What is the buzz about front-facing bookshelves/ Montessori bookshelf anyway? Can I even fit all my books on those? These may be some queries you have when thinking about investing in a bookshelf. Let’s take a closer look at why front-facing bookshelves are so great for children and address those concerns about space.

First and foremost, why choose front-facing bookshelves over a standard shelf? Typically books are stored standing upright on a shelf with the spine facing outward. At home, we may even have some stacks of books on the coffee table or even a basket of books for our little ones. These solutions really are not ideal, mostly due to Interest and Accessibility. When we look at the spine of a book, for example, it is usually quite plain and typically has only text. For most children, what draws their interest to a book are the images and pictures on the cover, but when stored on a traditional bookshelf that oh-so-important part of the book is hidden. Front-facing bookshelves display the cover of the book - the part that draws children in and helps them recognize their favorite books.


Stacking Books

Stacking books on the coffee table seems natural, it’s near to the sofa where you most likely spend time reading together. The issues with storing books in this manner often come down to accessibility as well as developing respect for books. Children may want to read the second or third book down from the top, accessing it is difficult and results in books being strewn about. Not only does this damage the books, but returning the books to the table in order is also challenging for most toddlers.


Book Baskets

A basket of books is one option that allows for placing books front-facing, however, again, only one book is visible to a child. Flipping through the books presents its own dexterity challenges for those small hands and still developing muscles and coordination skills. Similarly, some people may opt to display board books standing up on a regular shelf by opening the book. While this allows the child to see the cover and grasp their interest, it is quite challenging for young children to return the book to the shelf on their own. In Montessori, we strive to give our children independence and this is closely related to accessibility. 


Front-Facing Bookshelves

And so we come to the front-facing bookshelf. Books are displayed with the cover facing out allowing children to recognize familiar images and independently choose which book interests them the most. In selecting which book they want to look at, children can begin to make informed decisions and develop a sense of personal preference. Books should be placed on the shelf side by side and not in front of another book so as to allow for full visibility and for those little hands to easily grasp the book they want to look at. Front-facing bookshelves also make it easier for children to return a book to the shelf independently and successfully. Children quickly learn to respect books as each book has a proper place on the shelf and can carefully be taken off and placed back on the shelf with little to no help from adults.


How Much Space?

Okay, so we know front-facing bookshelves are great for children to develop an interest and respect for books - but how do I fit all of my books on one of those shelves!? The short answer is: you don’t. To elaborate, in Montessori we believe in creating a calming space for children that is free of clutter and neatly organized so as not to overwhelm or overstimulate children. For bookshelves (and activity shelves), this means rotating books on the shelf based on your child’s current interest and developmental stage. So no, you do not place ALL the books you own for your child on the shelf at one time. Instead, you make a selection based on your child and display those books.


Remember that with any shelving system you choose, the best way to get your child interested and engaged with books is by reading to them every day. Show children, you care about reading and they will be interested as well. As you set up your reading space at home, keep in mind the importance of accessibility in developing your child’s interest, independence, and respect for books. We at Goc Montessori hope you found this article helpful as you set up a reading space for your child at home.


Written by

Góc Montessori


>> Products mentioned in this article: Montessori Bookshelf

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