Forgive me for that mouthful of a title, but I wasn't sure how else to put it. Books are a wonderful addition to the life and learning of a child. But did you know that you can make book experiences for your child even more meaningful? Here are some ideas:
Modeling: Books are treasures. Throughout history, they have been the key to passing knowledge from generation to generation. They deserve the utmost respect—but children do not always understand this on their own. It's our job to model appropriate book behaviors for our budding readers. Handle books with care: cradle them, carry them slowly and carefully, and place them down softly. Turn the pages gently, making note that the paper is fragile. If you notice your child standing on a book or tossing a book on the floor, point it out to him or her! Placing value on this incredible tool is the first step for a child to have positive experiences using it.
Variety: Being sure to offer children a variety of books does two things. First, it helps to teach them a wealth of knowledge on all kinds of topics. Second, it offers an authentic definition of what a book is. Too often I see storybooks dominate a bookshelf or library. Don’t forget about nonfiction, chapter books (many children enjoy and comprehend chapter books when they are read aloud-even if they can’t yet read them independently!), books without words, alphabet books, counting books, the list goes on…
Rotation: Just like toy rotation, book rotation involves offering a well-curated selection that gets changed to follow a child’s development, interests, and the world around him. This involves organizing your child’s books, storing them in a safe, covered place, and changing them every few weeks. This is also a perfect opportunity to introduce your child to your local public library! Choosing, renewing, returning—these are all important and enjoyable experiences for a child, not to mention the concept of sharing books within a community.
Repetition: Have you noticed your child looking at the same books over and over, or asking to be read the same story again and again? This is a good thing! When children start to memorize a story, they are working on their comprehension skills (which are SO important in reading). If a few weeks have gone by and your child is still interested in a certain book, don’t feel like you have to change it! If you want to go even deeper, offer another version of your child’s favorite story, or a different book on the same topic. You can even put together an activity that helps your child re-enact a story. It could be as simple as drawing or photocopying images from the book. There are also entire Etsy shops dedicated to selling story retelling activities (like this one).
Display: There are many different ways to display books; think about choosing one that encourages respect for the book (this plays into the book behaviors I talked about earlier). When books are carefully and beautifully displayed, children get the message that they are important and precious. Shelving that displays books with the covers facing out is a great option because it limits what you can offer (remember: less is more), and it makes it easy for children to browse. Believe it or not, rain gutters make fantastic, inexpensive bookshelves! You can also use picture rails (IKEA has sturdy, cheap ones) or even spice racks (great for smaller books or board books). Baskets are another way to display books, and let you group them together by topic, if you so choose.
How else do you introduce, utilize, and show the books in your home? Feel free to share in the comments!