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Ideas for Creating a Home Reference Library

Otis reading from Reference Library at How we Montessori

Do you have a reference library at home? Perhaps a few reference books for the children to use? The new year is a great time to restock, refresh or tidy up the children's books. I believe children still need the skills of research using physical books, using an index and such. While there is a place for internet searches, I don't want my children to run to google every time they have a question. Many reference books are also really beautiful and inspiring just to read, or flip through. 

I find it hard not to order too many reference books, I love a good children's encyclopedia! There is the challenge with young children to create an edited reference library. I think it's ok to rotate reference books to maintain interest and to freshen up the area every now and then. While we have some essential or staple books like an Altas there are other reference books we rotate including those on specific topics that the boys might be interested in. 

There is also a balance to achieve in having enough books to meet the child's need but not too many books they can't look after them. The reference library needs to be accessible but able to be maintained by the child if possible and kept orderly. 

I look for reference books that;

  • Have large, clear, beautiful, high-quality images. Images that are captivating and inspiring.
  • Are factual - without errors or political bias. 
  • Promote and celebrate diversity.
  • Have the right balance between images and text. I don't want a picture book or a chapter book.
  • Have interesting, insightful and useful facts. Dot point or summaries are good.
  • Are intelligent and don't speak down to children.
  • Have longevity, will still be of interest in a couple of years time and/or are so lovely they can be passed down to family. 

Ideas of books to include in a child's reference library. 

  • World Atlas
  • Picture Dictionary
  • Children's Encyclopedias - think Solar System, Human Body, Ocean, Earth Sciences, Rocks and Minerals our reference library includes Dog and Dinosaur Encyclopedias. 
  • Biographies
  • Almanacs
  • History Books - my children love books on Evolution, Natural History and Ancient Civilizations.  
  • Books on Humanities, Arts and Culture - love Artists and Paintings Children Should Know.  
  • Books on Technology and Inventions. 
  • Handbooks.
  • Field Guides including Local Guides - we recently found a bird guide that was specific to our local catchment area! Think native plants (leaves, trees), animals (insects, spiders, butterflies), fungi.
  • Books as per the child's interests - this list is endless Vehicles, Occupations, Flags, Lifecycles, Weather, Seasons, Clouds, Sea Shells. 

Brands that I like include My First Discoveries, DK, National Geographic, anything published by our local Museum. We also have the Farm, Nature and Food Anatomy books and the Animalium, Botanicum and Historium Welcome to the Museum Series. Second-hand books can be fantastic. It's also really lovely to build the reference library over the years, starting with a small collection when the child is young. Reference books often make nice birthday or Christmas gifts and Grandparents might like to add to the library also. For both of my children, their interest and demand for a reference library commenced at around five years, although many of these reference books are relevant from toddlerhood. 

Otis reading at How we Montessori, home reference library

Local readers might like to know that we use the Pocket Guide: Backyard Insects of Brisbane (other pocket guides here), Wild Plants of Greater BrisbaneWildlife of Greater Brisbane and the Field Guide of the Birds of Australia

Reference Library at How we Montessori

It is also important that my children use the resources at our local public library. Caspar has recently learnt to use the online library catalogue and how to reserve books, this has been incredibly helpful and empowering! The bottom right section of our shelves is kept for library books, we find it easier to keep them together, when the children are finished and are ready to return them they put them in the library bag (hanging on the side). We haven't sorted our little library by theme or topic but may do so soon (we have the labels on our shelves ready). I find it helpful to keep a good supply of bookmarks nearby too. 

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