In the past several months, my young daughter has become quite interested in sounding out words. With her wee hand, she pens consonant-rich missives to her family, friends, and neighbors. While I know this is only one small step in the development of language and literacy, it feels like a big one.
I can think of many of my daughter’s language-related firsts. I have a picture of her, sitting on her father’s lap, signing ‘book’ for my delighted eye as I snap a photo. I can recall her tiny lips puckering over the ‘b’ sound, as ‘book’ became one of her first, and favorite, words.
I know the time is not far off when I may find myself with a voracious reader, as I was in my youth. I devoured books – begged for them. I look forward to a time when my children discover the world that opens up to them once they can read, how they will find themselves no longer at the mercy of a literate interpreter.
While I think about my children’s literate future, I also wonder if their relationship to the printed word might be in peril. The growing market in e-books is changing the publishing and book retail industry. It is truly hard to predict what impact this might have on the future of printed books. My hope for my own family is to achieve some kind of balance – while we fully embrace the use of digital word and the profound positive impact it has had on our lives, I hope to instill within my children a reverence and love for our printed books as well. I hope that they will cherish the feeling of holding a book in their hands, turning each paper page, as I do.
With that in mind, I have sought out some more ways to bring books into not only our daily, but our seasonal rhythms as well. I challenged myself to go beyond our usual naptime and bedtime reading rituals, expanding them into something more meaningful. Noting that the children’s bookshelves are as overburdened as my own, I began to pull out many of the season-specific books in our collection.
It came to me that just as we store many beloved holiday decorations, and open them like a treasure box each year, we can create the same experience with our seasonal book collection. Gently tucked away into boxes, we can preserve both the experience and the condition of some of our most treasured stories.
We simply repurposed boxes that we already had on hand, but you may choose to store your books in whatever way best suits your family’s needs. If you would like to keep any of your child’s books for future generations, I recommend looking for archival-quality boxes for book storage. We also enjoyed creating bookmarks for each season’s books, and a flexible list of materials and instructions can be found below.
Watercolors & brushes
Ribbon or twine
Colored pencils or watercolor pencils
Stencils or stamps and ink
Four boxes suitable for book storage
You might begin, as we did, by talking about the seasons; what your favorite things are about each, and what changes each season brings. Reflect on which colors nature presents with each season. Using watercolors and watercolor paper, spend some time with your child, each painting your impressions of all four of the seasons on separate pieces of paper. Set these aside to dry.
When you are ready to begin again, together pick a ‘motif’ for each season. We chose flowers for spring, suns for summer, leaves for autumn, and snowflakes for winter. On the dry watercolor paintings, draw these motifs with watercolor pencil, then use a small wet paintbrush to trace the pencil drawings. You may alternately use stamps and ink or stencils to help design your motifs. My daughter was able to do the sun and flower drawings by herself, but allowed me to pencil in the leaves and snowflakes. After that she diligently cut them out.
Next, have your child glue the motifs onto circles of cardstock or paperboard in which you have punched a hole for threading ribbon. While your child is thus occupied, you can cut out little strips of colored cardstock to use as bookmarks, then punch a hole in one end.
Your child may then thread ribbon or twine through both the motifs and the bookmark, leaving enough ribbon in between to allow the motif to dangle over the side of the book.
With the remainder of the watercolor paper, make a label for each box. After affixing the labels, enjoy nesting away three seasons worth of books with your child, knowing that your favorite stories will be there to rediscover over the next year.
You may wish to find a special place in your home for the current season of books. For now we have our spring books propped next to a chair in front of a sunny window, inviting anyone to sit comfortably and read, perhaps taking a moment to gaze outside to see the season reflected beyond.
I hope these ideas lead you to consider ways to encourage your children in their love for the printed word, and to bring your favorite picture books into your family’s seasonal rhythm.
For a selection of classic spring books, please see this season’s ROTH reading list.
Bernadette Emerson is co-editor and publisher of Rhythm of the Home. She enjoys sharing art, craft, and music with her young children. She has recently moved with her family from Colorado to the Midwest, where she is enjoying all that life has to offer.