Saturday, November 8, 2014

Managing the Library for Young Readers

I saw this humorous bookworm's meme on Facebook the other day and identified with it:

Certainly lacking in Christian charity, but humorous. Speaking of memes, I never knew the original definition and I just had to look up the modern definition, the evolution of which is fascinating:
Original definition: an element of a culture or system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, especially imitation.
Modern definition: a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc. that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users
I've always told Chris that I want a home in which the walls are lined with books (as in the above picture) . . . and he still thinks I'm joking.

So, on that subject, I did a reorganization of books this week and it was so exciting that we took a whole afternoon off school or other pursuits to do it.

We moved fiction books from the school room to the bedrooms.

Exciting, right? You can't wait to read all about it?

Years ago, when I had only preschoolers, I consolidated all our fiction books into the school room. I established a routine in which I'd take my 4- and 2-year-olds, with the babbling baby in tow, into the school room for the morning. I'd read many books aloud, we'd play games, we'd sing songs, and it was great.

But lately I've noticed that I rarely read fiction in the school room anymore. Thinking about the situation, I realized that now my pattern is to take the second grader and Kindergartener into the school room each morning, with the three-year-old and one-year-old in tow, and we do academic work. I'm too busy teaching math, phonics, spelling, and grammar (and still trying valiantly to sometimes get to science, history, geography, Latin, and poetry) to use that particular time to read aloud literature.

I don't fail to read literature, so when am I reading it? At night. After the children are in pajamas, I take 15 minutes up to an hour in my rocking chair in the bedroom to read from various sources: often our fiction read-along for history (currently Mystery of the Roman Ransom), or read-aloud for geography (just finished St. Isaac and the Indians), or literature (currently Swiss Family Robinson or fairy tales), as well as tiny tots' picture books for the two littler ones.

In this phase of schooling, my literature library being in the schoolroom is the wrong location and all the way across the house from where it should be: the bedrooms.

My husband moved one big bookshelf into the girls' room, as they only had a teeny one. The boys' room has a wall of built-in bookshelves which were being underutilized. Then I sat down in the schoolroom filling paper sacks with books and having the children cheerily ferry them down one flight of stairs, across the house, and up another flight of stairs to their bedrooms, over and over again, which my knees appreciated.

I divided the books roughly in half, making somewhat of a division into girls' interest and boys' interest, although that is imprecise. I explained to the children that they do not have exclusive rights to the books in their rooms, both libraries are open to all children.

Revealing the girls' library . . .

The girls' beds, toy box, and dolly crib and stroller

The crib, in which no baby has ever slept, yet I keep it.
The bookshelf, curio case, and play kitchen. Dollies live in the closet.

Introducing the boys' library . . .

The two beds and walls of wonderful built-in bookshelves.
The walk-in closet is the Lego Room, which is as exciting and messy as it sounds.
Books on the Titanic float alongside the ship

Tolkien and C.S. Lewis get their own shelf, as do Christmas books

N.B.: Most other blog posts introducing children's rooms don't make this point, but I'd like to: Yes, their rooms are only this neat on Vacuuming Day! Most of the days during the week, they don't look nearly so pristine and less carpet is visible.

Just as I had hoped, the children (and I!) have been pouring through the books all week, like we're being reunited with old friends. Oh, I remember reading that! This is such a good one! You've got to read this one. Wait, I'm going to flip through that one.

Our kiddos nearly 6 and nearly 8 typically stay awake at night reading chapter books for quite a while (the older one has to be told to stop reading) and now they have that much more to inspire them. The little tykes are also digging through the books and enjoying them.

Reading covers all manner of ills. I am an overachiever with a desire for control and perfection, traits that can be good, and can be disordered. Only this briefly into my homeschooling and parenting journey, if I could advise parents of preschoolers, I'd suggest to just teach the children to read, even to the exclusion of everything else. Don't worry about all the extras: just focus your limited time on teaching them phonics. (I still throw my recommendation to All About Reading.) Once a parent launches a child into fluent reading, the child takes off. We homeschooling mothers still having babies are in very challenging years--very challenging! But if we can surround our children with books (fiction and non-fiction, a good, wholesome, erudite mix), their reading will cover all manner of gaps until our season changes and we can teach in a more structured way.

Can't sit down and teach a lesson formally to the child because the dog just vomited, the baby is crying, and the preschooler dumped coffee grounds all over? Just hand that already-reading child a book on the subject to read, sit them somewhere cozy, and you're set: later over dinner, ask the child what he read about (a technique called narration, in educational terms).

(This post doesn't address children struggling mightily to learn to read. That's another topic about which I am unprepared to write, but I do think reading aloud to children daily will do nothing but help them in their learning to read!)

They're supposed to be doing morning chores, but I catch them reading Aesop's Fables aloud to each other.
That's real difficult for this bookworm mother to admonish.


  1. I sent Christ a pic of St John Fisher's library & told him "your wife's dream library" ;)

  2. I am impressed that you have confined Legos to the walk-in closet. At our house, the dining room is the Lego room 364 days a year, with a 24-hour stint for Thanksgiving dinner!