Leslie Carpenter, contributing editor
LIBRARIES HAVE ALWAYS held a soft spot in my heart, especially school libraries. Since I was little, I’ve always looked forward to seeing what the librarians would come up with next for their book displays. The turkey made out of orange and brown books, the DIY Truffula trees that matched the brightly colored Dr. Seuss covers, and the Christmas tree made entirely out of books were part of the introduction to my lifelong love of reading. I have a 5-year-old daughter who started Kindergarten this year and is learning to read. I really wanted to do something extra to help foster her relationship with reading, so I gathered all our children’s books and started organizing them. Then I took a page out of all those creative librarians’ books and decided to make my own library display —our monthly themed bookcase began!
Our themed bookcase showcases reading in an engaging way and helps my daughter see how enjoyable reading can be just for fun. She gets excited when she sees that our bookcase has been changed out with new books. Plus, it’s an easy way to introduce her to topics that may seem a little boring at first glance, like animals hibernating for the winter or what makes a rainbow. I also add decorations that go along with that month’s theme to make it more eye-catching.
If you want to create your own themed bookcase, here are a few tips:
• If possible, find a way to display your books frontfacing. I’ve heard several librarians say that children are drawn in more easily when they can see pictures on the covers versus just the lettering on the spine; I’ve found this to be true with my little girl.
• Our bookcase is used a lot more if it is in a place that is easily seen. For us, it’s in our home office. We have a big Lovesac in there that is perfect to snuggle up together on while reading. My daughter practices her reading or looks through picture books while I’m working on the computer or cooking dinner. For other families, it might work best to have it in their family room, playroom, or you could even put up a single shelf in each of your kids’ bedrooms so they have books personalized to their reading level. It might even add to the excitement if they get to help you choose the books and decorations that go on their shelf.
• There are many ways to decide on a theme. You could go with a holiday happening that month, like Thanksgiving, and pick books about gratitude, family, and service, or choose a color and select books with covers in shades of green for St. Patrick’s Day, for example. You could choose something special that’s happening in your family, like a first loose tooth or back to school. You could also change out your bookcase to what’s happening seasonally, so you’re only swapping books out four times a year. For spring you could do books about rain, worms, baby animals, and gardening, for example.
• There’s no need to spend a lot of money on your bookcase. Trade or borrow books with friends and family. Many books we use are borrowed from my parents. They’re books I loved as a child, which adds a special touch when I’m reading them to my child. You can also hit up garage sales. My best money-saving tip is going to the library to check out books. Bonus: You can get some amazing display ideas while you’re there.
Have fun with it! Choose intriguing covers to catch your child’s eye, and choose books you think they’d enjoy reading. The main goal is to give your little ones access to new content and help them catch the reading bug.