When I was ten years old, we lived with my grandfather for seven months. He lived in an old stone house surrounded by lush farmland in Cornwall, in the south of England. The house had once been a butter factory and in his younger days my grandfather ran a nursery – he had a shop room, greenhouses and what he called a “meadow” (rows and rows of different varieties of trees). It was a young girl’s dream – countryside to explore, lots of places to play hide and seek, a cubby house that my grandfather build for my sister and I, and treasures to find in the old shop that was now a store room. We had very few toys and books there as most what we did own was in storage, waiting to be shipped to Australia (as were we). When we’d exhausted ourselves outside, my favourite thing to do was to make my way to the bedroom corridor – where my grandfather kept a sideboard piled with books of all kinds – select a book, and sit on the bed to read it. There were books about flowers and gardening, fishing, photography, geography, history and more. I felt that it was a great honour to be allowed to read those books of his and I learned more in a few months over summer than I probably would have at school.
Apart from lessons on the benefits of allowing children to freely explore outdoors, and how children willingly learn all kinds of things when they are ready for it, the point of this particular post is this: one of the best ways to normalise reading and to encourage your children to read, is by having a variety of books around the house. And I think with the availability of technology today, this is more important than ever.
Include a wide variety of topics, not just children’s books: books about nature, hobbies, geography, history, space, design, cooking, art, architecture, music; biographies, encyclopaedias, foreign language dictionaries, thesauruses, textbooks.
Books don’t need to be stored like precious objects on a bookcase in a single room, they are much more inviting when you can see their covers and when they’re sitting casually on a table or shelf. Reorganising them once in a while can help spark new interest, or support a child’s current interest. My children are into geography at the moment, so I’ve scattered some books on geography, and souvenir books from our travels, throughout the house. Moving books around gives them a life and reminds children that they are not just part of the furniture. Seeing their parents reading also helps a great deal!
And for the grandparents out there, a selection of interesting books at your house might just one day be part of a strong, positive memory for your grandchildren.