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Blog: Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles
Reducing Book Clutter (Part 2): Book Rentals for Kids

Readers, you didn't ask, but the favorite books of my childhood included:

The Wizard of Wallaby Wallow , Charlotte's Web, and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, as well as The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon, I Mean Noel, The Westing Game and every other book by the late and undoubtedly great Ellen Raskin. I'm sure it was difficult for PaperMommy to keep pace with my voracious reading appetite.

Last week, we reviewed some of the advantages and disadvantages of renting books for adult readers. With library budgets plummeting, there are fewer days and times for getting to the library when it's open, fewer new titles, and fewer circulating copies of books. And let's face it, the average price of tangible books isn't likely to decrease any time soon.

As Paper Doll alluded last week, renting books offers intriguing options for allowing you to:

--Organize your space by permanently keeping only the books you wish to own because you love them and will delight in owning, displaying and rereading them. If you rent a book, there's no angst over letting it go and returning it, allowing you to maximize your space and minimize the clutter.

--Organize your time by not schlepping to the the library, only to find it's unexpectedly closed because of budget cuts or in-service training. Renting also means you shouldn't have to put yourself on a waiting list for the one available copy of the title you want.

--Organize your finances by helping you budget a set dollar amount for reading an (often) unlimited number of titles, or at least as many as you can devour in a set period.

Companies like Chegg and BookRenter cater to college students renting textbooks, and BookSwim and BooksFree indulge (mainly) adult readers. Today, we'll review some great book rental options for child bibliophiles and parents who want to encourage their kids to be more active readers.

Obviously, we all want to nurture the habit of reading in children. However, given ever-increasing children's book prices, the fact that children can be very unpredictable in their selection of books they like to read dozens of times vs. those they weary of upon the first reading, and the difficulties facing many of our libraries (particularly in rural areas), more solutions are needed.

Renting books is an economical way to augment book purchases and library borrowing and give children the opportunity to experience and savor lots of books without spending more money than one can afford.

BookPig operates much like the adult services we discussed last week, with a particularly charming, kid-friendly interface. In BookPig's own words (and pictures):

Kids and parents can search via keywords for authors or titles or select from various lists for genres or recommended stories, and there's an option to get assistance with finding titles from staff librarians. BookPig provides age- and grade-appropriate suggestions, and tracks children's reading levels (based on past successful rentals) to help guide title suggestions.

Users can add individual titles or entire series to their book queues with one click, and titles can be removed from the queue or marked as "too hard" or "too easy", so the system can learn individual preferences. As is typical, there are no late fees or due dates. Member families can set up reading queues for each child at each appropriate reading level.

Because getting kids excited about reading can sometimes take some added effort, the rental books arrive in fun, brightly colored packaging and include computer-readable commentary stickers kids can return in order to rate the books they've read.

Unlike adult book rental services, kids' rentals tend toward a flat number of books per month. BookPig's current Back-to-School rates (good through October 31, 2010) range from $8.95 for three books per month to $18.95 for 18 books per month, with other increments at 5, 8 and 12 books per month.

BookPig offers a 100% guarantee and will refund refund your money if you are not satisfied with the service.

Grow Up With Books is a book rental service designed specifically for children by reading professionals. First, sign up for an account and select a pricing plan that best fits your family's needs. As with BookPig, rental plans are based on a flat number of books per month, rather than unlimited rentals with only a set number of books out at one time. Grow Up With Books has four reading plans:

Very Light Readers -- 3 books per month at $13/month
Light Readers -- 5 books per month at $20/month
Medium Readers -- 9 books per month at $27/month
Heavy Readers -- 15 books per month at $40/month

Next, follow the basics:

1) Create an online queue of books. Books are categorized at four age-appropriate reading levels:

The Seed -- "readers" aged 0-2
The Sprout -- readers aged 3-4
The Sappling -- readers aged 5-8
The Young Tree -- readers aged 9-12

Kids and parents can seek titles by age group, or select from categories including traditional children's literature, favorite characters or authors, special interest non-fiction, seasonally-themed titles and new releases.

Grow Up With Book's reading consulting team is made up of reading professionals and teachers who help select books and advise on individual selection issues. The team developed the Read TWO program, based on the idea that at different ages and/or reading levels, children will benefit from having books read:

To them,
ith them (with parents available for the harder parts), and on their
wn, with input from parents for book selection and discussion.

Kids are advised to develop their own skills for knowing when they need reading help from others. They are told to open books to any page and put up one finger each time they encounter words with which they are unfamiliar. Zero to 2 words --read it on your own; 3-4 words, have someone read it with you; 5+ words, have someone read it to you. This process eliminates the guesswork and gives children guidance for understanding when to work challenges on their own and when to seek help.

2) Receive and read books.

There are no late fees or due dates, as with the other rental plans we have reviewed. Books are shipped from Grow Up With Books' Virginia warehouse via the U.S. Postal Service's Media Mail, so it can take 3-10 days for books to arrive. However, as mentioned previously, since children's book rentals are for a flat number of titles per month, shipping time does not adversely impact the dollar value of books-per-month as it does with adult book rentals (or video services like Netflix).

3) Return books in the pre-paid mailer.

If that month's mailer gets lost amid the clutter, just contact Grow Up With Books, and they'll forward another at no cost.

Memberships can't be paused, but can be canceled at any time.

Grow Up With Books differentiates itself from other book rental companies in one big way. Their books are all sanitized between rentals! Indeed, Grow Up With Books actually has two separate sanitation programs, both of which are considered environmentally-friendly, EPA registered and effective against the H1N1 virus.

First, every time a book is returned to the warehouse, it is sanitized. Second, bi-annually, every title in the GUWB collection is sanitized through a process that "incorporates a bonding mechanism that actually continues to kill germs and viruses".

Grow Up With Books is also partners with various charities, including the Peace Corps, First Book Charlotte, Goodwill and REACH (Reading Enriches All Children).

Although BookPig and Grow Up With Books are the two major book rental services focusing exclusively on children's books, it's likely that more general-audience companies will follow in BooksFree's footsteps, as we mentioned last week, and offer children's rentals as part of a broad spectrum of services. Paper Doll likes the idea, especially for families with younger children, of services like BookPig and Grow Up With Books because selections and descriptions are overseen by children's librarians, teachers and reading specialists.

It should be noted that smaller niche children's book rental services are popping up.

Les Petite Livres specializes in online rentals of French-language books for children. However, the rental process is more like a book club than a rental service in one respect -- you don't choose the actual titles for your child to read.

1) Select your rental plan type.

The rental plan options are a hybrid of those we've seen with children's and adult plans. While some of Les Petite Livres plans offer a flat number of books per month, others are more like adult plans, as the number of books one can rent in a given period is unlimited, or at least only limited by reading and shipping speeds. The plans allow:

2 books at a time, limit of two books per month, at $11.99/month
3 books at a time, limit of three books per month, at $14.99/month
4 books at a time, limit of four books per month, at $17.99/month
4 books at a time, unlimited number of books per month, at $31.99/month
6 books at a time, unlimited number of books per month, at $41.99/month

All plans include free shipping both ways via U.S. Postal Service Media Mail, which will tend to slightly slow delivery and reduce the number of books that can be read each month on the unlimited plans. There are no due dates or late fees. However, unlike other (larger) book rental services, they do not absorb the cost of lost pre-paid mailers. If you lose the pre-paid mailer, you must return titles at your own cost.

2) Select book interest categories.

You select the age group appropriate for your child, whether you want fiction or non-fiction titles, and whether your child is a boy or girl. Les Petites Livres selects the books they'll send based on these refined options and ships what they believe to be appropriate.

On the one hand, this may seem a little in loco parentis; on the other hand, North American kids and their parents (outside of Quebec) are unlikely to be familiar with the most popular or beloved French titles, authors and series. In Les Petites Livres' own words:

...[C]hildren enjoy many different types of books but sometimes tend to gravitate towards the same type of books over and over again: our service allows for greater diversity in what they are exposed to, from French classics to modern titles.  

And, of course, there's something to be said for surprises. Vive la différence!


One organizing tip: whether you borrow or rent books, designate one shelf or table where all borrowed or rented items (books, CDs, DVDs, games, etc.) live, and teach your children (or members of the household who act like children) to return items to that space when the reading, listening, watching or playing is over. This decreases the likelihood of titles getting lost or mixed in with family possessions and increases the likelihood items will be returned on time.

If you know of other non-textbook book-rental services, either for adults or children, that have not been covered in either last week's post or this one, please feel free to comment and share the information. (In order to prevent spam, our blog platform doesn't allow for full URLs, but if you eliminate the http:// from the front of the link, the comment section won't eat your words.)

In future posts, we'll be looking at other great options for readers to keep book clutter at a minimum while expanding the array of books we can read. We've covered renting, but borrowing, swapping, listening and digitizing are all on the horizon.

posted on: 9/7/2010 10:30:00 AM by Julie Bestry
category: Paper

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Discuss This Post

by Janet Barclay, Organized Assistant on 9/7/2010 4:01:33 PM:

Julie, it always amazes me how you manage to find such interesting resources! You must tell us your secrets sometime...

by Julie Bestry (Paper Doll) on 9/7/2010 5:19:54 PM:

Paper elves. (Shhhhhhh. They like to maintain a low profile.)

by Janet Barclay, Organized Assistant on 9/7/2010 5:53:07 PM:

Your secret is safe with me (and your thousands of other adoring fans).

by Kate S. Brown on 10/11/2011 12:36:56 AM:

This is a fascinating dive into an area where I have zero expertise these days - I just love the pig that is so delighted to be receiving a book delivery. Does anyone remember when, as a child, it was a huge deal to receive a piece of mail with your name on it - it had to be important and/or money inside - either way, you were a celebrity for at least 5 minutes as the siblings wondered why you were so important. Imagine if the postman was bringing you BOOKS addressed to YOU...I'd have been swaggering around after that delivery. Love this post!

by julie Bestry (Paper Doll) on 10/11/2011 6:24:34 PM:

Kate, I feel that way about mail now, and not just when it comes from Amazon!

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Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles

by Julie Bestry

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Julie Bestry, President of Best Results Organizing in Chattanooga, TN, is a Certified Professional Organizer®, speaker and author. Julie helps overwhelmed individuals and businesses save time and money, reduce stress and increase productivity through new organizational skills and systems.

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