The Book Nook: Creating the Childhood of Champions

Reading NookAs a child, reading is a doorway to mysterious worlds. It’s where you learn to train dragons, ride unicorns, dig for treasure, and solve the mystery of the missing bike.

Books are a map to Where the Wild Things Are, how we navigate A Wrinkle in Time, and see Through the Looking-Glass of our future, so there is no greater gift you can give as a parent than that of raising your child to love reading.

It was understandable, then, that I was elated to see my friend Karen Gurney post Facebook photos recently of a new little “Book Nook” she created for her little girl, Olive.

Her photos reinforced something I’m forever trying to tell you and show you: You don’t need a lot of space to create a whole lot of awesome. I’m excited to show you how Karen made a whole world of childhood awesomeness just that with a tiny bit of “wasted space” behind their living room couch.

The start of something good

Olive’s at the age where I first learned to read, just under three. Newly moved to their first real family home, Karen thought their getting-big little girl needed a quiet space to call her own. She was inspired when she saw this older post from The Naptime Decorator blog, where blogger Liz accomplished a great space with surplus items and a $15 wooden-letter-buying splurge.

With some of the highest real estate prices in North America, every ounce of space counts when you’re a homeowner just outside of Vancouver, where Olive and her family lives. That’s why I love the idea of taking space that’s generally considered only storage or decor-plant-worthy, behind the sofa, and making it a little world where a 3-year-old can get lost in picture books.

A kid, some space, and some books

Karen’s vision started with a little lampshade she found in the “free” pile at her old apartment building. Aided by a lamp kit and some cable clips, she was able to string up the light above Olive’s reading spot, making it a cozy, well-lit space. Add in the purchase of a groovy beanbag, and clearly Olive’s got a space to get comfy and absorbed in for hours. There’s even enough space for puppy Pinot to sneak in and cuddle up with his favorite toddler.

Karen tells me today’s moms are all over the IKEA spice racks for the little “book shelves” you see here. With the covers able to be shown face-out, they don’t hold a ton of books, but the displayed artwork entices little kids to go exploring beyond the cover. Karen’s happy with the limited book storage they offer, because it won’t overwhelm Olive’s choices and she’ll be more easily able to pick a book and become rapt.

Olive’s just learning to love books, so she’s more about looking at the pictures and babbling happily as she retells the stories she already knows, so it’s all about the artwork right now. Unbeknownst to the little tyke, mom’s packing a stockpile of books and a plan to swap books out here and there so kiddo remains keen for a while.

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Instead of worrying about a perfect-fit rug for the spot, Karen’s got a nice big shag rug folded over. While saving money, she makes an even softer, squishier place for a soon-to-be-three-year-old to hang out and play.

All told, you’re looking at a space that’s about 4-5 feet square, but that’s all that’s needed to open the door to magical worlds for a three-year-old.

Education begins at home

Childhood is a wonderful time of learning and imagination. In this electronic, fast-paced world, I can’t think of anything greater to do for your child than to teach them that unplugging and picking up a book isn’t just a positive choice, but an exciting and enthralling one.

Karen reports that, on the morning of day one, Olive zoomed over to her fabulous new Book Nook, calling it by name, and digging into books. A few weeks later, and Olive is still in love with the space, which is testimony to the fact that, no matter how young we are, everyone needs a space to call their own.

Olive’s Book Nook wasn’t as frugal as the original Naptime Decorator’s Book Nook, since the Gurney clan upgraded from a smaller apartment to a larger home and surplus items have to be bought, not repurposed. It’s also not as primary-school colorful as the original Book Nook, since Olive’s space has to fit within the adults’ color scheme in the living room, but still, for a little money and a fancy beanbag, Karen and her husband have given their kid a place that’s truly hers within the family home. It’s a spot filled with adventure and fun, pictures and words, and it’s comfortable, clean, and cute.

A foundation for a lifetime

Reading is an ability (or lack thereof) that often defines where we’ll go in our lives. Reading well, expressing yourself confidently, and being able to write are skillsets that successful, secure adults tend to have mastered at a young age. It might seem cute and fun, but a lifetime of success all starts with that picture book. Where the Wild Things Are, indeed.

Olive’s Book Nook won’t just keep her preoccupied and engaged, it’ll be the cornerstone to a successful career and an educated life, and I can’t think of a more wonderful gift for her parents to give her.

Look around your space. Perhaps there’s a spare shelf, a little floor space, and a lamp that are just crying out to join together and become an imagination den of books and adventures for your little person.

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