Chapter 19: Build a Bookshelf!

Chapter 19: Build a Bookshelf!

(Click for the Complete Online Parent Reading Guide)

Build it and they will come

Helping your child build a bookshelf of her own is a great way to say, “Books and reading are important!” Making and stocking that bookshelf also gives your child some real, hands-on input into the process of bringing more books into your home. And there’s nothing quite as motivating as the pride of ownership. If a child has a bookshelf of her own, reading will become a much more important part of her day – not just something that the grown-ups are nagging her to do.

Some struggling readers are very tactile learners as well. Traditional teaching methods sometimes don’t work well for them. Adding a physical element to reading – like building and decorating a bookshelf – can engage their brains in the reading process in a very productive way.


Fairly cheap shelving options are available at most retail stores. If a new bookshelf is out of reach financially – or if you just want your child to be more involved in the building process – here are a few low-cost alternatives that you and your child can work on together.

  • Secondhand stores – Antique stores, thrift stores and used furniture outlets are good places to look for secondhand bookshelves. Usually, it only takes a quick coat of brightly colored paint to hide any flaws or imperfections. With very little effort, you will have a fresh, new shelf, just waiting to be filled with books!
  • Boards and bricks – This college-student standard works without nails or hammers. All you need are several boards and two bricks for each level of shelving. The square, decorative ones work best and can be found at most home-and-garden stores. Start by finishing the boards. Let your child paint them or cover them with cloth or contact paper. Put one finished board flat on the floor where you want the bookshelf. Place a brick at both ends then put the next board on top of the bricks. Don’t plan on more than two or three shelves. Any higher than that, and the shelf can become a bit unstable.
  • Ready-made brackets – Another easy shelf-building method starts with simple, ready-made brackets. These work particularly well if floor space is limited. The brackets allow you to build a bookshelf off the floor. Following the directions, attach the brackets to the wall. Mounting them into the wall studs will allow them to hold more weight. Let your child contribute to the project by decorating the shelves before placing them on the brackets. She can draw or paint characters from her favorite stories on them or even use the colors of her favorite sports team.

A word of caution

If you make or buy your child a bookshelf that is tall or top heavy, be sure that it is attached securely to the wall. Children, especially toddlers, may try to climb a tall shelf and can pull it down on themselves.