Kay Crosse has some advice on how to make your book corner a success with the children.
There are many aspects of providing an attractive, welcoming book corner. It’s important that children visit frequently, enjoy looking at the books and make a start on the journey to reading, delighting in the many excellent stories that are now available.
Looking at your book corner through the eyes of the children in your provision is a good starting point. More specifically, the age of the children in your room will determine many aspects of the provision.
Young children need to have easy access to their books and so the type of storage is very important. Open storage containers are useful for storing large size picture books but the disadvantage of this storage is that the display of favourite books is not easy. A combination of display units and shelves is ideal. When children can easily choose their book they are more likely to look at the pictures or take the book to a practitioner for them to read the story. Young children are quite capable of choosing a book and very often there are particular books which remain favourites and stand a great deal of repetition. Books can be organised into categories which relate to the children’s current interests but in reality a well-used book corner may not stay organised into particular themes for long.
A welcoming environment
Very often children link activities with books to warm, personal experiences with other children and practitioners. This approach should be replicated in the physical space where the book corner is located. Consider having cushions, rugs and other materials which can contribute to a cosy environment. Many young children will find a book and sit or sprawl on the floor. Low-level comfy seating can attract older children. When one child starts looking at a particular book, other children may join in and a lively discussion starts usually based on one of the topics or a character found in the book.
Links with the Early Years Foundation Stage
As practitioners are aware, Communication and language is one of the prime areas of learning and Literacy is one of the specific areas under the revised framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage. The prime areas form the foundation for the learning which takes place in the specific area and as such need to be planned for from an holistic viewpoint. When children have the opportunity to enjoy books, and to talk about what interests and excites them, they are ready for more literacy activities.
Following the children’s interests
Knowing your children and their interests is the starting point for your selection of books. Discuss with the children to see which books are their favourites. Your book corner needs to have more than one copy of the children’s favourite books. Well-loved and well-used books need to be replaced more frequently, as books that are torn or have pages missing are unlikely to be chosen by the children. Damaged books that are left in the book corner send the wrong message to the children — it looks as if books, stories and literacy are not valued.
It is not always necessary to throw out the damaged books. Consider what can be done with the “spare” pages. Pictures can be used for creative work and display purposes and can often provide the starting point for the development of children’s language and the acquisition of new vocabulary.
Although children will have their long-term, well-loved favourites, it is also a good idea to introduce different books from time to time. Where there are budget constraints, think about changing the books from room to room or putting some away, ready to be brought out again in the future.
For most of the time, the majority of books will be mainly based in the book corner, but there are many good reasons to have some books located near to other learning areas. Some children like to learn in the outdoor space and when activities are set up outside, a small basket of books linked to the learning area will attract different children.
It is not only books that will develop the children’s literary interests, remember to consider magazines and catalogues as well. Although these items may not have a long life, they can reflect the children’s current interests. Parents may be happy to bring in magazines that have been read by their children ready to be shared with others.
Which books to choose?
Don’t forget to provide books for babies, who love the very personal, individual time that comes from sharing a book with an interested adult. Cardboard books are a good starting point but choose attractively presented stories with pictures that will have interest.
Babies and very young children enjoy sensory books which involve tactile interactions. Children soon become familiar with the different materials and different sounds found in various books.
“Lift the flap” books are favourites with children particularly the Buster stories by Rod Campbell. Children need to be supported to lift the flaps carefully and they respond well to the familiar everyday situations encountered by Buster. The Spot books by Eric Hill also include lift the flap activities connected with shape, colour and numbers woven into Spot’s adventures.
For older children, a firm favourite is Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. Another favourite is Slinky Malinki by Lynley Dodd. Both of these books are enjoyed by children partly due to the illustrations for the various adventures and also due to the rhymes within the stories. Rhyme helps children to repeat some well-loved phrases and helps them to remember the story. Both of these stories will be asked for on many occasions.
When practitioners demonstrate their enjoyment of stories, this enjoyment is communicated to the children and it provides the basis for many years of enjoyment.