I have loved books since I was a little girl. I Among my fondest memories are enjoying the books that played a major role in my everyday life and in my interactions with the adults who were special to me. When I was 5 years old, for example, I remember looking forward to visiting my dad for the weekend because he had signed me up for a “book of the week” program that delivered a new picture book every Friday. And to this day, some of my favorite possessions are books from the book basket that my grandmother kept in her living room. Those books now have a special place in my own living room, and I love being able to share them with my daughter. My fondest wish is to instill in her the love of books that my family instilled in me.
When I was teaching young children decades later, I realized that it was important to me to share with them my love of books and reading. I had a few strategies that I used to build excitement about books and to encourage the children in my class to appreciate books as much as I did.
At the beginning of the year I would post a sign-up sheet inviting families to volunteer to be the “Library Family” at some point during the year. The “Library Family” was tasked with visiting the local library and borrowing books that our class could enjoy for two weeks. Sometimes the children selected books that related to our current study topic. Other times, they selected books that featured their favorite characters or illustrators. These library books served as wonderful additions to our classroom library and provided new topics for the children to explore every two weeks.
Sometimes a new voice can bring a book to life in a whole new way, delivering a fresh dynamic, a new perspective, and renewed enthusiasm. A grandfather visiting from Wisconsin, a big sister in third grade, the community center director, a local librarian—the cast of potential book sharers is limitless! Regular appearances by guest readers encourage children to interact with adults other than their classroom teachers and to recognize that many people appreciate books and are excited about sharing them with others. In the process of enlisting guest readers you may encounter people who are eager to participate but are not comfortable sharing books with a large group of children. If that is the case, you can invite them to join you during choice time, when they can read with just a few children at a time in the Library area.
Birthday Book Box
Back when I was a teacher, I wasn’t a fan of making sweet treats the focus of birthday celebrations, so I came up with an alternative: the “Birthday Book Box.” It was a great way to spend free book points! It involved inviting the birthday girl or boy to select a book from the box and encouraging the rest of the children to sign the birthday book (inside the front and back covers) during choice time. I put a few fun birthday stickers inside and always included a birthday message from myself as well. Then, during large group at the end of the day, I invited the birthday child to sit next to me in our meeting space and together, we shared the book with the rest of the class. I discovered that treating books as gifts elevated their importance and sent a message to the children about how special books are. The birthday girl’s or boy’s reaction to our book-giving tradition told me all I needed to know as they shared the books and their classmates’ autographs with their families.
Consider adding “librarian” to your classroom job chart. When I was a teacher, this was one of the most popular jobs in the classroom! The librarian is responsible for looking after the Library area throughout the day. At the end of choice time, for example, the librarian ensures that the Library area is tidy, meaning all books are placed on the shelves with their covers facing outward and pillows are neatly placed on the reading couch. The librarian also gets to select the book from our classroom collection that will be read aloud after lunch.
These are just a few of the many ways you can create an environment in which books are appreciated and celebrated. For additional strategies related to sharing books with children, be sure to check out our free videos and webinars available here. Happy reading!