Monday, September 6, 2010


Do your children have full access to the books in your home or are the books kept under lock and key?

 I have had many people comment on the Facebook profile photo for My Little Bookcase, so I thought I'd share the story behind the 'photo shoot'. 

This is my own daughter, Cam, sitting in front of the bookcase. She is 14 months old and seems to share my passion for books. Until this 'photo shoot', most of Cam's experiences with books involved sharing, looking and reading them with me. Although she has always had a few durable books amongst her toys to explore, reading time was generally determined by me.

Cam has not been mobile for very long. Once she started to move around the house independently, I decided to set up the 'little bookcase' for her. I was eager to give her a wider selection of books to explore. Access to a bookcase also means she can control when she feels like exploring books or reading with me instead of it being decided by me.

I set up the bookcase one afternoon while she was napping. When I first sat my daughter in front of the bookcase she sat motionless for at least five minutes. I really have no idea what she was thinking or feeling, but the following thoughts could have passed through her mind:
-Wow! What a wonderful sight I see before me!
-Are these books for me?
-Can I touch them?
-Where do I start? Which book should I reach for first?

What would your child have done in this situation?
I'm sure you're thinking that your bookcase wouldn't have looked this neat for long. Well, neither did ours. Within 5 minutes the bookcase looked like this:

For two whole days I could hardly pull Cam away from the bookcase, and she still makes frequent trips to the bookcase each day. As a mother I have been amazed by what I have observed as she sits by the bookcase and interacts independently with the books. I hope you don't mind me sharing some of them with you:

-A regular observation is of Cam mimicking the reading process by turning pages one by one and babbling away, as if reading the story herself

-Pointing to objects and attempting to name them (in a language only Mum would understand) or making their sounds (eg. baa)

-Spending some time looking at particular illustrations and laughing

-Turning the book to be positioned the right way up

-One day I noticed Cam was bringing an open book close to her face and then pulling it away and repeating the pattern. I was intrigued and had to investigate. As I got closer, I noticed that she had 'Where is the Green Sheep' (Mem Fox) opened to the page that says: 'Here is the near sheep and here is the far sheep.' She was bringing the book near to her face and then far from her face.

-It was my husband that noticed Cam place the Humpty Dumpty book on the middle shelf (Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall) and then knock the book off the shelf (Humpty Dumpty had a great fall). This is a song she knows well from her weekly swimming lesson.

Many of the behaviours I observed demonstrate the way a child will use their own experiences to make meaning from the book and vice versa. They will also repeat actions and behaviours they have witnessed. 

Why don't you set up a 'little bookcase' in your own home (If you haven't already!)? If you don't have a little bookcase, you could try filling a low cupboard with books. Books in a small box, basket or magazine rack could also work. If you have a small child who is not yet sitting, you might like to add some cloth books to their collection of toys. For older children you could add a variety of text types to the bookcase, such as magazines, newspapers and cookbooks.

Keep in mind that small children do lack fine motor skills and the notion of treating a book with care. There may be a casualty (i.e. a ripped page), so choose the books for your bookcase wisely. You might want to make sure they are durable (eg. cloth or board books). I suggest that you keep any special books in a safe place for shared reading experiences.

My Little Bookcase is a strong advocate for reading aloud and sharing books with children, however, there are also times for personal exploration of books. Providing children with the freedom to personally explore books is a rich book experience that will contribute to their pre-reading development:

-It can provide children with a different experience of books

-It gives them the opportunity to find objects in illustrations that they recognise from their daily experiences (e.g. bottle, dog) without the guidance of an adult

-Children can practise handling a book (e.g. holding it upright, turning pages)

-It can give children the chance to mimic your reading behaviours

-It gives children unlimited access to a range of books, which helps build their knowledge of the world

-It supports a relaxed and positive attitude towards books, which will facilitate a willingness to read in later years

-Older children are give the opportunity to practise the selection of appropriate books

-It allows you to observe your child's behaviour. During what times of the day does your child generally go to the bookcase? This might help you choose the best times to sit and share a book with your child successfully

-You can also observe the types of books that your child enjoys and finds attractive. This will help you to purchase or borrow suitable books from the library.




  1. Last week dinner, baths and clean up was done by 5:30pm. the girls 4.5yrs and 1.5yrs were happily colouring so I thought perfect for me!!! I grabbed the book I was in the middle of and a rug, curled up on the recliner and began to read. 1 minute later I noticed two little bodies moving closer to me..they each stopped by their book shelf, choose a book and came a curled up with me. When I put my book away to start reading to them, Miss 4 said "Mum its quiet time please, Im try to read in my head like you" Miss 1 was more than happy to say "baa baa" to the Green Sheep!

    Loved the atmosphere in the house that night.

    My bookcase gets a tidy up every night by the way!!

  2. I'm glad I gave you the chance to share that Katherine because it sounds like a precious moment. Seeing Mum read(and enjoy it) is such a positive experience for your girls.
    ....yes, the downside of the kids having access to the books is the cleaning up at the end of the day, but certainly worth it. :)

  3. Last week I sent my eldest (8) to bed and told him to choose a book and I'd come and turn his light off in 10 mins. Needless to say I turned on my laptop to get some work done and got completely pre-occupied! 45 mins later I hear a voice from down the hall "Mum can you turn my light off, I've read 8 chapters!" What a little bookworm! =)

  4. Sarah, you certainly have a little bookworm there. He obviously loves reading and knows how to choose a good book :)