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I am a mom of three; two boys, ages 7 and 8 years old, and one teenage girl, age 14. A few years ago when COVID appeared, I did what most mom's did......I freaked the hell out! I say this jokingly, but also in all seriousness. At the time, the kids were attending schools that were transferring to virtual learning, which didn't vibe well with me, my husband, or our kids. We decided what was best for our family was to withdraw them from their schools and begin our adventures in homeschooling. I can't say I ever envisioned this path for myself, nor was I the most natural at it, but I do look back on this time with great memories. And, if I am being honest with myself, sometimes I miss it. We would explore nature, craft, make art projects galore, and I made sure to surround ourselves with the most beautiful books I could get my hands on. Our upstairs space that had never really served a purpose became our classroom. I wanted it to be welcoming, visually appealing, and inspiring. I did what I always do when I start a new adventure.....I researched it to death. I read books, blogs, and articles on homeschooling until I felt I had consumed all the information I could possibly take in. Two important takeaways from this experience were that children are drawn to calm, beautiful surroundings that are usually close to you and that they appreciate lovely books just as much as we do.
Captivating, artistic book covers get me EVERY DANG TIME, and you know what, they draw my kids in too. Today we still have gorgeous books laying around our living room, but also in a small pocket space off the living room for them to go, take a minute to themselves, and get lost in a good story or information about our amazing world.
To create a reading nook and encourage reading, you don't need to have custom built-ins, a designated room, or the most Pinterest worthy library. You only need to have a space that you can place items that draw one to gather. Let's dig in.
Throughout my years as a parent I have discovered this truth, most kids want to be in close vicinity to their parents. I cannot tell you how many times I have re-decorated and put money into a space trying to make it a playroom, reading nook, or an attempt to draw the kids to be in their rooms or the basement. It doesn't work. Those little buggers always end up right back in the spaces next to the kitchen, which is where I spend a good majority of my time. This is until they hit age 13 and then you just ride the wave. With this knowledge I have gained, I now treat spaces like the dining room table as an area where I leave a basket of arts and crafts supplies, and the living room has essentially become the "reading nook". It sounds cliche, but as much as a parent can often feel they desire some much needed space, this phase of life is fleeting. Instead of fighting it, embrace it. Spaces are too often defined by their titles; dining room, living room, formal dining room. Let go of these titles and make it what it truly should be, a space that serves you for the phase of life you are in. So if the "reading nook" needs to be in the living room for the current phase, then that is where it should go. Most likely a couch is already there and some blankets so why spend money on re-creating the wheel in another area of the house. This space serves the purpose just fine. I promise, one day your formal dining room can be formal and you can have those fancy upholstered dining chairs. For now, let it be what the space is telling you it needs to be.
This brings me to the most simplest thing you can do to define a reading or art area with minimal effort; add beautiful, visually appealing books along with decorative baskets to store easily accessible art supplies. (P.S. you can find great baskets thrifting at your local secondhand store for a fraction of the cost)
My most favorite books of all time are the DK Children's Anthologies and DK Treasures series. If you have an animal, nature, or dinosaur enthusiast like I do, you won't want to miss out on these. We have read them in their entirety and they never fail. Filled with great information and beautiful illustrations these books capture the attention of all readers no matter the age. To top it off, the covers are unique and lovely. They are decorative in any space and instantly make it feel sophisticated. We are currently reading Dinosaurs and other Prehistoric Life before bed. Click the individual image to be taken to the link.
The Big Book Series is also a terrific series that engages those young, inquiring minds. The boys still flip through these on their own and are left stacked on the console for them to reach for whenever the mood strikes.
During COVID we did a lot of hiking and outdoor school lessons. Nature journaling was something we discovered was not only a fun way to express yourself and your surroundings, but a way to show gratitude. The kids enjoyed nature journaling in the journal below and using watercolor pencils as they could dip them in the stream to create watercolor effects in their drawings. I now keep a tray in the dining room with colored pencils, markers, tracing paper, and sketch paper. Everyday after school, you can find the boys there at the table creating away. When they are done, we simply stack the items back on the tray for the next use. Take a look at our favorite nature journal and art supplies. Click the individual image to be taken to the link.
These books by Julia Rothman are truly spectacular. Her ability to describe through imaginative illustrations is magnificent and can be enjoyed by all.
Seriously, I could go on and on, but I will refrain. The point I am hoping to construe to you is that your home should work for you and all who live there. Too often we are swayed by titles, outside perceptions, or social media. Good design doesn't have to be the most gorgeous space filled with a list of beautiful furnishing and decor. Good design is about function and drawing people to gather in the space. That can be as simple as beautiful books or accessible items your kids can reach to create.
I will list below a few more of our favorites because I just cannot help myself. Click the individual image to be taken to the link.
Go seek the beauty in your everyday.