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Magical childhood moments: create a reading den to share the joy of books

In part six of my series on adding a touch of magic to your children's lives and to mark International Children's Book Day, I share tips on how to create a cosy reading nook at home.

All parents know that reading is vital for a child's development; reading helps kids learn new words and develop better listening skills. It also helps children develop their ability to visualise stories, letting their imaginations flourish. Reading sets children up for a life of achievement and adventure as it fosters their love of learning and rewards their curiosity. Therefore, it's essential to make the reading experience meaningful and memorable. One way to do this is to create a cosy and welcoming reading den. Before I go into how to create a great reading den for your family, I'll explain why International Children's Book Day is so important.

What is International Children's Book Day?

International Children's Book Day is observed annually on or around 2 April in honour of Hans Christian Andersen's birthday. Andersen is best remembered for his literary fairy tales; his most famous stories include The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling, and Thumbelina. The day is sponsored by the International Board on Books for Young People, an international non-profit organisation committed to bringing books and children together.

Every year, the day is marked with a new theme. The theme for 2022 is "stories are wings that help you soar every day". I love this theme because reading can be an uplifting experience for children, especially because great stories can act as a doorway to new worlds.

International Children's Book Day is often celebrated at libraries and schools with various activities and events – check in with your local public library, school library or your kids' teachers to see how you and your kids can get involved.

Creating a cosy reading den

A reading den is a special space at home into which you and your kids can retreat to read and enjoy books together. Creating a cosy, private and comfortable reading den is relatively easy. It doesn't take much time, and you can create one with little to no budget, especially as most items you'll need are within reach at home. Make sure your kids are involved in the process from the start, giving them a sense of ownership over the space.

Here are some things to consider when creating a reading den:

  • Where will the reading den be located? Look for a quiet space – this could be in an unused room, cubby house, under your stairs, in a hallway or a corner of your child's bedroom.

  • What will the reading den be made of? You and your child could use anything from a rug, sheet, cushions, cardboard box, chairs, or a tent.

  • What will it look like? You could turn a huge cardboard box into a reading castle or drape a rug or sheet over a couple of chairs to create a tent.

  • What should the reading den contain? There are plenty of fillers to choose from – you could add cushions, blankets, a sleeping bag, a torch (for reading in the dark), a basket or box, a couple of family photos, some stuffed animals…and books!

The reading den might only last a few hours, day or longer. Either way, you and the kids can always pack it up and rebuild the same den later or build something different.

What to do in the den

There are loads of ways to make the reading experience memorable in a reading den:

  • Cosy up together when reading.

  • Try reading with a torch in the dark.

  • Perform the reading with different funny voices for each character.

  • Add a surprise occasionally – this could be a new book left in the reading den to find, or prepare a picnic or snacks.

And remember, you don't have to break the budget when it comes to books. Your local library has an excellent selection of books; talk to a librarian for the best books for your children's age.

I'd love to hear how you connected with your kids through books - please let me know in the comments below!

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