I was provided with a complimentary copy of The Intentional Bookshelf in exchange for my honest review. All opinions and views are my own. This post contains affiliate links.
In The Intentional Bookshelf: Parent with Literature and Build Your Unique Child’s Perfect Little Library, Samantha Munoz offers parents a brilliant yet simple solution to their daily struggles – use children’s literature! Books, Munoz reasons, are the key to building your child’s identity, values, and understanding of complex topics.
Munoz breaks down the process of curating a little library into actionable steps: build the library, organize the collection, and venture outside the book. Each of these main steps are further divided into sub-steps. The intended result of this book is the intentional bookshelf – that is, a library of carefully chosen books where each text serves a specific and important purpose.
Why You Should Build Your Library with Intention
Stories hold immense power to shape children’s minds. Even a toddler’s pretend play is woven with complex storytelling. It comes naturally to them. That’s why stories such as The Boy Who Cried Wolf exist – it teaches the value of honesty better than any parental lecture ever could. Munoz explains:
Books are concrete examples of all the values, morals, lessons and characteristics you envision your child possessing. With a carefully crafted book collection, you can pave the way for a child who understands the world on a deep level.
This is why it’s important to base your library on a solid foundation. What is your foundation – what morals, lessons, and values do you hope to teach your children? As I build my son’s library, I make an effort to include books that shaped my own childhood, books on our own family identity such as those written in Korean, and books that highlight diversity.
How you organize your books is as important as what books you choose. Munoz offers several suggestions to parents. I prefer to organize my books by what she refers to as “the most strategic way” – by category, using baskets and newsstands. This is how I organized the books in my former classroom. By putting the book covers in easy view, the library becomes easier for children to navigate independently.
Munoz also invites families to “venture outside the book,” such as by connecting the content of a book to a project, or a journaling activity. Going “outside the book” deepens a child’s understanding of the text and offers an opportunity to demonstrate knowledge about the book.
Why The Intentional Bookshelf Benefits Families Who Travel
Travel adds an extra dimension of potential to curating your child’s library. One of the suggestions Munoz gives for acquiring books is collecting them as travel souvenirs. Isn’t that a perfect idea? Children’s books are inexpensive and you can find them in any country. You can use these books to educate young children about complex topics such as cultural diversity. Munoz writes:
Books in other languages… open your child’s mind and world view to the concept that people around the world speak in different ways and with different words…Though we live most of our life in our own little bubble, there is a great big world out there filled with diverse cultures and ideas.
Families can use the books in their child’s library to share information about a location. Let’s say you’re planning a trip to New York City. Reading a book such as This Is New York gives your child familiarity with some of the sights and landmarks you may encounter. Your child will light up in excitement when he or she recognizes the Empire State Building from the book!
What Advice Does the Author Have for Traveling Families?
Given that Munoz herself is a former expat, I reached out to ask how her book benefits traveling families.
You mention in the book that you lived in Japan. What advice would you give specifically to families who lead more transient lives, such as expats and military, when it comes to building their libraries? Were there any challenges or positives that emerged from living abroad?
Travelers, expats and military families have the opportunity to have the most unique and eclectic book collection. In the book I talk a lot about how we collect books as trinkets from the places we have visited and lived in, this allows Addison’s library to hold those physical memories encapsulated in the books. My advice to those living these more transient lifestyles is to buy books wherever you go, and make them meaningful to your visit there. If you visited a specific landmark while traveling, pick up a book about it to teach your child more about the history or meaning behind it. If you live abroad and do not speak the language, grab some children’s books in the foreign language. Even if you can’t ever read a word from the books, they still serve as reminders and memories for your children, and are great talking pieces for friends and family.
Do you bring children’s books when your family travels? How do you decide how many and what kinds of books to bring? What are the benefits of packing books for a trip?
We always bring books when we travel (even when we are just heading out to a doctor’s appointment or to run some errands, our little one has a bag full of books to sift through). Depending on the length of the trip I typically bring about 4-5 books. I like to bring a range of “quick” books (shorter board books mostly), interactive books (popups, lift the flap, etc.) and maybe one picture book… For older children, whether they can read on their own or not, picture books, interactive books and even chapter books are great options for traveling… The more you encourage your child to read for fun and to read to escape boredom (like a long road trip or plane ride), the more they will associate reading with fun, and the less they will ask you for things you may not want to give them (your cell phone, for example).
Where Can I Learn More about The Intentional Bookshelf?
You can buy the Intentional Bookshelf on Amazon – the Kindle edition is $0.99 and the paperback is $9.95.
You can find Samantha Munoz blogging regularly at Addison Reads, where she reviews children’s books. Seems like a great place to start if you’re wondering what books to add to your library!
Your child’s book collection may not be finished today; it may not be finished ever, but you know moving forward that you are only putting the best representation of who they are on their shelves.
A child’s library is a work in progress! You don’t have to get all the books at once, but if you want some direction, here are some of my adventure-inspired favorites: