"Kids not only need to read a lot but they need lots of books they can read right at their fingertips. The books that entice them, attract them to reading." - Richard Allington
This is the tenth blog entry of this school year, all focused on Home Reading, to help families successfully support children as they learn to read :)
The Power of Choice
It is almost December - a perfect time to begin talking about building your child's home library. 'Tis the season of giving and giving books to a child is an act of great promise and anticipation - children who love to read see each new book as a possibility to be explored, an adventure to be had, a friend to meet or a discovery to be unearthed!
As we have been exploring the various elements of home reading, there have been numerous parent 'tips' embedded in these blogs encouraging parents to consistently be 'talking' about books with children as they have engaged in numerous ways to read texts. Asking children what they like about a book, which stories they prefer, why do they want to read a particular book, which book is their favourite, what would they like to read next, what genre appeals the most to them, which book does the new text they are reading remind them of - a similar story or experience they have had. All these questions - that hopefully become mini-discussions between parents and children - help young readers come to understand there is a process to selecting stories, a reason why we like some books more than others, that there are particular kinds of stories that are similar or different and that, as readers, we have a great deal of control over what we read and why. These are critically important considerations for children who may believe books 'belong' to the adults in their lives and it is the adults who choose what to read, when and why.
The power of choice for children is an elixir - especially for young children. There are so many choices made for them, not by them - what to wear, when to sleep, what to eat, where and how they will spend their days, what activities they will participate in on any given day - the world can feel very full of being told what to do and how and when and why. But the magic of reading can hold extra attraction for children if they are allowed and invited to exercise their power of choice! (And, as parents, we can always answer the age-old complaint of "I never get to decide anything!" with "Of course you do! You always get to pick the books for reading!").
Building A Child's Library
So, when December arrives and parents' thoughts turn to gift giving, it seems like a perfect time to begin thinking about how to build up your child's library so they always have something 'enticing and attracting' them to read. There are a few strategies for building a child's library with them - all of which will help them learn to categorize and organize books as well, key skills that are foundational to study skills as they grow and become more independent learners. Building a library collection takes care and consideration, choice and thoughtfulness, organization and reflection. In other words, critical thinking skills they are expected to learn in school and in life!
It has been my experience that when we start referring to a child's book collection - no matter how small/large/messy/neat a collection it is - as their 'library', suddenly owning books of their own takes on a new complexion - they see their books as something 'more', something to take care of and celebrate rather than just decorate their room. When children enter school, they visit the Learning Commons and see the books organized into collections, on display, celebrated with book talks or posters, and cared for in particular ways. As children begin to identify their books at home as having importance similar to the books in the school collections, they become more attentive to them as important elements with a purpose, an order, a way of being other than just an item to be picked up, looked at and discarded. This elevates the significance of their personal book collections - their 'library' of enticing and inviting reading materials requiring care and attention perhaps previously overlooked.
What kinds of books should children have in their libraries?
What would be the most meaningful books to give them at this time of year to build up their collections?
What would organizing my child's library look like?
How do I help my child learn to care for their book collection?
These questions really begin with knowing your child as a reader - not as your child, but as a reader. There is a difference!
Your child, the reader, will be able to share what stories they like best - fiction or non-fiction, fairytales, humorous, comics, adventure, fantasy, mystery or science - there are many genres of books for children to read and love. Usually, we start simply with children, identify fiction from non-fiction and that may be the most organized your child can currently manage with their personal book collection. You may want to start by organizing the books your child already has at home into two categories - fiction/non-fiction - to build a sense with them of the different kinds of books they already own. If your child enjoys that organizational activity, try sorting into sub-categories of fiction or non-fiction books. Books can be sorted into categories and housed on bookshelves, or in milk crates, laundry baskets or boxes in your child's room. The more out in the open they are, the more likely your child is to pick one up for a quick read. Some children are perfectly satisfied with a 'library' sorted into fiction/non-fiction while others will want to be very specific and have numerous catgeories of fiction or non-fiction stories as well. I would encourage parents to take a cue from your child as to how much organization you are willing to invest in the home library - sorting and growing a child's library is not a one-shot action; rather, it takes several tries and re-tries before one could say they are fully comfortable with the home library organizational system. I do know this from long experience: if I organize my child's library the way I like books to be organized, the system will last until I leave the room :) If a child does not understand or appreciate the organizing system, the system is bound to have a short shelf life (pardon the pun!). Perhaps your child is only able to organize one small collection of favourite books and the rest remains in a higgeldy-piggeldy mess - that's okay! Everyone adjusts to organization in their own time and way and the idea has at least been introduced in a small way. Time will pass and this idea can be readily revisited.
For your child's collection, there should be an assortment of fiction and non-fiction items in your child's library collection. If you are looking for suggestions for gifts, start there - which side of the collection requires attention? What topics or type of stories does your child prefer? When you go to the public library or a bookstore, what are they most drawn to as they browse the Children's Book section? Are there books your child automatically chooses over and over again that also have sequels or other, similar stories written by the same author? These are good beginning points for selecting new titles for your child's book collection.
Once you have established a system for organization - no matter how simple or complex it may be - gently encourage your child to ensure their books are returned 'home' at the end of each reading. I like making this a little ritual of celebration - 'See? the Giraffe book likes being home, next to his friend the Whale book' - kind of encouragement. If there seems to be a general lack of disinterest in returning favourite books to favourite places, then your child is not quite ready for caring for the library collection independently just yet. It's sometimes a good strategy, when a new book arrives as a gift, to make a little ritual or ceremony of finding 'just the right home' for it midst the current book organization system.
These are all suggestions that may or may not work with your child - only you know them best as the reader of their books:)
Here are a few favourite ideas for picture book gifts for early readers from my own collection (often gathered from recommendations by my grandchildren or students :)
- Boxitects by Kim Smith
- My Map Book by Sara Fanelli
- Beyond the Pond by Joseph Kuefler
- Home by Jeannie Baker
- Sleeping Ugly by Jane Yolen
- Goldie Socks and the Three Libearians by Jackie Mims Hopkins
Just in case you were looking for gift ideas!
Lorraine Kinsman, Principal