Ways to model and promote a love of books in your preschool classroom

I have so many fabulous children’s books that are near and dear to my heart and the last thing I want is for one of my students to trample all over one or for a page to get ripped. I am sure you feel the same way about your children’s books. After all, they are your pride and joy. They cost you money. And some of them might even be out of print.

Where do you keep your children’s books?

Do you keep the junk books (the books you don’t really like) in the classroom and your good books (the books you love) on the tippy top of the shelf where they can’t be reached? Do you read a good book then tuck it away in your teacher bag so the children have to ask you for it? Do you leave all your good books at home? Where do you keep your good books? And by good books, I mean the children’s books that you LOVE to read aloud to your students.

If you keep your good books out of reach, then chances are you are worried that your students will tear up your books. Or perhaps, in your experience, they already have torn up some of your books and if that is the case, I know how discouraging that can be. If you tuck your books away after reading them to the children, then I have five tips to share with you on how to help your students take care of your books so that you can begin working your way towards leaving your good books out and within reach of the children in your classroom.

Tip #1: Young children can’t read

What? Of course young children can’t read. I know you already know that but there is a reason I point this out. Every book you set out on the classroom shelf needs to be a book that you have ALREADY or soon plan to read to your children AND they need to feel some connection to the story. You see, if you want the children to look at the books and not step on the books, then they need to know what the books are about. They need to be able to pick up each book in your classroom and be familiar with the story, the characters, the illustrations so that they can “read” them on their own. As the children in your classroom become familiar with, interested in, and connected to the books in your classroom, they will be more concerned with taking care of the books.

Tip #2: Avoid the overwhelm

This may sound counter-intuitive but too many books in a small amount of space creates overwhelm. It is better to have out a selection of well written books that the children can take off the shelf, read through, and then put back all by themselves than to have a big pile of books that the children have to sift through just to find one they like. Too many books can get in the way of your students finding their favorite book. Too many books crammed in a small space can be difficult for the children to take care of so when they all come tumbling down on the floor, they get pushed aside, stepped on, or piled back up on the shelf in a big mess. When your books are all piled up in a big mess on the floor, in a basket, or on the shelf it sends a message that these are not books we treasure. Set out the books you and the children treasure; display them in a way that the children can see them and choose their favorites; and don’t set out more than the children can really handle reading. Test it out. Start with less and add more if needed but then stop. It would be better to rotate their favorite books through your book corner than to create overwhelm.

Tip#3: Give them a hug

I’m not talking about your students, although you can certainly give your students a hug too. I am talking about your books. Whenever you talk to your children, hold your books lovingly. Pat the covers gently, brush off any lint or dust, let the children see you loving on those books. You need to not only connect your students to your books by reading to them but you also need to model your love for those books so the children see how you physically treat a book. You can certainly tell a child, “We do not step on books.” or “We need to take care of our books.” But what really brings it home is when you SHOW them how much you love your books, how you go about taking care of them. Hold your books gently, give them a hug as you introduce the story, tell the children that this book is one of your very favorite books in the whole wide world.  You see, when you physically demonstrate and communicate the process of loving on those books, your students will realize that the books are special and be more aware that they need to take care of them, too.

Tip #4: Call 911

If a child comes to you with a book that is torn or in some way falling a part, try to stop and fix it right away. Treat it like it is a 911 call. In fact, you can put together a book doctor kit just for this purpose. Fill your book doctor kit (or box) with clear packing tape, scissors, and anything else you think would be necessary to fix a book. Whatever you do, don’t just toss that book back on the shelf and say, “We will fix it later.” Chances are, you will forget and the message you send is that it isn’t that important anyway. If a child thinks it is important enough to bring you the book then fix that book right away!

Tip#5: Fall in love

If your students are not falling in love with the books you read to them, then you need to work on that. Perhaps you need to improve on your reading-aloud skills. Perhaps you need to choose books that the children can relate to or enjoy listening to. Perhaps you need to choose books with better stories, illustrations, or characters. You see, we all take care of the things we love the most and in order for your students to care for your books, they need to fall in love with them.

The End

That brings me to the end of today’s blog talk. I really could have given you more tips but I don’t want to overwhelm you. Take these tips and give them a try!

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