Surrounding your child with books is a great way to get them excited about reading, but the last thing any of us wants is to have our homes overrun by messy piles in every corner. The solution? Setting up a proper children’s library that’s appealing to look at, and makes it easy for your little one to find their favourite book.
Investing in a quality bookcase is the best long-term solution for storing books. When it comes to choosing a bookcase, the main choice is between built in and freestanding. A built in bookcase makes the best use of space as it uses up every available millimeter and can go right from floor to ceiling. While a freestanding bookcase is unlikely to be as space efficient, it’s more affordable and can be taken with you if you move. Whatever you choose, look for a design with adjustable shelves that can be shifted around to suit your child’s library of books.
Before you hit the shops, calculate how many books you need to store, measure the size of the largest volumes, and factor in space for any toys and decorative items.
Where’s the best place to put it? Wherever your child is most likely to read, be it the bedroom, playroom or family room. If you haven’t got space for a whole wall of bookshelves, consider dotting “mini libraries” around the house; a few floating shelves in the bedroom, a basket of books in the family room, and a book nook beside your child’s bed would all work well.
Be careful not to overfill shelves – not only will shelves bow under too much weight, but a bookshelf crammed with books can look overwhelming to a young child. Leave enough space on shelves for the book collection to breathe, and consider keeping some shelves completely empty or using them for display. Bookends are a good idea as they’ll help prevent books from falling into a messy heap.
A mix of open and closed shelving will allow you to keep the more attractive books out on display, and hide any tattered ones away. Closed shelving is great for storing precious books, such as those you’ve kept since you were a child, away from harmful dust and sunlight.
Position favourite books within easy reach – ideally between your little one’s knee and eye height – and store heavier volumes at the lower level of the bookcase where there’s no risk of them toppling out. Those read less frequently can occupy the harder-to-reach, upper levels.
Give your bookcase some “wow” factor by arranging book spines by colour – either blocks of bold hues, or in a cascading rainbow of tones. For a more traditional arrangement, display books by genre.
If floor space is at a premium, consider using slimline bookshelves that display books face-forwards, or take the bookcase off the floor by looking for a wall-mounted one instead.
Also, look around for any underutilised spots that could be turned over to shelving, such as the area under the stairs, around and above doorways, and built into alcoves.
You can easily jazz up a dull bookcase by painting the interior in a bright colour or lining it with pretty floral or funky graphic paper. Retro prints work well, particularly when paired with vintage books. As book covers themselves tend to be heavily patterned, look for a wallpaper design that uses a simple mix of colours with plenty of space around the pattern to create balance.
Children have short attention spans, so when it comes to reading, little and often tends to work best. But it’s also important to encourage them to enjoy books by themselves – even pre-readers will enjoy flicking through picture books during quiet times such as the middle of the day or on a rainy afternoon. Consider setting up a cosy and inviting “reading corner” with a basket of their favourite books and a few comfy cushions.
You don’t have to spend a fortune to keep your child’s library up to date. Borrow books from your local public library or arrange a book swap with friends to add new reading material to your child’s library without spending a cent. Or, check out garage sales and second hand bookstores for cheap used books. Start a new tradition by asking relatives to give books as birthday presents. And keep your eye on the internet for some great book deals – the Huggies Bookclub offers members 10% off the price of hundreds of popular children’s books.
Not every book deserves to be kept forever, so schedule regular clear out sessions for books that are past their use-by date. Throw damaged ones away and donate any in good condition to charity shops or your local library. Carefully store away any books that your child may want to pass onto their own kids some day in “deep storage” such as the attic or garage where they won’t create clutter.
Today’s generation of children will one day be just as comfortable switching on a laptop or iPad to read the latest book release as they will pulling a book down from the shelf. While traditionalists will cling to the idea that computers can never replace the experience of reading a proper book, there is a lot to be said for embracing technology. A digital library of children’s books takes up no space whatsoever in your home and can be read just about anywhere your child likes – many eBooks can even be read aloud on those occasions when you don’t have time for a bedtime story. Teach your children how to use the internet as a resource to access information and answer questions that have even the grown ups stumped. By giving your child access to both forms of reading – both paperback and digital – you’ll show them how to create a space for both in their lives.