Build Your Own Home Library
© Beverley Paine, 2004
We all want to help our children become successful and active readers. Studies have shown over and over again that the following factors are important indicator of reading success:
Parental expectation that the children will read successfully
Parental involvement in the children's education
Parents who read aloud
Books in the home.
If a child is surrounded by books, and the parents regularly access those books for a variety of reasons, reading will become a natural part of his or her life.
If you have a decent supply of books at home you will rarely suffer from the frustration of not being able to access information to those intriguing questions children ask every day! Select books wisely for the accuracy and accessibility of information. You don't have to spend a fortune: libraries are always updating their catalogues and selling off old books at library sales. It's a quick and easy way to build up a comprehensive reference library.
Let your family and friends know that you're always on the look out for books. When they clear out their shelves or attics they'll think of you and bring you a box or two. If you don't want to keep them all, pass them on in the same manner, or take them to an opportunity shop. You'll find a lot of pre-loved treasures lurking in op shops. I've often found books I loved as a child and couldn't resist buying them to show my children.
Some books we've found essential include:
A pictorial encyclopaedia for younger children
Dictionary and thesaurus
Recently published atlas
Solar system and star book
Natural history books - pocket guides to identify birds, plants, flowers, insects, spiders, frogs, snakes, trees
Self-sufficiency books, including camping and bushcraft skills
Health books - baby books, how we grow, nutrition, illness, first aid, etc.
Home decorating books
Practical Art books
Practical Craft books
Cooking and menu planner books
Favourite picture, story, chapter books, novels, plays and poetry
Magazines, newsletters and newspapers
On-line magazines, newsletters, newspapers, user groups and mailing lists.
We supplement these with books from the library every week on topics we're currently interested in as well as a large range of fiction. Our library has an extensive tape and video collection too; our library bags are usually bulging!
To make your books last a life-time, teach your children how to handle them with respect. Clean hands are a must. Discourage tearing, folding down corners, colouring or writing in books not designed for those purposes, especially library books. Work together to repair any damaged pages or bindings, or to cover books in clear plastic.
It's silly to expect that a child eating or drinking will be able to keep a book clean, so make it clear which books can and can't be used when eating. People love to read when eating, and it's good to encourage this, so long as it doesn't completely destroy social communication within the family! Until he was a fluent reader, Thomas would often complain if the rest of us read at the dinner table. We do our best to make dinner a social occasion now, but everyone tends to read at breakfast and lunch!
Help the children their own bookmarks, or buy them bookmarks as a special treat. They make great stocking fillers at Christmas, especially if the bookmark is matched to a much wanted title! Your favourite gardening book can have a permanent pressed flower bookmark, or you could use a pretty feather the children found as a bookmark for the bird book.
I can't emphasise enough that books have to be accessible. It's not good locking them away in a glass cabinet, although if you have century old classics or first edition comics you are collecting for sentimental value or investment, do keep these safe! By and large though, children need to be able to reach books, touch them, turn their pages, and read them.
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Since 1989 Beverley Paine has steadfastly promoted and supported home education as an educational choice for Australia families. Her books and websites aim to demystify education, gently deschooling families so that they may meet their children's individual and unique educational and developmental needs. Her honesty, insights and wealth of experience continues to bring hope, reassurance and confidence to families. Beverley publishes her recent articles, tips and links to resources in her quarterly magazine, Homeschool Unschool