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Welcome to the Horn Book's Family Reading blog, a place devoted to offering children's book recommendations and advice about the whats and whens and whos and hows of sharing books in the home. Find us on Twitter @HornBook and on Facebook at

Empowering Children with a Home Library

I confess. I’m a book hoarder. Someday my house may collapse under the enormous weight of books it holds. As a young girl, I dreamed of a library that reached from floor to ceiling, with one of those fantastic rolling ladders that I could slide along the walls to pluck books from shelves. Our home library isn’t as grand as that (and, alas, no ladder), but I love it. More importantly, my children love it.

Our home library is stocked with books from my childhood and from theirs. Some books I received as gifts, some I unearthed at garage sales or in my grandparents’ attic, others I bought from bookshops. There have been times in my life when I couldn’t afford to buy books, but I still somehow always found books for my collection (or maybe they found me). I can tell you when and where I read nearly all of my books. For each, there was a phase, a place, a period of my life.

Because writing for children is my job, our shelves house more children’s books and novels than any other kind. I hope that, because I consider books valued possessions and family heirlooms, I’m imparting their dearness to my children as well. If that doesn’t work, at least I’ll be placing the tools for them to become lifelong readers within their grasp.

Since they were infants, I’ve encouraged my children to choose their own books from our collection. Our shelves are arranged by picture book, middle grade, young adult, and adult fiction and nonfiction so that the kids can easily find books to match their ages. They browse, read snippets here and there, or sit on the floor looking at the pictures. There is no one peering over their shoulders to tell them a book is too old or too difficult for them. When my ten-year-old read a few pages of War and Peace, he came to his own conclusion that he should wait until he’s older to “finish it.”

It’s not only having books at their fingertips that empowers my children and their reading lives; it’s also my children having the freedom to choose the books that call to them. They return to their favorites, each time for a fresh reading experience flavored by their age, knowledge, and emotions. I’ve noticed, too, that our home library has spilled over into each of their bedrooms. My children are growing little libraries of their own. When they earned money from their lemonade stand this summer, they opted to spend it on new books. They hold tight to books they discover and love, but they also share that love by lending books to one another. They are growing into givers, seekers, believers, questioners, thinkers — everything readers and people should be. Maybe someday their childhood memories will be as much a part of their book collections as the stories themselves.

Any library — whether home-grown or community-organized — empowers readers with freedom to wander, peruse, swim in and out of books until that one, spectacular one is found. Maybe a copy of the beloved book is bought and shelved in some esteemed place at home, to be enjoyed time and time again. Maybe the book is read and returned to its library to await another borrower. Libraries don’t have to be grand to be useful. Even one book at a child’s fingertips gives him exposure to words and worlds — a universe on every page. Books journey to reach readers, but readers journey, too. A reader’s journey begins with a library, a shelf of one book or thousands, and endless possibilities.

Suzanne Nelson About Suzanne Nelson

Suzanne Nelson is the author of Serendipity’s Footsteps, Cake Pop Crush, and several other middle grade and young adult novels. She is a contributor to The Washington Post “On Parenting” blog and a former children’s book editor. She lives and writes in Connecticut. Her website is She tweets @snelsonbooks and instagrams @suzannenelsonbooks



  1. This may be one of many practices we should empower since it will be great for children to be more into reading books than enjoying life in PS4 or other computer games. I would also encourage other parents to slowly make their little library for the little ones for them to read more while they are still young

  2. Barb Gogan says:

    Who took the photo in this column and where is the location?

  3. Reading at an early age could be a good practice for kids to ensure their early learning can have a progress. A library also could be provided them with more options to choose and read the different genre of books.

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