Shortly after Ginny was born I bought myself a present. To be honest, most people probably wouldn’t consider it anything special, but I love to buy books. Paper, bound, real pages, sit on a shelf type books. I relish in my collection.
Also – I hate reading.
So the majority of my books are informative books. How-to books, cookbooks, textbooks, decorating books, and a growing set of craft books. I held on to a lot of my text books from college and have pulled out my child psychology book more than once while watching my baby grow. I was also glad that I kept my sign language books when I was teaching sign language – because they were great reference.
Any way, my present. It was a book called “Playful Learning”. (The author has a blog thought I can’t speak to it’s usefulness, since I only just found it.)Though I was disappointed to find out it is meant for older children (grade school aged), I started reading it any way, and I am glad I did because it gives me a mind for how to set up a good learning environment, for now and for the future as Ginny grows older.
In the book she outlines ways to make your house learning friendly. Growing up my family really valued books. When we got grounded it wasn’t from watching TV or going outside to play, rather our parents took our night time reading books away – because that was one thing that my siblings and I really cherished Twisted. I know. lol.
I knew in having my own child that I wanted to foster that same love of books. And the way to do that? Have books around!
In Playful Learning the author suggests having a reading area with child sized chairs and books at the kid’s level. Originally we had Ginny’s books occupying one “cubby” of her toy shelves (which I’ll touch on in another post). But, as I found new thrift stores, and picked up a book here or there on trips to the store ( who turns down 99 cent books!?) her pile began to grow… and grow… and grow. It honestly became unmanageable. Every time she wanted to read books the entire collection would end up on the floor, and she had access to books that were really too delicate (paper pages) or not interesting to her, which would result in her getting frustrated because she couldn’t turn the pages or throwing the book because it was just in her way.
The madness needed to stop.
So, remembering the suggesting from Playful Learning I decided to set up a reading area. We have several “living” areas in our house. The Living Room (where the TV and toys reside), the “recreational room” where… all of the boxes we’ve opened to dig stuff out of but haven’t completely unpacked reside, and the “parlor”, where the piano and craft table reside.
I decided to put her reading area in the parlor. It just made sense. This is the room we spend our no-tech time in. So I dedicated an entire bookshelf to the baby, picked out a chair (which took a lot of time, I’m too picky), and then piled all the books on.
Again. Too many books, not enough definition.
Which brings me to the purpose of this post. Children are overwhelmed easily. Just like food, pretty much everything in life is better in moderation. So the first thing I did was organize based on age appropriateness. Books with paper pages, too much writing (she still has a short attention span), and books that are clearly beyond her scope. These books went on the top, out of reach, shelf.
Everything else went to my craft table:
All of her board books, four plastic “tubs” that I bought in the dollar section at Target, and a Chalk Marker (available on amazon, meant for writing on windows and chalkboards).
Mariah Bruehl (the aforementioned author) suggested organizing the books by topic, and having some topics that rotate beased on the time of year. While I was at a local thrift store (where five children’s books cost less than $3!) I saw a book about Halloween, and a book about football. Knowing I had another “football” themed book my parents had given us, and a little board book about camping I decided to do one box of “Fall” themed books, one with books about animals, one about the body (which includes a book like a “head, shoulders, knees and toes” book, and one about baby feet), and then lastly I grouped the numbers, colors, and shapes books together. Shall we call that the geometry box? lol.
The rest of the books (that middle pile) went on top of the book shelf.
Shortly there after I realized that the boxes were too wide to sit side by side on the self, so I had to re-write the titles on the ends of the containers before I could sit them on the shelf.
I admit, this does not mean that our books are always organized. Some times Ginny just wants to dump all of the buckets out. But it makes it easier to reinforce the concept of one at a time – even if that means one bucket at a time. And though she can’t read the labels, I think it sets a good precedence.
Also – the nice thing about using a chalk marker is that it does not just wipe off with regular touching, but is easy to clean off with a damp sponge when it comes time to change the Fall books to Winter, and the Animal books to Bugs!
By the way, the chair we chose was a mini POANG chair from Ikea. It is pretty plain, but I intend on dying it green here shortly. Just haven’t gotten there yet. I ordered the dye and it was on back-order so my order was cancelled.
Also, a not about books. IF your thrift store carries books, they will likely have them for pretty cheap. I know some times they choose not to carry books because it can become overhwhelming. My local store sells children’s books for 69 cents, by 4 get the 5th free. A local used book store had children’s books as low and 50 cents, and I’ve found that Target and Toys R’ Us is usually cheaper than buying the books on Amazon (for when I want a new book, like touch and feel books that have “sticky” things in them that will likely be covered in hair if bought used).
We also frequent our local library. We pick out three books, and the best part is that our library offers puzzles as well – that is the real steal. Children’s puzzles can cost upwards of $10, and I found that unlike books which can be read many times and still maintain interested, puzzles do not have the same kind of staying power. Ginny was given a few puzzles for her birthday, and if they are out and available she gets board with them quickly. So I keep them out of reach, and pull out a different puzzle every day for a few minutes. The nice thing about getting a puzzle from the library is that I can continue to mix things up with out having to buy more puzzles. We will alternate days, one of our puzzles, the library puzzle. She sees the library puzzle more often, but that is the one that won’t be around long, so I think it’s okay.
Lastly, a well maintained book is a great investment. They last through many children (some of the books I’ve bought second hand were published in the 60’s and 70’s!), and when you are done with them you can save a few for babies that may visit, and donate the rest to a day care or pediatric office waiting room! When I look at the toys I’ve purchased and the books I’ve purchased, the books get used far more often than the toys, and I feel like they were the better investment. At 1 year old Ginny will often collect a few books, climbed in her chair, flip through the pages and “read” to herself. It makes my heart swell!
Did your parents foster a love of reading in your childhood? Is reading something you emphasize in your home?