By CELA on 19 Nov, 2018

Updated April, 2023

Like water play, quiet reading areas have been around for decades. But just as water play now often presents itself within the hip recycled timbers of a mud kitchen, for many services book nooks are a design feature inspired by and worthy of Pinterest.

With so much thought, care, and aesthetic effort being invested in these frequently fairy-lit, flower-framed, gauze-draped, corduroy-pillowed and gently-muralled zones, we thought it was time to pose a question about what’s going on inside.

The question was:

A reading nook works well if _____?

Books are appropriate and respected

Courtney R kicked off the discussion with this reply:

Appropriate books are available, children respect the books and the space and other children respect the children using the reading nook. The worst thing is being engaged in a story in that space and other children come in rough and loud and interrupting that experience.

Shanice M-C shared that view, further adding: 

[if it] Has educators who teach and example respect of books.
Nothing hurts me more than seeing ripped up and trashed books.

The space is right

Ella Jean raised the question of how location affects the use of a book nook, saying it worked well if:

it has sufficient natural light, options about seating, and room for two … it’s good to have a few spots that are too small for an adult, but our children often like to read together and sometimes it’s useful to be able to tuck yourself away with just one child.

Gabrielle F. also raised location and layout:

[if it] Has places to sit or lie down in pairs or solo. Has limited distractions. I like a book shelf and baskets of books.

The vibe is right

The right ‘feel’ is something a lot of educators seek for their quiet reading zones.

Kara S. said a nook worked:

If it is calming/relaxing.

While Mini S. said:

[it] Isn’t over stimulating and automatically sets a calm tone for the area

It’s made with love and care

Cas shared this photograph of the nook she built, with help from family and friends, saying:

 t was an anchor for the room, the drawers contained books, blocks, story telling felties. The boxes above had writing materials and the hanging net storage had puppets, the flowers on the wall were low wattage lights…it was such a well-used space, up to three children could squeeze on the bench seating. It also offered a safe cruising spot for just walkers who liked to pull drawers open and help themselves, as the furniture was sturdy.

Image: supplied by owner

It isn’t a nook

This wouldn’t be an ECE sector discussion if everyone agreed, right?

Ruth H. said:

I have a problem with designated areas, l think they serve no purpose other than control. l think it’s way more interesting, and liberating, to just not. Why limit children’s play when we can offer flexibility and choice?

Kailah B countered:

Quiet spaces are important, as children often need a space where they can get out of the hustle and bustle of the classroom. That said, I don’t think it needs to be specific to reading, just a cosy spot to relax.

Are designated areas just another way to control children?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Here are six other things to consider when creating your book nook: 

Diversity: Ensure that the books represent diversity in terms of cultures, languages, abilities and family structures.

Accessibility: Make sure that the books are easily accessible to children, especially those with physical disabilities or sensory needs.

Comfortable seating: Provide comfortable seating such as cushions, beanbags or small chairs to encourage children to sit and read.

Lighting: Ensure that the book corner is well-lit to create a comfortable reading environment.

Organisation: Organise the books in a way that is easy for children to browse and find what they are interested in. You can arrange the books by theme, author, genre or visual elements such as colour and shape.

Regularly updated: Regularly update the books in the corner to keep it fresh and interesting for children. This will encourage them to continue reading and exploring new books.

Other Amplify! articles related to this topic:

Representation matters, here’s how you can conduct a bookshelf audit

How reading to children links to emerging literacy

Why we need to refresh our appreciation of reading aloud

Connecting with families and community through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

About CELA

Community Early Learning Australia is a not for profit organisation with a focus on amplifying the value of early learning for every child across Australia - representing our members and uniting our sector as a force for quality education and care.

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