In response to my toy organization posts, I’m often asked how many books should be out and available to a child at one time. This topic is touchy and tends to get people heated. No one, especially therapists and educators, like to think about limiting books. It seems too much like limiting learning. In this post I certainly don’t want to ruffle any feathers, because I truly love books myself, but I do encourage you to consider the number of books that is right for your child and family. After all, there can be too many books available at one time, and there are good books and bad, as they relate to your child specifically.
Here are two quick things to ask yourself about your child’s home library…
1) What if we owned fewer books?
We could take full advantage of the public library. Because, why buy, when you can check out? While it’s wonderful to own books and begin a special collection, visiting the public library is a great routine for any child and the shelves there have so much to offer. You can easily stock up on books all about one idea or a theme in order to really immerse your child in a particular subject. You can also test out books from the library, and buy only what you already know you and your child love.
We could easily share our values with our child. If you are going to spend time and money to build a book collection, isn’t it important that those books teach your child what you think are important lessons? With a special collection, it’s easy to ensure you include themes related to a sense of humor, strong characters, spirituality, friendship, believing in one’s self, or whatever is most important to your family. Plus, you can begin to instill a value of minimalism. I think we often overwhelm our children with too many things and too much information. With some carefully chosen gems, you’ll be sure that your core messages aren’t lost in all the noise and that your values show through.
2. What if we rotated the books that are out on the shelf?
We could provide deeper learning experiences. Remember the Fill The Page Theory? With fewer books available at once, your child will have more repetition of vocabulary and concepts and will benefit from deeper experiences with each book. Your child will begin to internalize the stories, get familiar with the characters, and integrate the ideas with their own life experience. They’ll have opportunities to read and re-read, act out the story lines in pretend play, and even create related art projects. Rotating books allows your child to take time with each story to truly learn something meaningful.
We could make sure our child is engaged in books that are relevant right now. Why not take into consideration your child’s age, developmental level, and interests when picking what you put out? All of the books you will want to keep for your child over time aren’t necessarily relevant at this moment in time. It’s important to filter out books that are too easy or too complex to make sure you target your child’s level of language skills, attention span, and story complexity. Plus, it’s great to put out some books about the moon and stars if your child is into space travel so that you can help her see that books are exciting and fun.
Once you’re ready to create the best bookshelf for your child, here’s what to do…
1) Filter out the junk.
One book may be a jewel for one child and junk for another child. Get rid of whatever isn’t special to your child’s particular collection.
2) Make your sets.
Depending on the age, language level, and attention span of your child the right number of books to leave in an “out rotation” will vary. For young children it may be 5-10, and for older children it may be 10-20. Keep in mind that while it’s important to only leave out what is relevant to your child currently, what your child can handle when exploring solo may be different than what your child may enjoy during a special shared reading. Often I recommend making sure you have two types of books in each set. Half of each set should be of simpler books that are good for solo exploration. The other half of each set is of more complex books that will be great for shared reading, where you can use your great storytelling skills to keep your child engaged.
Tell me! Could you ever consider limiting the number of your child’s books? What children’s book do you think should be in every collection? What is the right number of books out and available for your child?Email this article »