurus to see what's on their children's book radar. I guarantee you'll find something you've never heard of before. Like from herehere, or here.

7. Request holds regularly. Meaning that if a library doesn't have what you want, simply ask them to get it for you. Amazing, right?

8. Host a children's book exchange. This may not exactly grow your collection, but it will expose you to different titles, which is all part of the process. Similarly, you can find a little free library in your neighborhood and take a book or leave a book. We've found a couple cute board books this way.

9. Ask your children's librarian what picture books they have read and loved lately.

10. Keep a list of what you've read. Rate it and save it until you're ready to buy it. I often put beloved children's books in my Amazon card until I'm ready to purchase a few at a time.

Bonus Tip: Do you have friends that are children's librarians? If yes, ask them to set aside a certain type of book when they are wedding the collection. I got a handful of great winter books this way earlier in the year.

When it comes to buying children's books, either for myself or as a gift, I am fairly particular. Luckily beautiful picture books are in the midst of a lovely resurgence. Implementing these strategies over the last year has been a great way for me to vet books before I buy them—kind of like taking a vehicle test drive. Do you collect children's picture books? Is your collection in a rut? If you haven't visited the children's section of your local library or bookstore recently I'd highly recommend it.


  1. Great post! I love your book recommendations.


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