Tips for creating a reading nook or area for Children

Well we finally completed operation Reading Nook. It's not really a "nook" so to speak, rather a reading "area" I suppose, whatever it is, the kids love it and so do I! It's been something I've wanted for the kids for about a year now and I'm so glad we finally managed to make it happen. Being a spot where the kids books live, paired with a cosy spot to sit to read those books, its not exactly home deco genius, but to me, its a great little accomplishment, because I just knew the kids would love it and that it would fulfil it's purpose.
What purpose is that? To encourage the kids to read more. that's it. I feel that creating an inviting little space especially for reading, not only encourages reading, it also shows the kids that we value our books. That they are special. They aren't like their toys, they are more important than that. I pray that my children grow into a great love of reading. They already enjoy story time greatly, and even sit alone for long periods "reading" on their own. So it seems my prayers may be answered if we keep this up!
Since the whole thing was actually quite a project, I've decided to share with you some tips on creating your own special reading spot. You see we needed to make a lot of changes in order to make it work. We had the space, but its using the space the best way we can which took some thinking.
So the first three things to look at when planning a little reading corner/nook/spot, are:
Space: You need to know how much shelf space your going to need for the kids books alone (if you are separating them from your own as we have). You will also need to take into consideration how much space you need for seating depending on the number and size of children you have. We have two little ones. They both comfortably fit on the one cushion, I can even sit with them on our cushion. Most importantly is the issue of how much space you actually have to work with. There is no point daydreaming about a giant beanbag if you'll need to jam it inside a made-over single-closet.
So measure the size of the bookshelves your going to need, and go around your house seeing where this reading spot might fit. If your like me, you'll already have a very particular spot in mind, and instead, will have to decide how your going to work the books/shelves into that spot. Walls can be used here, using higher shelves for children's books that the kids are still too young for means a good use of space, but the kids are still able to reach age appropriate books. Then there are wall shelves, baskets, drawers and so on. If you have a very small area to work with, such as the corner of a child's bedroom (which is a lovely private spot I'll add) then I suggest you peruse an Ikea catalogue. They are the kings of affordable small-space thingamajigs.
Budget: Our budget, was, as little as possible dollars and spare change cents. Preferably we wanted to spend zero. It wasn't an extravagance project. This was a want, not a need, so we wanted to be frugal. Get creative! You can make a beautiful space without having to spend much. Work with what you have, check your shed, think about how pieces can be re-worked, save up for something you like in the shops if that's what you want. But know how much you can spend, and stick to it.
Here is a breakdown of what we spent.
Bookshelves, couch, backboard and mattress: $0. We already had them
Fabric and velcro to make mattress cover $17
Ornaments: $0, also already had (but will total at about $15 once I have found and purchased the wooden "Read" sign I want to add to it).
Mirror: $5
White Paint $3
Cushions $0 already had
Total: $25! ($40 once I have purchased the final touch.)
How was it so cheap? Using what we already had as much as we could and buying during sale times and second hand. The backboard you see behind the kids seating (with the shelf on top) is actually a wide old bookshelf we had, which has had its backboard removed, cut so that one shelf is exposed, put back on and painted. The reason we did this, is because it now does two jobs. Not only is it a neat backboard/shelf for the sitting spot, it also acts as a box which covers the giant ugly pump thingy that is attached to our spa. That wall, used to be outside. When we extended, we kept the woodboard wall for character, and didn't quite know what to do with that horrid pump. As you can see in the "before" picture, underneath the desk, the part that can be messed with had been covered by a foam box hahaha, vast improvement.

(note the white foam box half covering the pump. See the shelving on top of the desk? That's now the backboard. Oh how much better do the walls look white!)

And improvising like that saved us a lot of money. To get someone to make a custom fit cover for the thing would have cost a few hundred. This cost us nothing but a coat of paint.
Speaking of paint, did you know your local tip has a recycling area, which most of them, sell paint? People drop off their half empty or wrong colour choice tins of paint, and you can buy yourself some good quality paint for $1-$3 depending on the amount/kind. We picked up a massive tub of semi-gloss soft white paint for $3. It was enough to do two coats of the following: the entire wall, the backboard, the bookshelf, a kids table and cane chair. With plenty leftover.
The fabric is from spotlight and was 30% off the already reduced sale price, which brought it down to about $2.45 a meter. I needed two meters of hardwearing fabric (its corduroy). The Velcro was the most expensive part of this cover. I could have just done the cover without Velcro, to be permanently on, but I wanted it to be washable and Velcro is quick, easy and hard wearing. So this cushion could have been $5 but I went for longevity because It also, has two purposes. It is actually a foam cot mattress, which I cut shorter to fit into our porta-cot to make it comfy for our son. When this mattress isn't a cushion for our kids, it is a mattress that fits perfectly into our porta-cot when we go out. So having it washable was important. Sewing it was a challenge. I'm a novice at sewing, and the cover has its flaws, but I'm happy with the fact that I tried, its cute, its multi-purpose and saved us some $ also :-)

The mirror was also a "Reduce, reuse, recycle" bargain, which covers up an old, ugly unused window. Everything else we already had. The couch by the way (on the left) is a Klippan sofa from Ikea we have had for years. The cover which is cute as, was $80 and I'm not sure if its still available but they always bring out cool new covers for the Klippan. Its technically not part of the reading spot... but it is an extension for us parents, we do use it. Especially for devotional times when the whole family sit together.
Then there is Lighting.
This is important because it doesn't matter how pretty a spot looks, if the lighting is bad, not only is it hard to read and concentrate, but it is also bad for the kids eyes. So take that into consideration, especially if you don't want to go blowing money on lamps, or running wires and installing new light switches. Ideally, you want a spot with as much natural light as possible. Our spot gets good natural light all day long even in the winter. It just so happens that the wall had a light attached to it already. We took that light into consideration when deciding which side the shelf and which side the reading mattress would go into. We didn't want a lamp because our son would have attacked it. But a nice floor lamp or table lamp looks great in the right setting if its needed.
After these three things, it is important not to forget the users of this spot... your kids! Consider your child's preferences/needs. Observe how they like to read and try to accommodate. For example, I noticed CurlyBoy never reads on the couch. He never reads on his little chair. He always, pulls a book down and plonks himself on the hard tiles right in front of the shelf. So I knew I wanted a floor rug if the spot had no carpet, (in this case, it did) and that I wanted the seating to be very low. I like the little reading beds, or the shelving put on its side, to make a long reading bench, its neat and looks good, but my son wouldn't use it, so I knew the floor mattress with cushions and a backboard would be perfect for him, and also my daughter who likes to read pretty much anywhere but is quite partial to laying down with a book too at times. How does your child read? Does he or she like to climb something and sit up high? do they sink into a billion cushions or pillows? (in which case a beanbag may be perfect). Decide on seating accordingly.
Side note: The red bucket you see on the backboard shelf, has handy items in it. Bookmarks, reading glasses (mine, but good spot to keep them if your kids wear glasses too), post it notes and pencils (for note taking if you have a non-fiction lover, or are going through a recipe book together etc).
Be sure to go get some inspiration. Pinterest, google, friends, the library, wherever. But be realistic. I loved the idea of a floating chair which hangs from the cool! But curly boy wouldn't be able to get into it by himself, and also our random roof wouldn't accommodate it.
Lastly, Remove distractions. Don't mix toys or cluttered ornaments with books. A few bits to pretty it up is fine, but keep it as simple as you can. The books and the cosy spot should be the focus. It is to be a tranquil spot for immersing into a world of stories, not another spot to be trashed with toys and baskets full of odd bits. The more focused it is on its purpose, the more it will be used for its purpose.
But you can still make it fun! Even the most minimalist house decorator can go crazy in one or two places. We chose to make the mattress bright and cheerful, but paired back the walls and furniture. The books and the mattress are the colour splash with most things white and non intrusive. It keeps it "kiddy" but isn't distracting.
The good thing is, you can chop and change as you go. The point is to create a special place where kids can enjoy some peace and quiet and so they can see that you as a family respect books and set them apart from toys.
Have fun!
PS: The reading spot is a hit, the kids LOVE it, they both spend an hour or more throughout each day, browsing books, or being read to. It's been worth the effort!