World Book Day: how to make a great book corner

Melanie Pilcher, quality and standards manager at the Alliance, shares some ideas for creating a book corner, or story area, to help encourage children to develop a love of books and reading. This is an extract of an article that originally appeared in the March 2019 issue of Under 5 magazine.
A designated book-corner or story area is an important element of continuous provision. It should be laid out in such a way that children and adults will want to visit it frequently. Practitioners must ensure that it is planned and maintained, with new books added often and damaged books removed. Practitioners should also model behaviour they want to see in the book corner, treating books with the care and respect they deserve.

The right place

It is also important to reflect upon who uses your book corner and when – for example, if boys only tend to do so during designated story times when they are directed to. Think about how you can encourage these children to use it more, maybe making the theme more appealing to their current interests.
  • Put your book corner in a space that is relatively quiet, away from areas of high traffic, such as the route to the bathroom.
  • Think about how books are stored and displayed – put some on shelves, some in racks and some in book boxes.
  • Make it accessible and welcoming so that children have room to gather in small groups, or to simply be still and quiet in their own way if they need to. For many children, the act of looking at a favourite book is calming and reassuring when they are feeling upset.
  • Don’t be tempted to fill the area with brightly coloured child-sized plastic furniture – it may appeal to an adult’s idea of what looks nice, but is quite often not really fit for purpose. A small adult-sized sofa and some comfy seating is ideal.
  • Soft cushions and rugs are great, if they can be easily cleaned.
  • Can children arrange the books as they wish? Are fixtures and fittings easily removed? Do they have ‘ownership’ of the layout?
baby reading book corner

The right content

Think about the type and range of books you have available. There should be a good mixture of picture books, big books, board books, lift-the-flap books, poems and non-fiction books, with lots of different print styles. Ensure that you include books that reflect diversity and inclusion, with plenty of positive images of people from different cultures and in non-stereotypical situations.
Books can be expensive, but there are means and ways of keeping a regular supply of new books coming in. Ask parents for donations of books, but set some criteria – you’ll want books that are in a good condition, covering a relevant topic and age-appropriate for the children in your setting. But while you are adding to your collection and making sure that there is always something new, don’t forget old favourites.

Some things to consider:

  • Children enjoy looking at photo albums – either sitting quietly alone or sharing memories with a friend or practitioner. Seeing photos of themselves and their peers encourages dialogue and helps them grasp the concept of time and the sequence of events.
  • Many settings use their book corner to display children’s work. This is fine as long as they don’t take over and help enhance the area.
  • You might want to explore themes from time-to-time. For example, you could add props for particular books or choose to highlight the work of a particular author or illustrator. 

Where next?