When we moved from a 500 sqft apartment to a townhouse late last year, the thing that excited me most was the extra space for an extensive home library!
Home Reference Library for Preschoolers & Toddlers
How We Montessori's home reference library was a great help and inspiration when I designed the setup of our home library and planned the inventory of books to stock for Miss 3's home library.
I got really lucky with the timing of introducing the home reference library to Miss 3. It was created right as Miss 3 started asking "why" about everything possible. Why do we sleep? Why are lights on the ceiling? Why are strawberries' seeds on the outside? Why are they red?
Some questions were easy to answer and explain on the spot, others required knowledge or data, which I sometimes didn't have on hand. For the questions which need follow-up, that is when our home library really shines.
Because we homeschool, we can flexibly rearrange the schedule of the day to straightaway dive into finding the answers. Young children don't often remember their questions for long, so it's great to seek out the answers while the questions are still fresh in the mind.
I personally really like the idea of turning to library books to look for answers, instead of the Internet, which can be factually inaccurate and promote unnecessary screen time. Chances are when we use our home library to look into one thing, we end up becoming interested in a similar topic and learn something additional!
Generally, I practise a respectful and mechanistic response to Miss 3's questions, which means speaking to her intelligently as I would to another adult, without simplification. Sometimes she needs a lot of time to connect the dots and process it (repetition helps), other times, she's able to peel the onion and ask more questions on the spot.
In conclusion, our home reference library works wonderfully for us in terms of:
- providing accessible and informative books to satiate any burning questions
- providing the platform for Miss 3 to cultivate the habit of independently seeking out answers
- opening her to diverse and myriad topics, ranging from space, to the animal kingdom, to our human body
Curating the Look of Our Home Library
- Front facing shelves at toddler height: The bottom panel showcases the most commonly used books (encyclopedias). The top panel at her height displays the newest books, more for casual reading. Miss 3 can scan the covers easily to find the books she needs or peruse the new ones to see which interest her.
- Book baskets beneath the shelves: Typically, if the book is in the form of a series, I place one on the front facing shelves and the rest in the baskets. The books in the baskets are meant to supplement what're on the shelves. I rotate them when Miss 3 loses interest in books on the shelves.
- Open floor space near the shelves: For laying some of the bigger books and their pages out.
- Proximity to our Montessori work shelf: Our home library is stationed next to our Montessori work shelf so I could put out complementary trays to support interest and further exploration. For instance if I put out a new space book, I might put out a work tray with planet figurines and matching planet cards.
- Proximity to our art space: So we could grab post-it notes and markers to make notes, bookmark pages etc.
Curating the Books in Our Home Library
I don't know if there are formal terms for classification of science books, but these are the 2 "types" we have:
- Encyclopedias for specifically seeking out explanations and exposure to varied topics (dictionaries and world atlases fall here)
- Books that are non-fiction but reading-friendly (i.e. written in a way that encourages casual science learning and reading)
We have about 30% encyclopedias and 70% non-fiction books in our home reference library.
These are my selection criteria for both "types" of books:
- Real photographs (where possible) or realistic illustrations
- For encyclopedias, comprehensive topics and clear page of contents/directory
- For non-fiction books, attractive flow and presentation of information to get children interested in a new topic
- Science or research based (I look out for latest editions where possible)
- Keepsake quality (i.e. have depth and breadth that children won't easily outgrow, and can be used for years with younger siblings)
Favourite Book Titles
Encyclopedias for fact-checking:
- Generic Encyclopedias - DK Children's Encyclopedia
- Encyclopedias that pique interest in new topics - National Geographic Kids' 5,000 awesome facts
- Encyclopedias by category -
The Julia Rothman Anatomy Collection on farm, nature and food,
Ben Hoare's The Wonders of Nature
Yuval Zommer's Big Book Series on bugs, beasts, blooms, blue (ocean) and birds,
The Big Book of Our Body
Jenny Broom's Animalium
Piotr Socha's book series on trees, bees and botanicum
Smithsonian books on the human body
Will Gater's The Mysteries of the Universe book
Non-fiction books for casual reading and learning:
- About the world in general - Charlotte Guillain's book series on the world, underground and the skies
- Lets-Read-And-Find-Out Science books for how things in our world works (Miss 3 reads a mixture of Level 1 and 2, we started from Level 1 as a young toddler and now she has the attention span for Level 2 books)
- National Geographic Kids books on on animals, plants, vehicles, weather etc (example: plants)
- Nature and environment: Dianna Hutts Aston's book series on eggs, nests, seeds, beetles and rocks
Thus far, we've just scratched the surface of how the world works, we still have many more interesting topics to look into!
I'm keen to introduce Miss 3 into anthrology books, humanities books, books about art and culture appreciation, books on technology, books on math etc. We're currently missing a picture dictionary and world atlas for our library, which might come in handier when she starts picking up reading skills and we embark on geography Montessori unit studies.
Happy reading and learning to your little ones!
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Hi! I am Yunnie. I am the newly minted mama to a little baby girl and a mum friend to everyone on this special (and many times scary) journey of motherhood. Also a graduated bride with a penchant for weddings.