Are you as infatuated as I am with the Pinterest boards full of adorable kids’ reading nooks? My real-life efforts to create one resulted in my husband placing a moratorium on requests to help hang any type of floating shelf, but a reading area does make sense. After all, research identifies a designated “library” stocked with diverse and appealing titles arranged for students to easily access them, and ample time for students to read, as hallmarks of an effective classroom reading program. Family literacy research echoes the value of easy access to books and time spent reading at home. It also makes sense, though, that when something in your home is conveniently located, you tend to use it more often. (Just ask the single-use kitchen appliances stored in the backs of upper cabinets gathering dust.)
We’re lucky to have an extensive supply of children’s literature, but when I think about what best helps us weave books into our days, it isn’t one charming reading spot. It’s the small piles of books stashed in various locations around our house. Besides our main collection that lives on those slightly crooked floating bookshelves in our family room, these are the places we keep kids’ books:
Yes, I want my kids to spend time reading, but I also use books to solve household problems. We live in New England, where winters require donning extensive outdoor clothing. Tired of having one kid dash off through the house while I wrestled boots onto the next, I added a basket of books to our mudroom. Now, kids who are dressed sit and look at books until everyone is ready. The other benefit of this location is that with my boot-wrestling commitments, I am never in a position to read these books aloud, so titles that need a hiatus from our bedtime story rotation often end up here.
The Kitchen Drawer
In our busy household, I often need to confine my toddler to his high chair to get a meal on the table. I keep some of his favorite books in the kitchen and pass them to him to browse while I cook. He flips the pages, we chat about the pictures, and everyone gets fed.
Outside the Bathroom
We have a relatively effective shower assembly line system in place, but once again, it falls apart when one kid disappears to somewhere else in the house. It’s not practical for us to keep books in our bathroom, with its failing exhaust fan, but keeping them nearby gives everyone something productive to do while they wait.
Near Pretend Play Items
When I taught kindergarten, I found that storing relevant books in the different zones of my classroom was a natural invitation for children to incorporate them into their imaginative play. The same holds true for play at home. Children’s cookbooks, or even unused adult ones or cooking magazines, invite “recipe” consultation near the play kitchen. Lullaby books near the stuffed animals and baby dolls prompt loving renditions of “bedtime stories.” Books about construction or different types of homes tucked next to a bin of blocks inspire creative building. Occasionally we create some kind of pretend play scenery, usually when we have a large cardboard box to inspire us, and books can play a role there, too. We’ve had a stuffed animal zoo, including animal nonfiction books “to help the zookeepers” and a weather station desk with weather books to “answer weather questions.” We went through a long pretend airport and airplane phase when my oldest son was a toddler, supported by constant referral to Richard Scarry’s A Day at the Airport and other related titles.
Hidden Away in the Basement
Yes, this directly conflicts with the “access” principle, but for good reason. When my kids don’t see a book for a while, bringing it out again feels celebratory. I put away holiday and seasonal books when the calendar turns, and we all enjoy rediscovering them the following year. We also take breaks from popular series on occasion (Berenstain Bears, I’m looking at you) and get the whole stack back out a few months later with refreshed energy. Wherever you squirrel them away, rotating books can help keep family libraries both interesting and manageable.
Do you have a unique place you keep children’s books in your home? Share your great ideas in the comments section below!