Fostering the Love of Books
The four-year-old boy picks out a book from the shelf in the reading corner. Holding it close to his body, he moves slowly to sit in the rocking chair. With a delighted expression on his face, he carefully begins to turn the pages and then he leans over and smells the book.
A few days earlier the teacher had given a lesson on how to "break in" a new book and when she finished, she sniffed the book, remarking how much she loved the smell of a new book.
Fostering the love of books happens in many ways: choosing quality literature, reading aloud to children, and setting up the reading corner. Helpful Practical Life lessons include how to open a book, how to turn the pages, how to put a book back on the shelf, etc. Older children can learn to repair a torn page or broken cover.
Setting Up the Reading Corner
In a quiet corner of the classroom, place a comfy armchair and/or small sofa for several children to enjoy the books displayed on the coffee table, display stand, or in a basket. Change some of the books every few weeks, adding new ones based on the interests of the children and the current curriculum you are presenting. Children will light up when they discover a new book in the library that just "happens" to be about the very topic they are keenly interested in.
It's important to read aloud to children often. Hearing the correct pronunciation of new words and appreciating the expressions and inflection of the teacher's voice are part of the magic of sharing a wonderful story. Be sure to review the book before reading it aloud, noting the illustrations, content, topics you could discuss afterwards, and which words might need explaining. After reading the title of the book, read the dedication page; children love hearing who the book is dedicated to. When children want to dictate or write their own stories, present Make a Story, a journal which includes an "about the author" and dedication pages to fill in.
Build cultural literacy by reading the classic stories and poetry of western culture as well as multicultural literature. Poetry stimulates the imagination and facilitates memorization and vocabulary development with its rich language and musical rhythms. Poetry Speaks to Children has a CD so the child can listen and follow along. (Many of the poems are read aloud by the poets!)
Resources for Choosing Books
How do we choose quality books that will enrich children's lives, follow their interests, and help them deal with their feelings and life situations? Children's librarians are invaluable resources. One librarian helped a teacher find an appropriate book for a four-year-old who was fascinated with thermonuclear engines!
Another excellent resource for busy teachers, especially if you're looking for books on a specific topic, is the Data Base of Award-Winning Children's Literature (www.dawcl.com). Created by a reference librarian, this easy-to-use website has excellent search filters, including gender and ethnicity of the protagonist. For example, choosing the age range "preschool" and the keyword "seasons" resulted in a list of 26 award-winning books.
Montessori recommended realistic stories for primary children (for example, books about real animals, not talking animals). Elementary-age children still love to be read to and can be introduced to myths, fairy tales and fables since they're able to differentiate between fantasy and reality. For early readers, My First Dictionary is a brilliant bridge between a picture dictionary and a text-only dictionary because each definition has a picture clue.
Modeling our own love for books and the wisdom, humor, whimsy, and fascinating information they contain is one of the greatest gifts we can give to children.
"Language lies at the root of that transformation of the environment that we call civilization..."
—Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind
How to Break in a New Book
- Name the parts of the book: cover, spine, pages. Explain that this is a new book and there is a special way to "break it in" so that the spine won't crack and the book will last for a long time.
- Hold the book on its spine, perpendicular to the table.
- With one hand on each side, open the front cover with your left hand and lay it flat on the table.
- With the fingertips of your left hand, gently press along the crease from top to bottom.
- Leaving the front cover open, grasp all the pages of the book with your left hand.
- With your right hand, open the back cover so it lays flat on the table.
- With the fingertips of your right hand, gently press along the crease from top to bottom.
- Leaving both covers open, hold the pages with your right hand and with your left hand lay down a few pages from the front of the book onto the front cover.
- With your left fingertips, gently press along the crease.
- Repeat this at the back of the book and alternate back and forth until the entire book is open.
— by Irene Baker, MEd, Montessori Educational Consultant at Montessori Services. She holds both primary (ages 3-6) and elementary (ages 6-12) Montessori certifications and has taught at all three levels. For over 15 years, she has served as a Montessori teacher-trainer for both primary and elementary levels and has presented workshops for teachers at schools and AMS national conferences. Her work with both students and teachers is infused with the knowledge she has gained from her passions: history, social justice, non-violent (compassionate) communication, nature, meditation, music, and poetry.