Welcome to Build Your Library’s Homeschool Tidbits: Episode 61 – Creating a Rich Reading Environment: How to Build a Home Library! In this weekly video series, I will delve briefly into a topic related to homeschooling and will share some of my knowledge and expertise as a long-time homeschooling mother of 4 children. Three of whom have graduated high school and one who is a college graduate!
So you want to build a rich and diverse home library to foster your homeschooled children. A sanctuary of stories, knowledge, and endless adventures. Building a diverse home library is akin to sowing seeds of wisdom, curiosity, and empathy in the fertile minds of our young learners. As homeschool parents, we have the unique opportunity to curate a collection that not only nurtures their academic growth but also fosters a lifelong love for reading. But how can you do it without breaking the bank? How can you discover the best books to include on your shelves?
Today I’m going to give you some tips to craft a rich reading environment right within the walls of your home, accompanied by book recommendations to help get you well on your way to building your home library. I’m going to be focusing on the middle-grade level today – middle grade is aimed at readers ages 8 – 12, but often readers both a bit younger and older can enjoy it.
A diverse library mirrors the diverse world we live in. Include books that celebrate different cultures, languages, races, and perspectives. These books broaden your child’s horizons and cultivate empathy and understanding. These books are windows – your children can peer through them and discover lives very different from their own.
Healer of the Water Monster by Brian Young is a beautiful story about a Navajo boy spending a summer with his grandmother and befriending a sick water monster. Full of adventure and heart, you will learn a lot about Dine culture while you read a riveting story!
A Place at the Table by Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan is a story about two girls from very different backgrounds – Pakistani and Jewish – discovering they have more in common than they thought.
While I Was Away by Waka T. Brown is a middle-grade memoir about the author’s chilldhood. One summer she was sent to live in Japan with her grandmother to go to Japanese school and study the language. It’s a fascinating glimpse into Japanese culture in the 1980s!
Freewater by Amina Luqman-Dawson is a story about a boy and his sister escaping enslavement. What makes this story unique is that they escape into a secret community of freed slaves in a southern swamp. I loved reading about this community and finding out about a history I’d never heard of before!
There are so many ways to tell a story—from historical fiction and mystery to fantasy and science fiction. Each genre offers a unique lens through which your child can view the world. You’ll want to include a wide variety of genres on your shelves.
Fantasy: Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston – Black girl magic, a hidden world of supernatural beings, AND a magic school setting – what’s not to love?
Historical: The Windeby Puzzle by Lois Lowry – this book is FASCINATING. The author weaves a story around the mystery of a 2000-year-old bog body. Part history, part fiction, part peek behind how an author works, this unique book is not to be missed!
Realistic Fiction: Jennifer Chan is Not Alone by Tae Keller is a story about bullying. But what makes it so good is that it really digs into the question of WHY someone might become a bully. What makes them choose to be cruel?
Short Stories: Once Upon an Eid: Stories of Hope and Joy by 15 Muslim Voices – edited S.K. Ali and Aisha Saeed – I love short story collections because they are a great way to try out new authors. This is a great collection from 15 Muslim authors about the holiday of Eid! Each story is engaging and thoughtful and it’s a great way to learn about Muslim culture!
Science Fiction: A Rover’s Story by Jasmine Warga is an adventure story following a Mars rover as it is being built and through its journey to and from Mars. It’s a really cute story with loveable characters.
Mystery: The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart – Four gifted children are chosen to go on a secret mission. They’ll have to go undercover at a very strange boarding school. This book is so much fun! Plot twists, mysteries to solve, and secret identities!
Graphic Novel: Speak Up by Rebecca Burgess is a story about an autistic girl who has a secret identity as a pop star. This is a great window or mirror into what it is like to be autistic, and it’s written by an autistic author. I really loved the way the mother begins to understand her daughter, rather than try to fix her by the end of the story.
Don’t forget about non-fiction! I don’t know about you, but my children are full of questions. I like to have plenty of great non-fiction on hand to help them find answers. Incorporate non-fiction books that pique your child’s curiosity. From animals and space to history and science, non-fiction titles provide a wealth of knowledge.
American History: A Visual Encyclopedia by DK Publishing – I love DK books – they are big and colorful and easy to read. It is hard to find good resources for US History, especially encyclopedia-type books for quick reference. I like this one because it’s colorful, and gives just enough information without being dry.
Absolutely Everything! A History of Earth, Dinosaurs, Rulers, Robots and Other Things Too Numerous to Mention by Christopher Lloyd – this book is so unique – it’s history AND science woven together to tell the story of Earth and the life that inhabits it. It’s a very brief history, so don’t expect it to go too in-depth on anything, but for a crash course-style history, it’s pretty great!
Explore Soil With 25 Great Projects by Kathleen M. Reilly – If you want to include lots of hands-on activities in your homeschool, this series is pretty great. There are a wide variety of topics in both history and science and the projects are relatively easy to do with typical household items. I used this one with my daughter when she was around 9 and she loved all the projects we did.
How to Be Good at Science, Technology, and Engineering by DK Publishing – Again, you can’t go wrong with DK. Their books are always so well done. This one focuses on science, but they also have one in this series about math! These even have workbooks that pair along with them if you have a kid who loves workbooks!
Introduce your children to literary classics that have stood the test of time. These are books that you likely grew up with, that hold a special place in your heart. They may be older, but they are still worth reading today! Classics provide a strong foundation for language and often convey profound life lessons.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White – the classic tale of friendship and the cycle of life between some pig and a brilliant spider. There’s a reason this book has endured for decades.
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery – the story of an orphan girl who finds a home with an elderly brother and sister. Anne is such a fun character to read, she’s dramatic and theatrical and she’ll instantly become a kindred spirit.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle is a great introduction to the science fiction genre – travel through time and space with Meg and her little brother to save their father from dark forces that are trying to take over the universe.
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit…” and so begins this fantasy classic about a hobbit who goes on a grand adventure. This book has everything, it’s funny, whimsical, and full of wild adventures through Middle Earth.
Books can be expensive, but they don’t have to be! Library sales and secondhand stores like Goodwill are treasure troves for discovering hidden literary gems. If you go prepared and you know what to look for, you can easily stock your home library without breaking your budget.
Involve your children in these outings, allowing them to choose books that capture their interest. This hands-on experience instills a sense of ownership and excitement for reading. There are also websites like BookOutlet and ThriftBooks where you can get amazing deals on great literature.
Now that you have a great literary selection it’s time to set up a cozy place to read. Designate a special corner in your home as a reading nook. Fill it with comfortable cushions, soft blankets, and shelves stocked with books. This inviting space encourages your children to curl up with a good book, sparking their imagination and love for reading. This doesn’t necessarily need to be anything fancy. Just a cozy chair with a blanket and a nearby bookshelf, or even just setting up a snuggly beanbag chair in your child’s room where they can read.
Make reading a family affair! Encourage meaningful discussions about the books your family reads together. These discussions not only enhance comprehension but also foster critical thinking. Share your thoughts and listen to your children’s perspectives, creating a space for open dialogue and mutual learning.
Building a home library is a long-term commitment to growing your children’s literacy. Books are where imaginations take flight, where heroes are discovered, and where lifelong learners are nurtured. By curating a diverse collection of books and fostering a love for reading, we, as homeschool parents, cultivate a rich reading environment that empowers our children to explore the world—one page at a time.
I hope you found this Tidbit helpful! Come back next week for more homeschooling inspiration!