Library Role Play Area

Set up a little library role play area in your home or classroom for encouraging emergent, meaningful literacy experiences for young children.

Library role play for early literacy

Welcome to the continuing series about Exploring Reggio, being written alongside co-hosts An Everyday Story, Learn with Play at Home, Twodaloo and One Perfect Day.

Exploring Reggio button

Please take a moment to read the introduction to our series in this post, then come back and keep reading about our theme for this week, which is an exploration into meaningful, context-based literacy play experiences.REading books in the role play library

So much of the Reggio emphasis is on creating an environment which compels children to want to explore and make connections for themselves, and so inviting and well-prepared that they cannot resist discovering and learning as they do so. There is also a very important place given to children directing their own interests and being allowed to determine which topics or projects they would like to pursue, which is clearly the way that human beings are best motivated to learn as it’s 100% relevant to the child. My eldest, C, was very keen to create our own library at home, having been to our local one and also because she has one in her new school.Choosing books in the role play library

They both love role play and engage it on oftren together, mainly based in real life scenarios that they have experienced, from the most popular “mummies and babies”, to visiting the cafe, setting up a shop and going to the doctors. Role play is so important for children to be able to talk through and reenact what they have experienced, therefore consolidating and understand the events in their own way.

The girls helped me to set this up and directed their own ideas into how things should look and where things should go. We simply cleared a little space and brought in some child sized chairs, a rug and cushion and a small bookcase. They then filled this with baby books on one side and picture books on the other. On the top we added some non-fiction/ information books and took a moment to explain the differences between them.Role play library literacy play

I added some simple labels to the shelves, describing the types of books, and added one or two signs above to create some opportunities for observing print in the environment. On the table we placed some mini clipboards with some index cards attached, along with some adult writing pens. On some of these I started off some example writing such as “please return by” and “date borrowed” etc. I only did this on two or three and left the rest blank for them to use in whatever way they decided.Writing book tickets in the role play library

They absolutely loved the space and all three of them used it in their own way. They borrowed books, did some emergent writing on the cards and envelopes, read quietly in the chairs and talked together about what they had seen in the pictures.

I added some stampers for extra fun and as a nod towards the date stamps in library books. If we had a number or date stamp it would be even better (perhaps I will look out for one on ebay.) Where possible, it is always best to provide as true to life objects as possible for role play set ups.

Examples of role play writing

Pop used marks and letter-like shapes when filling out her borrowing cards for her books, then popped them inside the front covers. She was able to “read” back to me what they said and was clear about her own purposeful design behind the writing.

Cakie chose to copy the book titles onto her cards, then wrote numbers underneath to represent the dates that they had to be returned by. She filled in lots of these (only one pictures above, on the left) and tucked them all inside her book covers and took them up to bed with her for our bedtime stories. She has now decided, in her (occasional) role as the librarian, that all bedtime story books must be checked out at the role play library after dinner each night, and returned the next morning! I love the way she has thought through her system.

Please pop on over to see the wonderful literacy rich ideas my co-hosts have written about this week:

Creating a literacy rich environment

Creating words with Speilgaben

[more on their way!]

Please join us again in two weeks time for our next Exploring Reggio instalment!

See our Exploring Patterns on a Mirror Box

Meanwhile you can find our Exploring Reggio pin board here on Pinterest

You may also like to see our other Playful Literacy ideas


  1. says

    What a wonderful role play area. We set up something very similar in the summer when we were learning about growth and growing our own fruit and vegetables. We created a garden centre with seeds, flower pots, real money, paper and pencils to create “stock-lists” etc. We also had real plants and flowers aswell as photographs of some more exotic plants and information about them. My son would sort the seeds in a variety of ways, write numbers on pieces of paper and put them in pots to correspond with the number of seeds in the pot. He also wanted to make our own beanstalk on the wall behind as one of the books we read was called ‘Jasper’s Beanstalk’ – my son’s name is Jasper. We then wrote growth words on each of the leaves. He loved it. I think I will try this idea in his bedroom; both him and I have been talking about how his bedroom resembles a library so it would be lovely and a great help to his emerging reading and writing skills to create something like this. A great post, thanks for sharing!

  2. says

    As a kindergarten teacher, a bookworm and a mommy, I have to say that I LOVE this. I wish all my students’ homes had a library role play area. :)

  3. katherine marie says

    amazing!!! LOVE IT!!! I just found an app you can scan all your books and keep a running list of all the books you have in your “library”… Thanks for sharing your awesomeness!

  4. says

    My kids would love a library role play. Something we’ve actually not set up before so thanks for the inspiration! :) I like the sound of that scanning app as mentioned above.. I must look into it!

  5. Anne says

    Hi Anna! I have recently found your blog and have been reading it until late each night! I totally love all the things you do with your girls:-) I have 2 myself, one is 1 and the other 3. I feel, to be honest, totally overwhelmed. I have heaps of ideas ( thanks to you!) but I don’t know where to start. Just wondering if you plan in advance? I read your post on the importance of play and made a sort of planning sheet based on that. I also can’t help feeling despondent when something I think is totally amazing only gets played with for 10 minutes. I also don’t have the same toys etc as you, and I’m struggling to translate the principles to what we do have. So, after all that, I was wondering if you have any tips for mums who are new to this whole thing, and to whom is doesn’t come as naturally.

  6. Eleanor says

    Spotted a date stamp and ink pad in Wilkos this week for a bargain £1.25, well worth adding to this role play.

    Many thanks for sharing your inspiring ideas