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Getting kids reading

  • International Children’s Book Day

    It’s always great to discover people who are as passionate about kids and reading as I am and this month I’ve come across a brilliant Lithuanian children’s author who’s highlighting the calming power of books as part of International Children’s Book Day 

    Held annually in the first week of April, International Children’s Book Day is celebrated to inspire reading and to help bring attention to children’s books. Each year, a different country’s author is featured and this time around it’s children’s writer and illustrator Kęstutis Kasparavičius – who explains how books can slow us down.

    international children's book day; childrens books, children reading, tidy books Time slows down when you read a book. Image @mummyconstant

    ‘We live in the age of information overload, haste and rush. But if you take a book into your hands, you immediately feel a change. It seems that books have this wonderful quality – they help us slow down. As soon as you open a book and delve into its tranquil depths, you no longer fear that things will whizz by at a maddening speed while you see nothing.’

    That really rings true for me.  When I was young, whenever I was feeling anxious I could rely on reading a book to help me slow down my thoughts and feel calmer. And now, as an adult, once I’ve got my head in a book I can lose myself in the story and forget about the stresses of the day.

    Research shows a direct link between reading and mental health.

    One study showed that school-aged pupils who enjoyed reading were much more likely to have higher levels of mental wellbeing than those who didn’t. But research by University College London found that children today are spending less time reading and more time on their screens – which is having an adverse effect on both their mental health and their literacy levels.

    Reading, says Kasparavičius, is the opportunity for kids to unplug from their phone or tablet and reconnect with what’s around them. ‘Books teach us to notice things. The universe of a book is wide open; it happily fuses reality with imagination and fantasy. Was it in a book or in reality that you were lying in the summer grass, or sitting with your legs crossed, watching clouds sail across the sky?’

    I love that sentiment. When children immerse themselves in a book, they discover different places, interesting characters and new situations – and that sparks their curiosity to learn more in the real world. As Kasparavičius concludes: ‘Someone who enjoys reading – be it a child or adult – is much more interesting than someone who doesn’t care for books, who is always racing against the clock, who never has time to sit down, who fails to notice much of what surrounds them.’ I couldn’t agree more.

    What will you be reading this month to celebrate International Children's Book Day?

    tidy books, kids bookshelf, kids storage, kids furnitureGeraldine is Tidy Books’ founder, designer and CEO, as well as mum to Adele and Emile.   She started Tidy Books in her violin workshop because she couldn’t find a good bookcase for her kids.  Now her Tidy Books bookcases and storage designs are encouraging independence and a love of reading in kids all over the world.

  • Should you KonMari your kids’ books?

    So who went a little declutter crazy last month? January is traditionally the time of year when many of us have a bit of a clear out when we’re packing away the Christmas decorations. But while you were dispatching those unwanted items to the loft or local charity shop did you ‘KonMari’ your kids’ books too?

    In case you didn’t know, ‘KonMari’ is the method devised by Japanese declutter guru Marie Kondo. And her recent Netflix TV series, ‘Tidying up with Marie Kondo’, caused a bit of an outcry when it showed Kondo helping two people lose a sizeable chunk of their book collections. Get rid of books? Many book lovers couldn’t believe Kondo could suggest such an outrageous thing!

    kon marie, kon mari kids books, marie kondo, tidy up, kids books, kids bookcases Should you Kon Mari your kids books?. Photo @totaleve

    Well when it comes to children’s books, I think less is more. It can be overwhelming if kids have too many books – they’ll spend half their reading time trying to decide which one to pick. And if the books are crammed onto a bookshelf with only their spine showing it makes choosing even harder. It’s exactly why our book case is front facing – kids can see the book covers to help them decide.

    The Tidy Books bookshelf holds up to 85 books – which might not go down well with Marie Kondo, who has scaled her books down to just 30 – but it’s small and slimline so it doesn’t hog room space. And the thing is, you don’t have to fill it with 85 books. When my kids were growing up, I let them keep out a small selection of books at a time so they could get familiar with the ones they had. I put the rest of their books away in the cupboard then every couple of months I’d rotate their collection so they had a whole lot of new books to enjoy.

    I think Marie Kondo would approve. When challenged over the book decluttering issue, Kondo explained that if the thought of getting rid of a book made you angry, then of course you should keep it. Her mantra? ‘If a book sparks joy for you – keep it with confidence.’ And that’s definitely something we agree on!

  • I’ll have the burger – with a book on the side

    I was interested to see that in December the restaurant chain Frankie & Benny’s ran a ‘No Phone Campaign’ to make family meal times more sociable. They invited customers to pop their phones into a box on the table during their meal, with the incentive of free kids’ meals for diners who took part. It was a brilliant idea, I thought, and one that I’d love to see other restaurants take up – not just as a one-off campaign but as a permanent thing.

    It got me thinking about other ways to keep kids away from their phones and iPads during a family meal out. It would be great to have a book corner – a small space in a restaurant or cafe where kids could choose a book and take it back to the table. It can be tricky to entertain kids in restaurants, which is why it’s tempting to plug them into a screen – but it would be so much easier if there was a selection of exciting new books to grab their attention. Between courses, kids could read to their parents – or for younger children they could look at the pictures while their parents read to them. Discovering new books and characters would provide brilliant conversations with your burger and chips!

    entertaining kids in restaurants, book corner, reading corner, eating out with kids, How to entertain kids in restaurants without a screen. Picture credit, Family Nation

    A book corner would be easy to put in. The Tidy Books bookcase holds up to 85 books but its super-slim design means it takes up very little space. It’s also been designed so the books face forwards, making it simple for kids to spot the one they want to take off the shelf. Then there’s our book box – it also has a front-facing design, with enough room for 40 books. It’s portable, too, so it can be moved around to wherever there’s space as well as taken outside – which is pretty handy for summer evenings in the pub garden.  

    While it’s on my mind, a book corner would also be really useful in waiting rooms to keep the kids occupied while you’re hanging around for a GP or dentist appointment. And wouldn’t it be great for a book corner to keep your kids entertained while you’re having your hair or nails done? Some child-friendly salons have TVs and DVDs but I like the idea of kids getting away from the screen and absorbing themselves in a book. You get a lovely new hair cut, your kids get an exciting new world to explore between the covers – sounds like a win-win situation to me!

    How do you entertain kids in restaurants?  

    tidy books, kids bookshelf, kids storage, kids furnitureGeraldine is Tidy Books’ founder, designer and CEO, as well as mum to Adele and Emile.   She started Tidy Books in her violin workshop because she couldn’t find a good bookcase for her kids.  Now her Tidy Books bookcases and storage designs are encouraging independence and a love of reading in kids all over the world.

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