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Genres of Picture Books?: How to Genrefy Your Picture Book Section

Genres of picture books are not very easy to determine. Oftentimes the E or Everyone section of the children’s library is one that is filled with amazing books, but circulation is not very high. Are you looking at your picture book section of the library and wanting to figure out how to increase circulation? “Genrefying” your picture book section may be the way to go. Here I’ll talk about some strategies to reorganize your picture books by genre that could dramatically increase your circulation.

How do you genrefy picture books?

As I said before, not all picture books fit perfectly into one or even two genres. If you’ve genrefied other sections of your library already, my ideas for genrefying your picture books may be a bit of a mindset shift. Like I said, picture books don’t always fit like other books. They’re in the EVERYBODY section for a reason.

Genres of picture books are not very easy to determine.  Oftentimes the E or Everyone section of the children's library is one that is filled with amazing books, but circulation is not very high.  Are you looking at your picture book section of the library and wanting to figure out how to increase circulation?  "Genrefying" your picture book section may be the way to go.  Here I'll talk about some strategies to reorganize your picture books by genre that could dramatically increase your circulation.

Picture Book Genres Sections:

1. Pre-Kindergarten – First Grade Section

The picture books that I would put in this section are those picture books that primarily have a pre-Kindergarten, Kindergarten and 1st grade interest level. You might also consider adding second grade to this section. This section would feature those lower elementary interest level picture books. Think of books by authors like Eric Carle, Kevin Henkes, Norman Bridwell, Oliver Jeffers, etc.

These are books that your littles want to check out but often get lost in the picture book section because the books are sandwiched between other books on shelves. This section of books I would probably put in bins for kids to browse. We get taught not to judge a book by its cover, but we definitely do that with picture books. Kids especially do this with picture books so they need to be able to see the cover. Bins or low book shelves would be perfect for this.

2. Upper Elementary Picture Books by Genre

Think of those upper elementary interest level books like your Patricia Polacco or Chris Van Allsburg books or any of my 4th grade picture books and 5th grade picture books. The lower elementary kids wouldn’t be as likely to grab these books because it’s not their interest level. With books like these, I would put them with your chapter fiction. For example, I’d put The Mysteries of Harris Burdick in the Mystery genre section. I’d put a lot of Patricia Polacco’s books in the historical fiction section (even though a lot of the stories are biographical).

This is just taking out those books that usually don’t get checked out of your picture book section by the upper elementary kids because their teachers point them towards the chapter book section. Interestingly, the reading level of many of these upper elementary interest level picture books are higher than many chapter books. These books would be in the genre section that they go with and I’d try to face these forward so that kids can see the cover. Remember: kids judge picture books by the cover!

3. General Picture Book Section

All of the remaining picture books that would fit in the 2nd grade, 3rd grade and any that you can’t find a genre for with your genrefied chapter fiction section would stay in your general picture book section.

Why Genrefy Your Picture Book Section?

Why am I organizing the picture book “genres” like this? It’s all about directing kids to the right section for books that interest them. Kindergarteners probably won’t be as interested in reading a historical fiction account about World War II like Star of Fear, Star of Hope, and many upper grade kids who would be interested in that story wouldn’t find it in the crowded picture book section. Those kid WOULD find that book in the historical fiction section, though. It would also de-stigmatize checking out picture books for older kids by putting them in your genre sections. Lower readers might also choose a mystery picture book if their teacher assigns them to check out a mystery book and they cannot read some of the longer chapter mystery books.

On that same vein, the older kids might not go to the picture book sections because they may feel that picture books are for little kids. If, however, you have picture books in with your chapter books, the stigma of checking out picture books becomes less. It also means that it’s easier for the 1st grader to find picture books that would interest them. This is because they don’t have those upper elementary interest level picture books crowding out the lower elementary picture books.

Conclusion: Picture Book Genres and Genrefication

These aren’t necessarily genres of picture books. I know. However, a lot of times the picture book section gets circulated least because there are so many books and only the books on top of the shelves get checked out. By organizing the books by interest level, you help the right kids find the right books, and that is what our job is as elementary librarians. Right? What are your thoughts on how I’m “genrefying” the picture book section? Let me know in the comments!

What is genrefying?

Genrefying is a way to organize the books in your collection commonly by the genre that the book fits in. Genrefying the chapter fiction section is becoming quite the fad in children’s libraries. Some have even begun ditching Dewey and are “genrefying” their nonfiction section. Some common genres in the fiction section might be historical fiction, realistic fiction, fantasy, humor, etc.

This is not a science. Some books fit multiple genres. Remember, you want to put the books where kids will find them and check them out. It requires you to think like that kid that would most likely check out that book. What would make that kid check it out? Is it because it’s an adventure story? Put it in your adventure section. Is it about animals and kids who want books about animals would be most likely to check it out? Put it in your Animal Stories section!

You might change your mind about where you put a book multiple times. A kid may disagree with you about what genre a book fits in. Invite them to explain to you what genre it should be in, and then decide if you are going to move it or not. This could even become a great argumentative writing prompt: Choose any book in the library and explain which genre it should be in rather than the one it currently is in.

What are some ways to genrefy?

There are a number of ways to genrefy. The two main ways to genrefy that I’ll call: genre lite and full genrefying.

Genre Lite: This could look like adding genre tags in your library catalog and/or adding genre stickers to the spine label of your books. This is for those who don’t want to reorganize their whole library. This is also good if you want kids to be able to search for genres but also want the library to keep the alphabetical organization. Kids can search for books by genre in your catalog. They might also be able to see the genre if you add genre stickers to the spine.

Full Genrefying: You do everything in Genre Lite by cataloging your books by genre and you have genre stickers. On top of that, you also put all of the books in the same genre together. That is, you put all of your fantasy books on the same shelves and organize those alphabetically by author. This can be extremely powerful when students really like certain genres. Also, if they tell you that they want to find a scary story, you can point them to your horror section rather than try to recall of the horror book authors.

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Hey there! I’m Josh from Picture Book Brain here to share only the best literature for you to use with your students. If you are looking for a specific book, use the search bar below to check my archives. Glad you’re here, and glad to help you!

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