In my home, we have an open bookshelf policy. When I first told my husband that I stood firmly behind the open bookshelf policy, he had to ask me what I meant.
When I was younger, I went to a friend's home. On this visit I learned what a closed bookshelf policy was. Ultimately, a closed bookshelf policy implies that only a designated person or persons may remove and/or read the books on specific or all shelves. Of course, my friend did not label it a "closed bookshelf" the way that I have, they simply told me that I could not touch the books. I envisioned a grate blocking the shelf.
When a child is told that they cannot touch a book, in my opinion and experience, they immediately associate this negative reprimand to the book or books themselves. With today’s unlimited amounts of internet, video games, and movies on demand, there is already a sizable amount of competition with books. I have decided to shrink this barrier in any way possible within my own home.
Books are a vital and useful tool in shaping young minds. Not only do they provide information, instruction, and guidance but they also fuel imagination, inspire ideas, and cultivate wisdom.
So, I have implemented an open bookshelf policy in my home.
My children have known the joys of books since the first day I brought them home from the hospital. I have read to my children before they were born and have made sure that they have books they enjoy ever since. Both of my children paid their first visit to the library around the time they were two or three months old.
I have made sure that my children have access to many books to read and browse and look through at all times. Yes, this means that I am constantly picking books up from the floor, the beds, the tables and chairs, but that is a small price to pay to know that my children are looking at books and trying to read them and inventing their own stories.
That said, I often find them leafing through my books, pretending to read them. I have never told my children ‘no’ to leafing through my books.
Of course, as with any parent, when they were younger, I have had to remind them “don’t tear the pages out” and “we don’t color in books.” Between the three of them, I have only “lost” three books, and one library book that we had to replace, to their mishandling them. Though these “loses” were disheartening, I would do it all over again. There is no reason to restrict their access to my shelves.
Watching my kids fall in love with books is an amazing thing for me. Seeing them excited about a trip to the library, or browsing goodreads with me for new titles is the joy of introducing them to books. Even though I know that as they grow older they may lose some of that enthusiasm. But for now, seeing their faces light up, glowing while we read, knowing they can bring me a book and climb into my lap and I will read to them, sometimes the same book over and over again, is amazing.
I do own exactly three books they are not allowed to handle. These books are old and rare, and one is in extremely rough condition already. I do not feel that eliminating these books violates my open bookshelf policy, however, because I do not keep them on the bookshelf but in a locked drawer and rarely handle them myself.
Each reader and household has to decide for themselves whether or not to have an open bookshelf policy. I highly encourage households with children to consider the benefits of such a policy.
I would love to hear about your bookshelf policies.
Stephanie Tiner loves all things writing. After struggling to learn how to read as a child, Stephanie eventually found her way and fell in love with the written word. The first book she read from cover to cover without help was "Romeo and Juliet" by William Shakespeare. After falling in love with reading, she quickly fell in love with writine. Stephanie Tiner lives with her husband, children, and her dog in Missouri and hopes to someday be a published author.
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