The book center is an important part of every child care environment. Children should always have access to a variety of different types of books in the classroom. The book center can be a great place for children to play alone or with one or two other children. Having access to books stimulates children’s imagination and thinking skills, encourages developing language, and provides opportunities for creative expression through storytelling or puppetry. Adults can encourage children’s learning about words, sentences, and the rhythm of language by reading stories and poetry aloud. Children can practice book-handling skills, retell stories by “reading” the pictures, and develop a love of reading by having the chance to interact with books regularly.
Keys to an Effective Book Center
A well-designed book center will provide quiet space for children to look at books, or for adults and children to read together. The book center should include:
- At least one book rack that will display children’s books with the covers facing forward. Because most young children cannot read yet, they are likely to choose books based on the covers. Choose a book rack appropriate to the children’s height so they can reach books without help.
- Comfortable space to sit and read. A rug, pillows, an armchair, or a small couch are good additions to the book center.
- Props that support the books in the area. Puppets, stuffed animals, and other storytelling props related to the specific books can be kept in individual bags or baskets on low shelves. Having these props will help children practice retelling stories by themselves.
- Space separate from noisy and messy activities. Children will be more likely to use the book center if it is set apart from other area in a relatively quiet part of the room. Keep the book center away from art, sand, water, and other messy activities to keep books safe and dry.
The Teacher’s Role in the Book Center
Child care provers can help young children get the most out of the book center by:
- Providing a variety of reading materials, including magazines and homemade books as well as regular books
- Rotating books regularly to support curriculum themes and to keep children interested
- Including books that reflect the cultural backgrounds of the different children in the group
- Making puppets available to support children’s storytelling in the book center
- Reading stories aloud, both during large and small groups and to individual children during free play periods
- Telling stories using flannel boards and other props, and making those props available for children to use as well
- Giving children opportunities to choose stories
For more specific ideas on setting up a book center, see Planning a Successful Book Center in Child Care.
For More Information
To find tips and ideas for the book area, choosing books, and reading aloud, check out the following eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care articles:
- Choosing Books for Young Children in Child Care
- How to Read Aloud with Children in Child Care
- Three “Bs” in Child Care: Blocks, Balls, and Books
For more information about how to use learning centers as part of the early childhood curriculum, you may also want to check out these articles:
- Using Learning Centers in Child Care
- Keys to Planning Successful Learning Centers in Child Care
- Toys and Materials in Child Care