Blogger Katie Salo

Helping Patrons Navigate Beginning Readers

As the librarian responsible for the beginning readers section at my library, I’ve been working on ways to help my patrons navigate beginning readers. And there was a ton of room for improvement!

So…before I got started, this section looked like this:

Two rows of short bookshelves with messy books, pushed to the back of the shelves. Display books are scattered on top of the bookcases.
A picture of my beginning readers section back in 2014 when I started. [Photo courtesy of the author.]

It’s a functioning section, of course. Patrons could reach the books and browse. But it wasn’t the experience that our picture book bins provided. Comparing the two sections (that are right next to each other), I could see that the readers were being left behind. I knew I needed a plan.

  • Weed. The kind of deep weed where you not only check circulation and condition but also content. Is this book a good beginning reader? Has it been surpassed by a newer book?
  • Tidy. Those half-haphazardly placed displays were not working and looked awful when empty. And the shelves were a nightmare! Nothing held up the books in a consistent way. Some shelves were full to the brim and some had books laying down by the end of the day.
  • Educate. I had to start *reading* beginning readers. And get to know the series. And make an effort to find these books since review journals don’t often cover them.
  • Guide. I don’t know if you can see it, but our series were marked with a plain label maker sticker on the shelf. Beginning readers could not actually use that system to find their favorite books.
  • Promote. Connect readers with books. Teach caregivers how to choose books.

I got to work tackling that checklist. I weeded like I’ve never weeded before. The library bought us clear acrylic display holders and we got to put the black display arms in storage.

Three shelves of books. On the left side, books are straightened and brought to the front of the shelf. On the right side, books are still pushed to the back and laying against the shelves.
The readers section in process; all weeded, but half straightened, faced, and with shelf markers. [Photo courtesy of the author.]

I learned to love beginning readers, especially Pig in a Wig and King & Kayla. And I made some awesome shelf markers to help beginning readers actually see their favorites with pictures.

Shelf marker for “Frog and Toad” books. [Photo courtesy of the author.]

And you better believe that I am always working on promoting the collection. I now have two rotating displays in that area and find myself constantly booktalking to caregivers.

A “Friends and Family Books” display done during the holiday season. [Photo courtesy of the author.]

But that doesn’t mean my work is done. I still want to create a brochure that explains the section, compares the different leveling systems, and then reinforces that all reading is good reading and that leveling systems aren’t designed to choose books. (Yes, dismantling the system!) I want to provide documents/guides for desk staff to make sure that caregivers are receiving the best service there regardless if I’m around to remember that there is a series about a girl and a cat (Brownie and Pearl!).

The library always continues to grow and change. And isn’t that one of the best parts?

What have you done to help patrons navigate beginning readers? How can you improve your section? Let me know in the comments!

– Katie Salo
Early Literacy Librarian
Indian Prairie Public Library


  1. Blake

    Those shelf markers look great. I haven’t seen that triangular style before. Could you tell me where you got them?

  2. Blake

    Excellent! Thank you!

  3. Jennifer W

    These are ours – I would like to update the poster with levels because, of course, some of the schools are switching to a different system. I like the idea of handouts and brochures.

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