1. Picking Age Appropriate Books-- Just as you wouldn't give a child a butcher knife, so you're also not going to hand a 2 year old a first edition Velveteen Rabbit. The goal is to cultivate a love of reading. So fill your home with chunky board books in a variety of subjects, both fiction and non-fiction. Make them accessible and allow your child to "read" on his own initiative, free from the worry of tearing pages.
For older children, verse yourself in the classics. Fill your home with Treasure Island, Peter Pan, and Pollyanna. Look for stories that have stood the test of time. Introduce well-rounded, beloved characters and thoughtful story lines. A loved book is more likely to be treated with care.
2. Everything in it's place--As I've said before, our house is small. But we've always found room for books. Still having a home for all these books is important. Children can't be expected to take care of books that don't have a place. So in our home, we have three bookshelves, one in each kids' room and one in the living room. Beyond that, we have a designated shelf in the entertainment center for library books and heavy canvas bags for transporting borrowed books back and forth. All library or borrowed books stay in common living areas and are put back on the shelf after use. We talk to our kids about the privilege of borrowing other people's books and how important it is to return them in good shape.
3. Keep pencils, markers, stickers, and more, out of reach--Little ones look at books and they see paper. What fun it would be to fill all that paper with their own illustrations and stories! So pencils and markers (as well as stickers, scissors, crayons, etc) are kept well out of reach and only used with mom's supervision. We talk about how books contain someone else's stories, and if my little one wants to write a book, he can write on some of mom's copy paper.
4. Valuing the old as well as the new--I personally have a love for older books. Not only are the story lines often rich, but I like to imagine the many people who have loved and enjoyed that book through the years. Maybe that's why I'm enchanted by used book stores. Not only are there new stories to discover, but there are notes inside covers, dates and dedications written between family members, and even more history than the book can ever tell. So we take our kids to used book stores, book sales, yard sales, and search out these treasures. They've learned that whether a cover is worn or the pages are yellowing, there's still a whole world to discover. And sometimes that makes them even more valuable.
5. Let them see you read--The more my kids see me reading, the more they realize what a privilege it is. What we model for them is often times what they become. So when it's reading time for the kids, I do my best to read as well. We talk about the stories we're reading and the books we would or wouldn't recommend. And we also talk about using a good bookmark, how to place a book on the shelf so the pages won't fold, reading books with clean hands, and more. And by them seeing me reading, they realize that I'm following my own advice and take it to heart.
Wherever life may take them, I hope that my children will take a love of reading with them. And when they outgrow a book, I feel confident they will leave it behind in good shape for the next reader.
How do you teach about/organize books in your home?