(How) Can we read? Creating environments and routines for reading
Creating environments and routines for reading doesn’t have to be hard. It doesn’t have to cost money. It certainly doesn’t have to be as complicated as we sometimes make it.
It takes thought, a little effort, and dedication, but even the smallest changes and tweaks can mean the difference between a vibrant, fulfilling culture of reading in your home, and a dull, burdensome one.
Everyone’s home is different, of course, so what works for me might not work for you and vice versa. The following advice and suggestions are meant to inspire you, not to suggest there is a right way or wrong way to do any of this. (There absolutely isn’t!)
In my experience, those caregivers and families that put thought and intention behind creating environments and routines for reading succeed on some level. It might not be perfect, it might not be everything you’ve dreamed of, but the effort makes a difference. Own it, to whatever ability you’re able. Use my ideas as a jumping-off point, iterate on what you’ve already built or try something new, and go from there.
The more you experiment, the more information you’ll have to work with, and as long as you’re trying, you’ll keep moving in the right direction.
How to create environments
📚 Make your reading materials accessible
Imagine being the height of a 2yo — even a tall one — and seeing all your board books on top of your dresser, but having no way to reach them, much less play with and enjoy them. What’s the point?
If you have gorgeous shelves on the wall in your child’s room but they’re five feet off the floor, let me be blunt: take them down. Or fill them with books you’re not ready to read together yet. Or put something else there. But please, please, make the books that you want your little one to read accessible to them.
You don’t need a special tiny bookcase — when my first baby was born, I used the vertical shelves in the dresser I was using as a changing table to showcase her books and put the changing items up high, because it was more important to me that she be able to crawl to her books than to handle her diapers. Baskets — especially the soft kind that you can find at any big-box or home goods store — are fantastic for this.
Even a pile on the floor works! ⬇️
Maybe you’re thinking right about now: Sarah, this is all fine and well for babies and toddlers, but I need some advice for my big(ger) kid.
My recommendation is the same: make sure they can not only physically reach their books, put those books in their way so they can’t ignore them — a spread on a coffee table; a stack you picked out especially for them at their place setting at breakfast; even a special title snuck into their backpack, with a love note tucked into the front cover about how this one made you think of them, and you can’t wait to discuss it, and have a good day!
Don’t forget to ask for your children’s input. I did forget to do this and a few years ago, when I was rearranging my daughters’ room so we could repaint it and fit in two single beds, I was taking all the books out of the aforementioned changing-table dresser to refresh them when my eldest said from over my shoulder, “Do you think I could keep my toys there, and we could move the books?”
Of course we could do that (and did). She now has her own hand-picked library on three shelves in her closet that used to hold stuffed animals and quiet-time activities and her prodigious collection of writing supplies, notebooks, and paper. Did we have to find another place for all of that? Yes, we did. But because she created her own space for her own books — her own personal library — they get read a lot more often. Give them some agency in this area and you may find a solution that works better for everyone.
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