Blogger Claudia Wayland

Organizing Easy Readers

Easy Readers
A still life with easy readers. Photo courtesy of the author.

Let’s talk best practices for organizing easy or beginning readers. I mean the books used by new readers to facilitate print word recognition. The easy reader collection is difficult to browse. Not easy! There are as many leveling systems as there are publishers that use different letters, numbers, or colors depending on the series; sometimes a level 1 is harder than something marked as a level 2 or 3. This makes parents and new librarians confused when browsing the collection. How can we simplify things?

I am looking to you for help! Give me some ideas of how your library treats the not-so-easy-to-browse easy reader collection. Help me (and maybe others) in future decision making by answering the following questions in the comments:

  • Does your library separate materials in the easy reader section using a leveling system?
  • How easy is it to browse the easy reader collection in your library?
  • Are fiction and nonfiction easy readers interfiled, or where are your leveled non-fiction books?

Every public library I’ve worked in (that would be four) has a different way of treating this collection. In the library where I work now, the easy reader fiction books are in near the picture books, organized by author’s last name (or popular character if there are multiple authors working in the same character series.). The easy readers that have the easiest-to-read content have a green dot on the spine label to help with browsing. The leveled non-fiction books are interfiled in the children’s nonfiction collection.

Now for more questions – Should we devise our own leveling system or use the A.R (or lexile or whatever) number to create levels for the titles in our easy reader collection, and shelve the books by those levels? Should the leveled non-fiction instead be interfiled with the easy reader fiction, or should we have a separate easy reader nonfiction collection? Is there another system that libraries have used successfully that you’d love to share here?

Please share your thoughts and best (or even pretty good) practices. I would love to learn how other libraries (public, school or otherwise) treat the easy reader collection.


    1. Claudia Wayland Post author

      Thanks for sharing your blog post!

  1. Lisa

    Our early reader section is located between our picture book and chapter book sections. They are organized by author but are color-coded as “easiest,” “harder,” and “hardest.” We coded by the oh so scientific eyeball method, taking into consideration sentence complexity, vocabulary difficulty, text patterning, and amount of text per page. It’s imperfect, no question, but gives patrons an idea. We also have suggested reading lists of particularly good exemplar titles/series for each “level.”

    We used to include a number of nonfiction ERs in this section but ultimately decided they would be more easily found and more frequently used if they were shelved in the nonfiction section. (We get more requests for “books about X specific topic for a first grader” than “nonfiction books in general that are easy to read.”) However, we give them an Early Reader spine label to help locate them on the nonfiction shelves. We also include a number of paperback nonfiction readers in with our paperback picture books (which otherwise are largely about licensed characters).

  2. Suz

    Most of ours are paperbacks and we keep them in bins, sorted by publisher. The system pre-dates my arrival here but it seems to work well for parents. Since the levels vary between publishers, they often will find one or more publishers that they like and stick with them. I find that I often have to explain the system to people who are new to the library, but they seem to catch on quickly.

    I also created a cheat-sheet for popular characters/topics within the collection that’s posted near the shelves. This helps staff and browsers to know that, for example, Star Wars levelled readers are in the DK Readers bin.

  3. Rita

    In one of our district’s elementary school libraries, we have done away with the “reader” section. The reader shelf was crammed (a barrier to browsing) and the books had a bad rap with kids. After heavily weeding the readers, we mixed them in with our picture books. (All of this was prompted by noticing that many picture books are as easy to read as readers and wondering why we really have this distinction anyway.) Result: Increased circulation of the readers. Next step: Using dots or some other label on those easy-to-read picture books.

  4. Annabelle Smyth

    Thanks for the tips! I’ll be sure to implement them and bring them up at our next meeting.

  5. Heather

    We are asking this same question in our library right now. I’m very curious to know what others are doing!

  6. Ashley Pickett

    I am doing the same as you Claudia, almost to a T! The good ole eye-ball method was established before I got here and it seems to be working still for our families. When I explain the system to new parents, I usually explain this part with a laugh and it helps relax the interaction a little bit. We’re all a little intimidated by those darn scientific systems publishers use!

  7. Claudia Wayland Post author

    Thanks for all the responses!

  8. Amanda F.

    We’re currently evaluating the way we shelve our readers at Sacramento Public Library. We currently use a 3-level system for Easy Reader Fiction, based on the criteria in Cover to Cover and the judgment of our Youth Services Selector. Easy Reader Nonfiction has previously been interfiled with our children’s nonfiction, but we are currently making the change to move it to the Easy Reader shelves where we suspect it will be more easily discovered by both parents and staff. We’re being pretty strict about inclusion in the Easy Reader Nonfiction – only leveled books with that Easy Reader trim size make the cut. We’re also considering a 4th category to capture books that emphasize phonetics and have the more educational approach – like Bob Books. Currently these are mixed in with our Easy Reader 1 titles, but parents and staff have expressed a desire for these emergent readers to be more readily accessible. Any suggestions for creating Emergent Reader collections are welcome!

  9. Marsha

    How do you all determine what books go into the Easy Reader section of your library? When I arrived, there were tubs. I switched it to alphabetical by authors. BUT, when new books arrive, what do I use as a guideline to determine if the books are easy readers?

  10. Amanda Jackson

    For my school when I started, the easy readers were just crammed onto a shelf (both and non-fiction). I have since grouped them based on Level (1,2,3, 4) and put them into bins that are clearly labelled. The non-fiction ones are being moved back into the non-fiction section because I think they will be more clearly visible. To answer your question, Marsha, use tools like Goodreads, or Barnes and Noble, Indigo/Chapters and OCLC classify to aid you in determining whether they are easy readers. They can be however, clearly labelled to be as such. The level or the series of I Can Read That show that they are easy readers.

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