Simple Reading Nooks for Toddlers and Kids
Create a simple reading nook to entice your toddler towards book exploration and reading.
I believe in creating invitations to play that gently pull your toddler or preschooler towards reading. Setting up a dedicated reading space with a few reality-based books with beautiful illustrations is an easy way you can prepare your home to encourage an interest in books and reading.
A reading nook can be as simple as one or two wall shelves that are low to the floor, and a pillow to make the space inviting and cozy.
You really don't need a lot of space, time or money to create a simple reading nook. While it may be cool to convert an entire closet or a large corner of the playroom into a reading space, or set up a reading space inside a cloth teepee, it's totally not necessary.
A couple of shelves attached to the side of a dresser, or a longer wall shelf placed under a window, won't take much time or money to set up. Add a floor cushion and call it done!
Step 1: Choose a spot for a reading nook in your child's bedroom AND a spot in your living room or play space.
A couple of access points in your home is ideal, especially since you'll be setting out only a few books at a time and putting the rest in storage. To keep the bookshelf fresh, swap out books as your child's interests change or after trips to the local library.
Step 2: Buy one or two wall shelves for each reading nook, and install them at child height.
Be prepared to install the wall shelves much lower to the floor than you might expect. Your toddler needs to be able to reach all of the books and return them to the shelf independently. For a toddler, the shelf may only be 8-10 inches above the floor! As your child grows, simply add another shelf or move the lower shelf up.
In each reading nook, the shelves will hold just 5-7 books with the covers facing forward. A spice rack from IKEA is inexpensive and can be stained or painted to coordinate with your decor. A clear acrylic wall shelf is an option that allows the entire front cover of each book to be visible.
Step 3: Edit your book collection! (And then edit again.) Keep only beautifully illustrated books that are reality-based.
Just as with toys, too many books can be very overwhelming to children. Less is more, even for books. I promise!
By limiting the quantity of books available, you're making it easy for your toddler to choose a book to explore. You're also setting your toddler up for success with handling books gently and keeping the reading space tidy. No more rummaging through a large book bin, pulling out random books to see the front cover and tossing unwanted books aside to get stepped on!
As you ponder which books to keep and which ones to donate, always keep in mind that your toddler is in the process of figuring out how the world works. Books that feature fairies, talking animals and commercial characters confuse young children because they are not developmentally ready to distinguish between reality and fantasy.
Stories about everyday family life are ideal. Offer beautifully illustrated books that inspire conversation. Board books with real images of objects are great for enriching your toddler's vocabulary. Check out these Montessori-friendly books on Pinterest, or ask the librarian at your local library for some recommendations.
Step 4: Model how to look at a book. Your toddler will absorb the process of choosing a book, handling the book gently, sitting to look at the book, turning the page only after the period of focus is complete and returning the book to the shelf.
Psst!! Watch out for these scenarios when looking online for inspiration for your toddler's reading nook:
Way too many books and/or books in a basket or too high on the wall. Imagine your toddler's frustration, sensory overload and decision paralysis. Oh my! Less is more, even when it comes to books. Bonus: your toddler won't need to make a mess to find a favorite book or climb the shelves to reach books higher up!
Too much distracting decor. I'm not sure why people like to cover every inch of the reading space with "educational" clutter. Save yourself some hassle and leave the alphabet rug and abc posters off the to-buy list! The goal is to create a minimalist yet cozy space where your child can focus.
Super awesome DIY bookshelf projects using upcycled materials. It's time to get real: is this one of those projects destined for the likely-will-never-get-done-list? My advice: just buy a simple wall shelf, add a floor cushion, and call it done!
About the Author
I'm Lisa Adele, an AMI-trained Montessori teacher and the creator of The Playful Path to Reading™. I help parents of preschoolers use hands-on activities to develop early reading skills.