This week there has been a lot of buzz on social media about Marie Kondo’s Kon Mari method of tidying up. Her Netflix show has people purging their closets and folding their clothes in an effort to declutter their homes. I’ll admit to being a fan of organizing. I love a quiet afternoon with just me, some bins, and a label maker. However, the problem I have with Marie Kondo’s method is when she talks about books.
Like most book lovers, I bristled when I heard her suggest that people should keep their book collection down to about 30 books. 30 BOOKS? Really? This made me curious what 30 books looks like, so I counted the books on my bookshelf at home. 30 books is ONE bookshelf. Just one! Considering we have bookcases in every room of our house, it made me wonder how many books we have. It turns out my seven-year-old has 33 books in his room. Sorry, I typed that wrong. He has 333 books in his room. After counting the books in each of my children’s rooms, the bookcases in our living room, dining room and basement, the book bins in our play room, the stack on my nightstand and desk, and the bins of “out-of-rotation” books in my storage closet, the grand total is 1,550 books!
OK, maybe that is too many books.
Obviously we are a family that loves books. I have three children, each with a temperament and learning style that is different from each other, but what they all have in common is a love of reading. Sure, the vast number of books in our home isn’t the only reason, but the fact that we value books and a love of reading is certainly a factor.
You don’t need to have a thousand books in your home to create strong readers. Here are some ideas for promoting a positive reading environment in your homes:
- Read Early – Begin the love of reading from an early age by reading to your babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. Babies and young children learn about the rhythm and rhyme of language and develop important pre-reading skills like turning pages and connecting pictures to text. Learn more about the benefits of reading to your baby here.
- Read Every Day – Make reading a consistent part of your day. Children love to hear the same books over and over. Most importantly, they love the connection they will have with you while you are reading. The more you read to children, the more they will develop a love of books and learning.
- Model Reading – Show your children that you are a reader too (and not just on your phone). Pick up a book or magazine and model reading for pleasure. Share the excitement you have for books and learning with your children.
- Build Your Home Library – Despite what Marie Kondo suggests, an abundance of books is important to develop literacy skills in your children. Studies indicate that literacy achievement soars when children have more than 80 books in their home. One easy way to build your home library is through Scholastic book orders at your child’s school. Thrift stores, garage sales, second-hand book stores, and books from groups like Buy Nothing and Freecycle are also a great inexpensive way to build your home library.
- Go to the Public Library – If you do not already have a library card, please go out and get one. The library is a wonderful and free way to expose your child (and yourself) to countless books. Young children may enjoy a library story time or they may just want to check out a big bag of books to take home and read.
- Make Books Accessible – Give your children a lot of access to books. If they are too young to be gentle on the books, give them board books and indestructible books. Organizing your books in bins helps children find the books they need. Rather than placing them on bookshelves in a traditional fashion, try organizing them in bins with the covers facing out. This helps children find the books they want and makes putting them away easier too.
- Don’t Stop Reading! – Parents often stop reading aloud to their children once their children learn to read on their own. I encourage you to read to them forever. My children are ages 14, 10, and 7 and we still read aloud as a family every night. Not only does this promote family time, but it also allows us to discuss complicated themes in books and expand their vocabulary. You can find great tips on how to read aloud to children at different ages here.
As writer Garrison Keillor says, “A book is a gift you can open again and again.” When you fill your home with books, you give your children the gift of learning, of discovering new worlds, and of unleashing their imaginations. Let those wonderful gifts fill your home every day.