In a recent article by The National Literacy Trust, it was noted that becoming a lifetime reader is based on developing a deep love of reading, and that a welcoming, print-rich home environment is a key influence on how children —and adults — embrace the art of escaping into words and pictures.
Beautifully illustrated books and classic literature are nice to have, but an inviting, designated spot for snuggling up and exploring special topics or going on literary adventures is a worthy addition to a home. So, how can you achieve this idea of an esoteric space where books, art, and musical collections are available to be read and discussed by all who wander there?
You build it. And if you build it, they will come.
When I say, “build,” I don’t mean that you need to call a contractor and add square footage to your house. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
• Find a space for your home library. Many families have found that setting aside a spot in the home where their family traditionally gathers is the perfect place to start; any space is fine, even in a corner of your family room. Your focus should be on creating a comfortable area with adequate lighting and a variety of materials to engage your readers. If space allows, consider a rocking chair or overstuffed pillows or rugs to lay on.
• Materials to include. Just about anything goes in a family library. Look at what you already own. Are some of your childhood favorites tucked in boxes in your attic? It's the variety, not the amount, which really counts. Keep in mind the special interests and preferences of each member of the family, incorporating favorite subjects and authors. Local libraries often host book sales, and used book stores are another great way to build your collection. Consider including classics such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, or the Little House book series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, a dictionary, an illustrated atlas, old set of encyclopedias, magazines, song books, newspapers and periodicals.
Also consider chapter books and lots of picture books! Yes, picture books. Traditionally a 24- or 32-page formatted children’s story illustrated with words and images, picture books over the past decade have developed into amazing pieces of artistry that combine language and illustration in a way that entices young readers — and those who are “young at heart” — to channel their inner child. Readers can fall, even for a short time, into fantastical worlds like Aaron Becker’s Quest, in which a girl and her friend draw their ideas into existence.
You could include one of the many pictorial biographies or history picture books to be used as reference for school, discussion, or even the beginnings of a historical family vacation. A small collection of books, thoughtfully gathered over time, is better than a large collection that goes unread. By keeping the ages and interests of family members in mind when selecting your library material and getting their suggestions, you are making sure there is something for everyone at every reading level.
• Display your treasures. Sturdy bookcases, built-in shelves, and open magazine racks are excellent places to display and store reading material. Crates and baskets work well, too. A floor-to-ceiling wall system with glass doors might be beautiful, but would discourage a young reader who couldn't get to the books inside. Be sure to put reading material for the youngest readers on the lowest shelves. You may want to group together books about your child's favorite topics — from dinosaurs to space travel — or books by a favorite author. Maybe designate an assortment of books for each family member in a special place or on a special shelf for them to enjoy as their own.
• Add art. A home library shouldn’t be a place to just sit and read. It should also be an inviting oasis that inspires via words and pictures. If space allows, include some fine paper journals and pens for writing, as well as pencils and maybe charcoal, and a sketchpad to draw. A small set of watercolors, brushes and paper to paint. Create your own (or print existing) bookplates to put inside your favorite books. Have cardstock and markers available to make bookmarks inspired by titles and characters. Including some photo albums filled with family and friends is a great way to relax and share memories. Books on tape and music DVDs are other ways to utilize the space with creative additions to reading.
Now that you have a spot, invite your family to “Dig in!” Instead of a family movie night, have a family R.E.A.D Night. R.E.A.D. (Reading, Enrichment, Art, and Design) is a program that expands on traditional reading groups by incorporating discussion and art into a shared experience. Have everyone in your family share what they are reading. Use paper, pencils, even small watercolor sets, to create illustrations for books that have none. Challenge another family member to create a song or dance to complement what they’re reading, and then perform it.
Reading a book from a far-away place or with an ethnic theme? Research favorite foods and recipes from the setting and create a book-themed dinner. Maybe even have that movie night, only choose one based on a favorite book you’ve read together (children’s stories are great for this) so you can discuss the differences.
The power of reading is as important as anything we learn. Reading develops your brain, language, creative thinking, and problem-solving skills, but most importantly reading provides you with a window into the world around you. So build your space. Your literary, creative oasis. Fill it with books, maps, music, and art. Invite your family to come in and relax. Share what you’ve created, and they will come.
Next page: 5 Inspirations For Building Your Dream Home Library
5 Inspirations For Building Your Dream Home Library
1. An Unlikely Story: Created and owned by Wimpy Kid best-selling author Jeff Kinney, this environmentally friendly, independent bookstore in Plainville is filled with books, gifts, and places to explore. Visit its Website for details and upcoming events: anunlikelystory.com.
2. Book Pickings @ Brain Pickings: Brain Pickings is the brainchild of writer and blogger Maria Popova. The literary review extension of a beautifully creative blog, Book Pickings looks at books from all genres and styles, and reviews them not only for content, but also for their place in what matters to the world and why. From the meaning behind the writing to the story and technique behind the pictures, this is the place to go when looking for new books for every spot on your shelf: bookpickings.brainpickings.org
3. Metropolitan Museum of Art Museum Store: The Metropolitan Museum of Art co-publishes its own series of books and children’s books about art and artists. Available at the Museum Store in NYC and online, they range from exhibition journals, such as Matisse: In Search of True Painting to When Pigasso Met Mootisse, a children’s book by Nina Laden. Art books of all kinds make a perfect addition to a home library. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Store is located at 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York, with an online store at store.metmuseum.org.
4. The Horn Book: Considered the guide for children’s and young adult literature, the Horn Book Guide is a bi-monthly periodical that critically reviews new books from all genre and subject matter. If you are looking for something new, something uniquely illustrated, or something for a special someone on your holiday list, visit hbook.com.
5. The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art: An Art Museum. Performances. An art studio. The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst is also a must visit for anyone who loves to read. Bring your sketchbook and pencils to draw in the galleries. Read your favorite children’s book in a cozy corner of the library. Spend some time in the studio making art. Sit under the apple trees and enjoy the day. A wonderful, family friendly, art- and book-based nirvana for those who love to read. Visit carlemuseum.org.