How to Curate & Cultivate Your Best Home Library
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Congratulations, you're a home librarian! Are you a parent who wants to build or curate the best possible home library for your children? When your child is first born, you'll start off with a few great and classic board books, but pretty soon and before you know it, your kiddo is growing and you need to consider what literature might be best to focus on.
I've listed for you below some ideas to consider when making your book purchases, as well as a few ideas as you design the space in your home.
The two main areas we'll focus on: Which books to pick? and.. What should my library look like?
To start, let's talk about what books you should purchase. Consider:
Books that are meant for your child's age. For instance,
Newborn to babies- Choose bright and colorful books that are durable. Remember that babies are being introduced to everything new in the world through sight, sound and feel, so choose textural, easy to hold and handle books with great rhyme & repetition in the text.
A few books my kids have loved are Where Is Baby's Belly Button?, Goodnight Moon, Baby Touch and Feel: Animals, Pat the Bunny, The Runaway Bunny, Peek-A-Who, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, and so many more!
Toddlers & preschoolers - Durable, bright and colorful books will still rule the day with books you put in his hands, but make sure to add books with deeper characters and a simple plotline for your preschooler to enjoy.
We're Going On A Bear Hunt, the Bear Snores On series, , read aloud Beatrix Potter books, The Very Hungry Caterpillar are all books my own children have loved. Richard Scarry Word Books (although somewhat out of date, still wonderful), and all Dr.Suess books are great choices for beginning letter and word recognition for kids.
Elementary ages - Frog and Toad, Magic Treehouse series, Junie B. Jones or Judy Blume, Anne of Green Gables, Charlotte's Web, My Side of the Mountain, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, A Wrinkle In Time, mystery series such as Nancy Drew or the Boxcar Children and the Harry Potter series are all wonderful books.
Preteen and teens - The Hobbit, Maze Runner series, the Book Thief, Holes, Hunger Game series, Beverly Lewis books, A Voice in the Wind trilogy, Narnia books, Percy Jackson books, the Hiding Place or any of the classics such as The Jungle Book or Swiss Family Robinson.
By the way, I compiled HERE a .pdf list of 75 places online where you can get FREE children's books if you would like to check it out!
Books that take you outside your normal worldview. Pick books that will widen your child's viewpoint. Bring him or her to places she wouldn't otherwise get to know in your corner of the world.
Specifically pick out books that deal with a struggle or situation your child faces. Bullying, new glasses, sickness, losing a tooth, sibling rivalry, peer pressure or insecurities. Books are a great way to walk with a child through the worst of life struggles such as racism, hate, sickness, war or death.
Head over to Pinterest and do a search for "Children's book that deal with__(fill in here what you are looking for)__"
Books that celebrate life! Birthdays, holidays, moving to a new grade level or losing a tooth can all be celebrated with fellow characters of literature.
Literature that teaches your child where we have come from. Stories of old and history will be best displayed to your children through great literature and well-told accounts of things past.
The classics are great for this. But when you are picking out these type books, do your best to get multiple points of view from folks of different cultures, countries, and people.
Teach your child how important it is to look at all sides of an historical record. Research and embark on a journey together as you delve into an area of the past. Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt, Chasing Lincoln's Killer, Anne Frank, Little House on the Prairie series, the "I Survived" series, Henry's Freedom Box, Dash
Books that your child gets to choose, all on his own. On the flip side (and I know many would disagree with me), allow your child to buy a book of his own choosing at times.
A fluff book that cost a dollar off of Scholastic? That's okay! Your child had the joy of picking the book out and looking forward to the read. Diary of a Wimpy Kid? That's okay! How fun!
Now, the problem I do see with some school choices and teaching of today is that educators are so desperate to get kids to LOVE reading, that they allow the child to pick out EVERY book. I don't think that is wise, personally. Kids are not naturally going to gravitate to Oliver Twist (well not most kids these days), but that doesn't mean that Oliver Twist won't greatly enrich their life. It will! And a parent or teacher must be the one to introduce it. Both can be done well.
But please, don't swing to the other end of the pendulum and never let your child pick out a nerdy, useless, fun-and-silly-only book. You only get to be a kid once 🙂 And you DO want your child to look forward to picking out their own book, right?
Books that teach morals and speak to a greater purpose in life. The Bible, Aesop's Fables, A Child's Book of Virtues, Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael, Jim Elliot, any of the Lightkeepers series or Pilgrim's Progress (also check out Little Pilgrim's Progress).
What a wonderful way to teach values to your child. Through the written word you can teach your child joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and even self-control.
And a few more considerations:
Should you ban certain books from your child's library? Well - I'll take a middle ground on this one. You as the parent will have to decide for yourself with your child's age and emotional maturity in mind. Certain books will always be banned from libraries (and countries) even at the appropriate age level.
I'm usually of the mind for my children that reading difficult, bad or taboo subjects is BEST introduced in a book (when they are ready). I just want to be a part of it when my kid is experiencing it so we can have conversations on the topics needed.
They say that books become a part of you, and I agree. I take that to mean that you develop your opinions and mindsets from people who have faced different situations than you through their stories. That's a good thing! To put yourself in another's shoes and consider how they have felt and dealt with certain situations, even horrible situations, is to have a better ground to stand on when shaping your own character.
Here is an article I found with a list of "40 Banned Books to Read at Your Own Risk". (And I gotta be honest, the vast majority of these are books I've read and loved (and learned from!)).
Where is the best place to look for books? These days - anywhere and everywhere! Of course, you should always be filling and rotating books to your home library from the local library.
Utilize the online resources from your public library, such as placing books on hold (if you don't have time to linger and want to just go grab), audio books online, or eBooks that you can borrow from your library's resources.
To buy books, get online and type in "book store near me". I bet you have a used book seller or two near where you live. There are always garage sales that will have a few treasures. If you need a book delivered to your door, there is always of course Amazon, the mack daddy of bookstores.
Go grab a coffee and linger at your local Barnes & Noble. Show your children that bookstores and booksellers are a peaceful and great place to spend time.
Discover a few unknown books! Did you know that independent children's book authors (aka: indie authors) are creating books for you to read as we speak? There are so many great deals out there and beautiful books that await you that may not be found on the New York Times' Best Seller List.
Check out "children's books" groups on Facebook and you'll see indie authors advertising their creations for your child. You can encourage independent authorship and enrich your child all at once in a (probably great-priced) product!
Check out this list of lesser-known children's books HERE (some Indie, some small publishers).
Now. Let's talk about the space you will create for you and your children to get lost in a book.
Oooooh! I'm such a book nerd, I know it! But, can you imagine what a great career it would be to get to go into people's homes and create a library space for them? Dream job! If you are reading this article and you do that for a living, please do share 🙂 I couldn't help but grab a few links that might help you envision a wonderful library for your home, big or small.
To create a beautiful space conducive for reading, you need to think about incorporating these 4 things:
- A quiet space
- Plenty of room for the books
- Personalization and creativity
A quiet space - Choose a spot in your home that can be your children's "quiet spot". Remove outside stimulus, noise, and distraction. Somewhere he can curl up, maybe with a pillow or a bean bag or some kind of cool hammock-chair if you want to go all out.
If you can, make your library location away from house traffic and an "away place" where your child can go to be with her own thoughts. Put a small CD player in a corner for soothing music or audio books. Maybe a little wallflower from Bath & Body or something to make your library smell wonderful, and a soft rug underfoot to pull it all together.
Beauty - You want your space to be a place of loveliness, that facilitates the way your child can see the beauty of the world through the books he reads. Whatever colors you choose (whether for a beanbag or chair, paint or curtains), choose complementary colors that go well together and bring together one space into it's own separate area.
When life gets hard, as it always does, beautify this little space in your home. A home away from home. Step into a room that allows your books to come to life through travel and adventure, beautiful animals, people, clothes, countries, mountains, and oceans through time and space. Let it be a place where your child's imagination is allowed to wander.
Room for the Books - Of course you'll need to find a way to stack, file or display those amazing books. Check out Pinterest or search the internet for great ideas. It will probably depend on your budget, but some great choices are simply - classic bookshelves or crates lined up to sort and show the books. You can always repurpose an old bookshelf, armoire, or cabinet to hold books.
Always organize with the spine out (or the cover, if you are using magazine racks). The goal here is ease of use and beauty in display to entice readers. Books are like old friends, and the best ones are to be visited time and time again.
When you organize, think of the height of your child and put the best books for them within reach. (Or add a cute stepladder for reaching). However you display your books, be sure to have a place for every book and every book in its place.
Personalization and Creativity - To make the space personal for your children, let them help you when you design. He or she can maybe paint a wall, or help you decide colors. Give them a spot on the shelves to be in charge of. Hang their artwork in the library, work they have accomplished, or their fancy name up on the wall. Maybe ask them what they would like to see in the library for decoration. They probably will have some great ideas!
Here are a few pins I found that have some more great ideas for your home library:
http://geekologie.com/2013/11/i-must-have-one-a-reading-net-for-your-a.php (A reading net? How COOL!)
http://www.thebooandtheboy.com/2014/12/reading-nooks-for-kids.html (More pretty reading nooks)
Do you have some more ideas on creating a great home library? Comment below and let us know so we can all benefit. And hey - listen! If you have a home library, take a pic of it, send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll POST IT ON THIS PAGE. You can show your child how famous your home library is! Or even better, show us a before and after 🙂
Forever a reader for life,