Tips from a Book Doctor


“Books loved anyone who opened them, they gave you security and friendship and didn’t ask for anything in return; they never went away, never, not even when you treated them badly.”
[Inkheart–Cornelia Funke]


One book from my childhood that I simply adore is Inkheart by Cornelia Funke.  I remember checking it out from the library one summer.  I had never heard of it, but the cover art was intriguing.  –Yes, I judged a book by its cover.  Admit it, we all do!–  There was something about this book, as I carried it home I almost felt as if it was alive, ready to burst open at any moment.  I needed to start reading immediately!  

I promptly discovered, this is the book for book lovers.  I was captivated.  Very quickly the reader learns about the main character, Meggie’s, love for reading and books.  Her father is coined the book doctor.  He has a strong fascination with books and restoring old books to their original state.  Their house is described as being filled to the brim with books.  There are books on the TV stand, books in the lavatory, books in the kitchen, books under the tables and books in piles down the stairs welcoming the residents (And sometimes becoming a tripping hazard.)  There are more books than furniture!

This is pretty much the description of a bibliophile’s fantasy house!

As the story begins the reader is informed that Meggie’s father, Mo, is not only brilliant at restoring broken books, he is also a silvertongue: when he reads aloud from books he brings them to life!  This phenomenon is what leads the characters through the entire plot of the book.  Read it, and you too will fall in love.


Working with young children, I like to think of myself as a book doctor.  Children can be rough with books.  And I spend a lot of time mending ripped pages and gluing torn binding.  It is an inevitable part of mixing books with children; some books will be treated badly.  I can tell horror stories of Dr. Seuss masterpieces being used as ice skates, and Eric Carle creations becoming helicopters.


What’s a teacher to do?! Model, that’s what.
Treat books the way you want others to treat them.


In my lesson plans every week I have a section titled “book and library goals.”  At the beginning of the year some of my first goals for my class are how to carry and hold books.  

This is something you can do everyday without much planning or effort.  When you are holding a large group read aloud, pick up the book with two hands and embrace it to your body.  When you sit down with the group, take care to set your book down nicely on the floor.  When you read the book, be gentle with the binding.  I see many people fold back the pages, forcing the binding to bend a way it is not meant to bend and then these same readers get upset when they see their students mirroring these actions later.


Want to see if your children know how to hold a book?
Try this during your next read aloud session:

Hold the book upside down and say, “Okay, we are ready to read our story.”  You’ll be amazed at how quickly children will correct you and say something such as “You’re holding the book upside down!”  Now try holding the book in one hand to the side, allowing the pages to open and flow down with the back cover.  Again, I bet your kids will correct you.  

When you are done reading your book, walk it over to the bookshelf and place it back nicely.  After you do this a couple time, ask one of your children to put it back for you and see how he or she does.  Now that my class has been doing this for a while, I have students who look forward to being selected to put my book back on the bookshelf!

Side note:  Putting a book back promptly not only helps set an example for children on how to return a book to its place, it also establishes care for the book and your classroom’s environment.  Leaving books out with no purpose on the floor or on a random shelf can set that book up for danger of being misplaced or ripped.  Everything should have a place in a classroom.  This not only keeps your room organized, it helps maintain a calm atmosphere.  Children love routine and stability.  If items in a classroom have no origin it can actually cause children stress!


Of course, books will still get bruised.  Another way to help prevent a book breaking fiasco is to have the right bookshelves.  

I am not a fan of the open-face bookshelves.  Yes, they allow children to see the covers of books, but what they really do is encourage children to stuff paperbacks into each slot causing countless books to lose a page or a cover.  They are a torture device for books and teachers alike!  If you want to display the cover of books to the class, select a few books each day and stand them up on a shelf or your room’s windowsill.  Not only will this grab a child’s interest, it is also a great way to add flare to your house or classroom.   

I am a fan of book crates.  I went to a craft store this summer and picked up two large wooden crates for a reasonable price.  Set the crate on its side and stand the books up inside each one with the binding out.  I use one for school books, and one for books from the library.  The library books typically also contain books that go along with our theme.  The books that are placed in these crates rarely see pain.  Plus it is really sweet to see a child select a book from the crate and use the top of the crate as a seat while they thumb through the pages.  I am a fan of the bare wood look, but check out pinterest for fun book crate decorating ideas!  Make it a DIY spring project!


What about the book that has become more tape and glue than book?

Recycling is the way to go!  This past summer I collected up many of the books that were destined to be tossed due to many enthusiastic little fingers handling them and I cut some pages out and framed them.  We now have a collage of books on the wall of our entry way at the school.  And every so often a child will point out to their mum or dad the books that those pages are from!  It’s very sweet.  Again, take a look through the pinterest treasure trove for book page recycling inspiration!


Want more ideas on how to help foster caring book handlers?  Leave me a comment or email me at  You can also follow my instagram page or facebook page @roseonreading for updates on new blog posts!


For now, may this author’s quote resonate with your book-loving soul:   

“Perhaps there’s another, much larger story behind the printed one, a story that changes just as our own world does. And the letters on the page tell us only as much as we’d see peering through a keyhole. Perhaps the story in the book is just the lid on a pan: It always stays the same, but underneath there’s a whole world that goes on – developing and changing like our own world.”
[Cornelia Funke]  

Your book-mending friend,

K. Rose 

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