Anytime we go to bookstores, Liliana and I both make big stacks of books that we want to read. We sit on the floor and go through them - sometimes together and sometimes apart. Inevitably, we end up with more kids around us than when we started. And this makes it so much fun.
"I want to read Tikki Tikki Tembo..." Liliana says to me.
My response? "Great! Go get it!"
Organizing mounds of books can be a daunting task! Especially if kids are in and out of them all day long or in charge of putting them away. But it's one worth doing.
Liliana knows how to go find the book she's looking for because they are organized. She knows she can browse her books because she can see her books and this makes her more likely to search, sort and read whatever books she wants to - whenever she wants to. The act of gathering books is easy for her - and that's what you want.
You want it to be easy for your kid to browse books, pick a book and sit down with it to read.
Here are a few tips to help you get started on organizing your books on a bookshelf.
I'm really glad that I've introduced Liliana to the world of Alexander.
The first time we read the book together, she kept repeating, "terrible, no good, very bad day." The reading teacher in me wanted to tell her that's not how it goes and that she forgot horrible, but the mom in me overrode that thought. Thank God.
I'm thankful that I've introduced Liliana to Alexander because when I am the one having the terrible day, we can pull that book out and read it together. The same goes for her. Sometimes she will pick it off the shelf because she is having a bad day. And, sometimes, Liliana will even ask me if my day will get better. I'm glad she's so sweet and thoughtful.
And honestly, reading this book usually makes my day better. In my classroom, I used to leave the book on top of a pillow in the corner with a sign nearby labeled, "Australia." Any kid who needed to get away and go to Australia, could. It was a great self-managing behavior tool.
Today, our puppy has diarrhea and just farted something awful. Our cat is still jealous that we have a puppy. The cat is on happy pills because otherwise all of his days would be terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. Everyone else is napping in the house, except me - I am on puppy diarrhea watch at the moment. I've even already gotten to do puppy poopy laundry today. I get to bring puppy poop to the vet tomorrow too.
I know it's not really a terrible day and that actually I'm pretty lucky and that really the puppy is having a terrible day, but sometimes, I can relate to Alexander and his desire to go to Australia too.
I'm sure Liliana and I will read this book later and it will lead to reading the other book that she loves...
This post is part of a series on organizing your physical space to encourage literacy.
Awesome photography and memory captured by Shaina Fishman. Thank you!
A couple weeks ago, Liliana and her new puppy, Noodles, went to a photo shoot. We'd only had Noodles for two days and Liliana knew Noodles was going to be her buddy. But, she wasn't sure how predictable that buddy was yet. He nipped, he barked, he peed wherever he wanted to (still does...).
And this photo captures her trepidation perfectly. She's willing, but unsure.
It's also a perfect prompt for me to tell the story of Liliana and Noodles' budding friendship. How she enjoyed bringing him to puppy playtime, how she taught him how to sit, how he was nervous on his first subway ride and how he peed in his carrier in my lap which made me look like I peed in my own pants - and how she bellowed in laughter and asked incredulously, "Mommy, did you have an accident?!"
I will print this photo (and others from the shoot) and put them on our walls. It won't live on my phone, in my email or on my desktop.
This awesome photo and story will live on my wall.
We all want our kids to read. And, we want our kids to understand what they're reading.
And! The real kicker - we want them to enjoy reading.
This seems obvious, but sometimes getting there is not obvious and it takes some quirky roundabout turns to get there. Enter, printed photos on your walls.
"There is something very powerful in touching your fingers to an actual print,” says Craig Steinberg, a licensed psychologist who works with children ages five through 13. He goes on.
There’s a lot of stimulation of the brain when you have that sensory experience. That is a bit lost in the move to digital. You are touching a keyboard, mouse or a touchscreen but you are not touching the image.”
So, please print your photos and talk about them.
Tell your kids about your favorite memories, your life experiences, your stories. When you do, you will be writing out loud for them. Showing them how to put together a good story, a bad story, one that someone wants to listen to. You'll be showing them how to use the picture to start a story or how a picture better explains a story. You will build their self-esteem and their confidence.
You will also be storytelling them your life. And their very important place in your life.
P.S. I will also share some of my favorite, easy and creative ways to put photos on your walls in the next few days.
These two photos were the ones Joe and I loved the most from the photo shoot.
Again, photography done by the amazing Shaina Fishman!
This post piggybacks on other posts including using your local library system and setting up reading spaces in your home.
One of my friends mentioned to me awhile ago that she bought her sister a poster from Ideal Bookshelf. She had the artist create a custom poster based on favorite books. And I thought, cool!
I want one.
Except, I never got one. Because some thought was nagging at me.
It wasn't until a few weeks ago while I was perusing through articles, that the thought struck me. I love art, I love watercolor, I think the artist is really cool, and I love books. So, what's the problem?!
I realized, what I yearned for was the the real, physical books to be represented in my home. I wanted to pick the book up and feel its heft. Feel the memories in reading it.
And, this makes sense. We all know reading is necessary to our everyday lives. We want our kids to read, we want to read more as adults. The first goal I hear from parents about their kid's reading is that they want their kids to be reading for enjoyment - to be transformed, to draw back the curtain and see the magic. And, to want to continue doing it on their own without prodding.
Having my favorite books on one shelf does this. It's all of my magic in one place.
These books are thoughtful pieces of my life. They weave my life together.
They make me reflect. They make me wonder. And, they make me happy when they are altogether. They make me want to read more.
For those of you wondering, one of these days I probably will get a poster made and I will definitely be getting some of those awesome book pins that Jane makes.
This week's tip is a thought exercise (and I will share my list tomorrow).
If you were to have an ideal bookshelf, what would be on it?
The bookcase is awesome. Here's a link to it in case you want it too!
This one is quick and relaxing (I promise!).
Sort your books.
Sort your own adult books, sort your kids' books, sort your neighbor's books (well, not really).
We want our kids to have lots of books to choose from - but also, we need to make it easy for our kids to choose books. So, as a teacher, I organized away. I made it predictable. I made it a routine. I made it accessible to choose appropriate books regularly.
And then, I re-organized with the kids when they came to school so it was a collaborative effort. They had some ownership and knew how the book organization system worked.
So, when I started getting books for Liliana's library, it was no different. I started sorting.
It shows Liliana that books are important - they do have a place to go. They matter enough to have a defined place. The only other thing in our house that is that important is the underwear drawer and we all know undies are a necessity most days.
It creates a mental schema for Liliana. That book goes with the other book right next to it, because they are always in the same bin or near each other on the shelf. Now she knows the Berenstain Bear books are all similar. She can find all of her number books in one spot. If she's looking for a "book with a sticker" she knows where to look. They are all together.
It keeps me sane when books are strewn about because I know they have a particular place to go when I do decide to pick up.
It shows me what gaps we have in our books.
Most classroom teachers will try to have a mix of these genres: Fairytales, Mysteries, Realistic Fiction, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Informational, Autobiographis/Biographies, Poetry and Folktales/Fables.
Sometimes, if I had a lot of one author (Judy Blume, Gary Soto) or a lot in a specific area (Dinosaurs), they would get sorted into their own book basket.
So, start sorting!
2. Take your time. Even though this is a short tip, take your time. This might take you a few days or even a couple of weeks. That's totally fine.
3. Take note. After you sort your home library, you'll start to see gaps. Usually, kids don't have a ton of folktales and fables at home and sometimes historical fiction is left out in the cold too. You're looking for an even mix of fiction and non-fiction as well.
4. Use your notes to direct some new book choices. Now you know where you can provide more exposure for your kids. Likely, you have a lot in one genre because your kid likes that genre and so you've fed the interest already (that's great!). Keep that up.
Supplement their book choices in the future with the missing genres - create book wishlists so other people know what to get your kids, go to the library with a genre in mind to look at, share books with other friends who may have your missing books.
5. Maintain it! Once you've sorted your kid's books, maintain the system. Your child may be able to maintain it mostly on their own and so you can just check-in monthly. Or, you can maintain it until you feel ready to hand over your home library sorting to your child.
A note for baby, toddler and preschooler libraries...
Many little kid books are really Animal Fantasy books (talking animals!). But, you may also end up with other genres (Alphabet, Number, Shape, Colors, Goodnight books). You may have lots of certain authors (Eric Carle, Leo Lionni, Maurice Sendak, Dr. Seuss) or you may have certain strong topic areas (Seasons/Weather, Holidays, Transportation, Potty Training).
In short, still sort away.
Ray Reutzel, D. and Clark, S. (2011), Organizing Literacy Classrooms for Effective Instruction. The Reading Teacher, 65: 96–109.
Last week, we had a last-minute babysitter coming to our house.
Usually, I have something specific queued up for a babysitter and Liliana to do together (whether they do it or not is another story). It just gives Liliana a specific focus when I am walking out the door. She can focus on doing "whatever I left out" instead of my leaving.
Since this was a last minute gig, we did something I used to do in the classroom. We made a stack of books for the babysitter to read.
I used to have kids make stacks or lists of picture books they wanted either me to read with them as a class, or have someone read to them on the weekend. This set the expectation that reading would happen and it gives kids the power to choose their books (super important!).
It sounds so simple.
Growing up, there was a wall of books when I walked in our front door. I rarely went into this wall of books, but it was there. It was a floor to ceiling wall with books two rows deep on each shelf. That wall, in its existence, sent the message loud and clear, "Books are important to us. We take care of them and we show them proudly. We enjoy books."
Just reading any book aloud to your kids won't make them love to read. Or make them good readers.
Consider this scenario. Your child really wants to read a Dr. Seuss book before bedtime - but you hate reading through them. Do you think you're going to read it enthusiastically? Or impart a love of reading? Probably not.
So, don't read them.
Years ago, in the monumental report, Becoming a Nation of Readers, reading aloud took centerstage. Reading aloud was called the single most important activity for eventual success in reading. Children learn to listen and comprehend and they pick up uncommon vocabulary words. They hear the musicality and fluency of language. They learn to make connections and critically think.
So, read books that you're interested in. Be picky. You will encourage better reading habits. You will leave time for your kids to point at the pictures they like, or ask questions about the story. You will naturally make connections between the book you're reading and events in your lives instead of rushing through a book you disdain just to get to the end. You will ask what your kids think about the story and look back at beautiful illustrations. You will, because you will genuinely want to know. Read books you like to your kids.
Read joyfully and your kids will find reading joyful.
I found my favorite book of all time by browsing my local library's bookshelves. I found another favorite book by being bored in a bookstore while my Dad browsed for books. And I found one of my favorite storytellers by glancing at shelves at a small bookstore while on vacation. And now, I read both of these books each and every year, over again and watch out for books by Margaret Atwood as often as I remember to.
There are some things each of us do every week to zen out. And without them, we may fall apart...or explode. In any case, we can feel it when we don't do those things.
For me, it's going to a bookstore or library. Now, since this is my jam, I actually try to get to bookstores really, really frequently. I keep up with new books for friends with kids (and who are we kidding, myself), teacher friends, and clients.
But the real magic happens when I go with no agenda whatsoever.
The weight of the book lets me know it's real and it has something important to say. I might not like the book, I might love it - but either way, holding it in my hands compels me to open it and find out. And this is why I like going to physical places with physical books.
I can get lost in books. They make me think. They can make me feel good and bad, sometimes simultaneously or guilty for not reading enough of them. Books have heft and require me to spend more than 10 seconds on them - more time than I would if I were clicking around online.
Books require me to focus, to analyze, to connect, to escape and to reflect. Books make me feel life.
Many times I speak to parents and teachers alike who complain about the amount of time they don't spend on reading. They want to spend more time but don't know how to fit it in with their already busy, chore-filled, obligation heavy schedule.
Reading feels guilty - because "I could be doing something else that's productive," I hear.
I hear it over and over from busy parents. But what I hear in the subtext is, I really want to read. I want to make that time and I don't want to feel guilty. How do I do that?
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