Growing Bookworms Newsletter: June 28
While You Are Sleeping: Durga Bernhard

Tips for Growing Bookworms: #9 Create Cozy Reading Spaces within Your Home: A Booklights Reissue

This post was originally published at Booklights on March 8, 2010. Now that I have my own growing bookworm, I'm working on the coziness of the reading spaces in my home. But I'm having no problem with keeping books handy. At the moment we have picture books and board books: in a basket in the kitchen; in a play tent in the family room; in the pack-n-play; in the master bedroom closet; in the diaper bag; on the table and the desk in my office; on the nightstand in the guest room; and on bookshelves in the front hall, office, guest room, and baby's room. Of course books end up on the floor in all of these rooms on a daily basis. (See some photos here.)

What this means is that wherever Baby Bookworm happens to be playing around the house, she usually has books within reach. She will frequently pick up a book if she is bored or even in need of comfort. When we've been moving about the house, playing in different rooms, she leaves a trail of open books behind her. I don't have to tell you all that this pleases me, do I?

Tips for Growing Bookworms: #9 Create Cozy Reading Spaces within Your Home, and Keep Books Handy

This is Part 9 of a continuing series on encouraging young readers. These ideas were originally captured in a post that I did on my blog in 2007, 10 Tips for Growing Bookworms. Here at Booklights I'll be expanding upon and updating each idea, and adding links for more information.

litnpugs.JPGTip #9: Create cozy reading spaces within your house, and keep books handy in different places. The idea here is to a) continue to make reading a pleasurable activity, one that kids will want to repeat often, and b) make it convenient to read, so that kids will choose books as an option when they happen to have some free time. [Image credit: MorgueFile, photo by taliesin]

Amy wrote about this idea recently at Literacy Launchpad, when she said: "Have Books Everywhere... and Watch the Magic Happen!". Jim at Teacherninja talked about books as "bait", and said (of keeping books in convenient locations) "If you build it, they will come...". And of course Jim Trelease talked about this in The Read-Aloud Handbook (which I reviewed here).

Think about all of the places that you child could read, if you were to provide the right environment and materials. Here are a few ideas:

  • Leon's Library.jpgSet up a cozy reading corner in your child's bedroom, with a beanbag or a comfortable chair, a good lamp, and access to a bookshelf. [This is a much better use of space than, say, putting a TV in the child's bedroom, that's for sure.] Personally, I find a cozy reading space a temptation in and of itself. I want to spend time there, curled up, lost in a story. [Image from Susan's earlier post, with thanks to Alex Zealand for the picture of her five year old's bedroom and his book collection. ]
  • Make sure your child's bed is reading-friendly - enough light, enough pillows, and a table or shelf nearby on which to store some extra titles. Make sure there's someplace comfortable for Mom or Dad to sit, too, to read aloud.
  • Keep a few children's books handy by your own bed, too, in case of late-night, bad-dream-inspired emergencies.
  • Have baskets of books in the kitchen, the bathroom, the family room, and anyplace else in the house that your child spends time. See Susan's recent post on home libraries for some examples. It doesn't matter how you store the books (baskets, piles, shelves, boxes) - it just matters that they're readily available, and the kids can find them. And of course they can be library books, too - you don't have to buy hundreds of books to do this.
  • Keep books in the car. Teacherninja Jim said: "The back of the driver's side car seats in both of our vehicles are stuffed with magazines and slim books that my daughter likes. There's no DVD player (except on long trips). Guess what she does when she's not bopping to the music?".
  • For older kids, have a bookshelf near the entrance to the garage. Make it easy for your child to pick up a book on the way out to the car. I know for me, some of best childhood reading was done in the car. I'd carefully choose a book, even for the 15 minute car ride to Grandma's house. And longer drives would have been unbearable without books to help me tune out my three younger siblings.

I can see that it would be tempting to keep all of the books in, say, the child's bedroom. Tempting to keep the piles of books out of the way, and thus keep down the clutter. But there are all sorts of moments throughout the day when your child might read, if a book happened to be nearby. And you'll miss those moments if the books are hard to get at. For example, say you receive a phone call on your way out the door, and your child is waiting for you, bored, at the kitchen table. A book could help keep the peace AND squeeze in a little reading time.

Matilda.jpgOne final point is that how you set up your house sends a strong message about how you feel about books, a message that your kids will read loud and clear. If all of the shelf space in your living room is dedicated to DVDs and video games, and books are nowhere to be found, how can you expect your child to choose books? (Matilda Wormwood was a notable exception, dragging her little wagon to the library on her own.) On the other hand, if you've carved out comfortable reading spaces, and you've piled up books in most of the rooms of the house, your child is going to think "hey, reading is what people do." And isn't that what this growing bookworms thing is all about?

Do you have cozy reading spaces set up for your child? Where do you keep your child's books? What am I missing in the above tips?

This post was originally published at Booklights on March 8, 2010. Since Booklights has ended, I am republishing selected posts here, at Jen Robinson's Book Page, with permission from PBS Parents. Booklights was funded by the PBS Kids Raising Readers initiative. All rights reserved.