Tag Archives: #Children

The Books that are the Playlist of my Life

Sometimes, the books you read, and the authors you love, are like staging posts, reflecting particular stages and events in your life; you grow from the experience and move on.  Sometimes, what you crave is a life partner – someone whose books engage and resonate with you year after year, come what may.  While most authors excel at writing in a specific genre or for a particular age group, there are many who write more broadly and are potential “life partners”.  Here are three popular authors who write across genres and age groups… do you have more you can recommend?

Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl is best known for his children’s stories – including his acclaimed and very entertaining autobiography Boy – but his adult fiction is also incredible.  He is a master of the short story, able to evoke a vivid scenario, then throw in a gasp-inducing twist, all within a handful of pages.  Where Roald Dahl’s twisted humour makes his children’s stories fantastical, it turns his adult stories hyper-real, emphasising the sinister, nasty side of human nature.  A celebrated example is The Champion of the World, a short story about pheasant poaching contained in his compilation Kiss Kiss; its twistedness was then transformed into Danny the Champion of the World, an altogether more whimsical story about the father-son bond and beating the establishment (and pheasant poaching!).

Kaz Cooke

Kaz Cooke is a fearless, frank and funny feminist – the sort of person you wish were your cool best friend, or fun auntie. Kaz works as a cartoonist, journalist, and agony aunt – and she has used these skills to create a range of advice books for women and children. From pregnancy (Up the Duff) to puberty (Girl Stuff) and women’s health (Women’s Stuff), Kaz has pretty much every life stage covered. What I love about these books is their excellent balance between irreverence and information – they are funny and easy to read, yet meticulously researched. Kaz also champions a body-positive message that helps readers block out the BS and learn to love and trust themselves and be more confident.

Meg Cabot

Meg Cabot is best known for The Princess Diaries, which amply showcases her chatty style and deft balancing of comedy, romance and sweet earnestness. Through a series of fifteen books, we see Mia come of age, from a gawky teenager to a confident princess, developing her own personality while honouring duty, and juggling the demands of family, friendship and romance.  Meg Cabot has extended this series up into Chick Lit territory with Royal Wedding, where an adult Mia prepares to get married (but not before lots of drama!); and also down into junior fiction, with the spin-off Notebooks of a Middle School Princess.  Not content with one hugely successful series, Meg Cabot has also written in other genres, including series of paranormal romance, and murder mysteries.

Escape to Everywhere

Australia punches well above its weight when it comes to children’s literature – so it is particularly fitting that we devote an entire week to celebrating this each year. This year’s CBCA Book Week theme is “Escape to Everywhere”, which perfectly describes what great writing means to me: whether it takes you to a fantasy land within your mind, or offers a glimpse of life elsewhere on Earth – a great book stretches your imagination and broadens your horizons.  Drumroll please for this year’s winners…

Book of the Year: Older Readers

One Would Think the Deep by Claire Zorn

Claire Zorn is a YA force to be reckoned with – all three of her novels are award-winners, including two CBCA Book of the Year awards (The Protected won in 2015).  One Would Think the Deep is about Sam, whose mum dies suddenly, shockingly, in his arms.  Having no options, he moves to the coast to live with his estranged aunt and cousins.  In this new environment, he struggles to process his grief, shock and anger – but also finds some solace in the surf.  One Would Think the Deep is almost painful to read, but Claire Zorn’s complex characterisation and raw, visceral portrayal of grief draws you in and doesn’t let go.

Book of the Year: Younger Readers

Rockhopping by Trace Balla

Trace Balla is another rising star, with both Rockhopping and its prequel, Rivertime, winning major awards. Having travelled down the Glenelg river together in Rivertime, Uncle Egg has finally agreed to take Clancy hiking to the Glenelg’s source in Gariwerd (the Grampians). During their five days in the wilderness, they see lots of flora and fauna, meet other hikers, have some scary moments – and Clancy grows up a little.  Trace Balla shows her love of nature through her incredibly detailed illustrations; she also conveys some beautiful messages about slowing down, living in the moment and respecting indigenous culture.

Book of the Year: Early Childhood

Go Home, Cheeky Animals! by Johanna Bell and Dion Beasley

Inspired by life in Tennant Creek, Go Home, Cheeky Animals! is a great book for reading aloud (loudly!), with lots of opportunities for audience participation.  There are too many cheeky dogs in Canteen Creek, but when the weather changes and more cheeky animals arrive, chaos begins! The lively rhythm of the text and child-like illustrations combine to present a hilarious and riotous scenario that will appeal to both school-aged and younger children.

Picture Book of the Year

Home in the Rain by Bob Graham

“Delightful” and “heartwarming” are no exaggeration when it comes to Bob Graham’s books – he is an expert at showing the humour and joy in the minutiae of life.  Home in the Rain starts with a little red car stuck in traffic – Francie, her mum and her baby sister (warmly tucked inside Mummy’s tum)  face a long drive on a rain-sodden day. From such an ordinary premise, Bob Graham has crafted a tender story that makes your heart glow. Home in the Rain is his eighth CBCA win – and a compelling example of why Bob Graham is one of our most beloved and awarded authors.

Eve Pownall Award for Information Books

Amazing Animals of Australia’s National Parks by Gina M. Newton

Amazing Animals of Australia’s National Parks showcases more than 120 animals from 55 National Parks around Australia – from our national icons, through birds, to fish and insects. The book is divided into seven sections, each exploring a different habitat; thus offering additional insights into geography and ecology.  Gina M. Newton and NLA Publishing have done a terrific job in making a wealth of information accessible rather than overwhelming, using a range of colour coding, charts, maps and photos. Perfect for browsing as well as for reference.

The Crichton Award for New Illustrators

The Patchwork Bike by Van T. Rudd (text by Maxine Beneba Clarke)

A streetwise gang of children build a patchwork bike using what they can find – branches for handlebars, a flour sack for a flag. This exuberant story highlights the joy of making your own fun using creativity and imagination. The setting is hugely different from suburban Australia, emphasising how play is universally valued by kids, whatever their circumstances.  The street-art style of Van T Rudd perfectly matches the rhythmic text of slam-poet Maxine Beneba Clarke.

Bringing Books to Life for Kids

Bringing books to life for children is a lot of fun and a wonderful learning opportunity for young minds. Reading aloud, drawing pictures and imaginary play are just a few ways you can do this at home which gives children an opportunity to work on reading comprehension, creative thinking, recognising letters, numbers, colours, shapes and patterns, listening, exploring social and emotional skills and sharing and taking turns.

As we grow older our books can also come to life through audio books where the author is reading us their book with amazing inflection and passion, or through television and movie adaptations.

Here are a few of our favourite children’s books that have come alive.

 

Books we can watch…

 

Charlotte’s Web written by E.B White

An affectionate, sometimes bashful pig named Wilbur befriends a spider named Charlotte, who lives in the rafters above his pen. A prancing, playful bloke, Wilbur is devastated when he learns of the destiny that befalls all those of porcine persuasion. Determined to save her friend, Charlotte spins a web that reads “Some Pig,” convincing the farmer and surrounding community that Wilbur is no ordinary animal and should be saved. In this story of friendship, hardship, and the passing on into time, E.B. White reminds us to open our eyes to the wonder and miracle often found in the simplest of things.

The DVD is available here.

 

 

Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler are a prize-winning team and the creators of many bestselling books for Macmillan. Julia Donaldson was a songwriter before becoming an author, and music continues to play an important part in her life. She is always much in demand for her brilliant events at schools and literary festivals. Axel Scheffler is a star illustrator within the children’s book world, and his books have been translated into over 30 languages. His bright, humorous illustrations are a perfect complement to Julia’s lively songs.

The DVD is available here.

 

Books we listen to…

 

Road Dahl’s Phizz-Whizzing Audio Collection by Roald Dahl

Spread over eight CDs, these three sumptuous recordings are complete and unabridged, allowing listeners to enjoy Dahl’s work word for word. The stories in this collection have all been skilfully brought to life. ”Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” read by James Bolam (Abridged): Charlie Bucket thinks he is the luckiest boy alive when he wins an amazing tour of Willy Wonka’s famous chocolate factory. It’s a tour of a lifetime that changes his life beyond belief! “The BFG” read by Geoffrey Palmer (Abridged): The BFG is a Big Friendly Giant who spirits Sophie out of bed one night. Together, Sophie and the BFG cook up an ingenious plan to rid the world of child-eating giants forever! “James and the Giant Peach” read by Andrew Sachs (Unabridged): James lives a lonely life with his two beastly aunts.Then one day, something very peculiar happens, something magical that will take him on the most amazing journey …

The books are available here.

 

Beatrix Potter The Complete Tales by Beatrix Potter

This is a fabulous six-CD audio box-set containing the entire collection of stories by Beatrix Potter, complete and unabridged. The twenty-three tales have never lost their popularity, and sell in their millions all over the world. Meet the famous characters that children love and adore: Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin, The Flopsy Bunnies, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, Tom Kitten, Jeremy Fisher, Jemima Puddle-Duck and many more. These stories are beautifully brought to life by a talented cast of readers, including Patricia Routledge, Timothy West, Michael Hordern, Janet Maw, and Rosemary Leach.

The books are available here.

 

Books we can colour and play with…

 

I Completely Must Do Drawing Now and Painting and Colouring by Lauren Child

Even the rainiest of days is no match for the wonderful imaginations of Charlie and Lola! It may be dull outside, but Charlie and Lola’s world is full of colourful adventure, and with this unique colouring book, kids can join in on the fun. With simple text on the page, activities, and tons of space to draw, the possibilities are endless! It’s the perfect way to bring imagination to life – rainy day or any day!

 

 

Maisy’s Farm by Lucy Cousins

This is a huge favourite in our house. This pop-up-and-play book opens up with a free-standing model of Maisy’s barn, garden and farmyard. It comes with a sixteen-page full-colour booklet that features learning activities based on Maisy’s day on the farm. In each room, there’s a sheet of card pieces to press out, tabs to pull, doors to open and more…so much fun!

 

 

Also…

Keep an eye out for the new initiative from Play School. In celebration of Children’s Book Week this year there will be a delightful new Play School series featuring some of Australia’s much loved celebrities as they snuggle up on the couch and read entertaining picture books written by Australian authors and they will be accompanied by Big Ted, Little Ted, Jemima, Humpty and Joey.

Enjoy!

Great start to literacy – 1000 Books Before School

Most people are aware that reading to children is beneficial; in fact, it is one of the best preparations for school.  When we read to children, we are exposing them to a rich vocabulary, helping them develop listening skills and attention spans, conveying information and fostering a love of reading.  These skills create a solid foundation for developing literacy.

Many libraries are now running “1000 Books Before School” programs (sometimes called “1000 Books Before Kindergarten”) to help encourage caregivers and children to keep reading and reap those literacy benefits.  The 1000 books goal is based on research – it is big enough to allow children to experience a variety of language, but still achievable – for children who start school at 5, it translates to about one book every 2 days. And for children who prefer to have the same book read over and over, each time counts as one book!

To make the process more fun, libraries and some websites offer record sheets to help families keep track of their reading.  Regular milestones (with small rewards) help build a sense of achievement until the big, final graduation.

Families living in Victoria can enrol in the program through the State Library of Victoria website or at your local library.

To get you started, here are some new and older favourites, perfect for sharing with your children.  6 down, 994 to go…

Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell

Sturdy board books are great for the youngest readers, who might show their enjoyment of books by chewing and throwing! In Dear Zoo, a child writes to the zoo to send them a pet.  It takes a bit of trial and error to find a pet that is just right!  Dear Zoo has been a favourite with both little and big kids for over 30 years.  Its combination of a funny story, cute animals, lift-the-flaps and call-and-response makes it an excellent choice for both reading aloud and reading on your own.

Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson

Tap the Magic Tree is as much a toy as it is a picture book.  Each page invites the reader to tap, shake, jiggle, or pat the book, even to blow it a kiss!  Starting with a bare brown tree, we gradually see leaves sprout, buds blossom, apples grow, the leaves yellow and finally blow away with the changing of the seasons.  The simple drawings and sparse text combine into an absorbing story that is elegant and sweetly magical.

I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child

Charlie and Lola stories are laugh-out-loud funny, with vivid characters and situations that perfectly captures life with young children.  I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato is the story that started it all, and is still one of the best.  Big brother Charlie – the sensible, long-suffering one – needs to give dinner to his funny little sister Lola.  But she is really fussy about her food! So Charlie plays a trick on Lola – what if he is not giving her mashed potato, but cloud fluff from the peak of Mount Fuji?

Mr Huff by Anna Walker

Bill woke up with a bad feeling about his day.  As more things go wrong, his huffy feelings coalesce into a big grey thing, who sighs and keeps following Bill around.  How can Bill make Mr Huff go away?  Mr Huff is a cute and poignant story, and perfect conversation-starter about how to deal with sad, gloomy feelings.  Anna Walker’s understated illustrations add surprising amounts of drama and emotion.  Well-deserved winner of last year’s CBCA Early Childhood Book of the Year Award.

The Usborne Big Book of the Body

Non-fiction (information) books can often engage children who don’t seem interested in stories.  Usborne is known as a publisher of beautifully-produced, interesting information books for children, and The Big Book of the Body is no exception.  The pages fold out into giant posters showing our main bodily functions, including bones and muscles, heart and blood, lungs, brain and our senses. A mix of short explanations and quirky facts make The Big Book of the Body entertaining as well as educational.

Billie’s Underwater Adventure by Sally Rippin and Alisa Coburn

As your child gets older, why not introduce them to great characters whose stories will keep them company through their school years? Billie’s Underwater Adventure is a picture book where Billie and her friend Jack use their imaginations to have marvellous adventures at Kinder.  Then there’s the Billie B Brown and Hey Jack series, which are slice-of-life stories aimed at beginner readers; and the Billie B Brown Mysteries is a collection of short chapter books that is perfect for those mystery- and excitement-loving middle graders.

10 ways to foster a love of reading for your child

Learning to read, or rather teaching someone else to learn to read can be a daunting task – do you start with phonetics, rhyming, sounds or learn the name of letters? Whatever way you choose, sharing the love of reading needs to be fun, relaxed and exciting. Our favourite book on the topic is The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, it’s been a wonderful resource for several of the Booko children. Here are our top 10 tips from the book:

  1. Begin reading to your children as soon as possible. The younger you start them, the easier, and better it is.
  2. Set aside at least one specific time each day for a story and make it part of your daily routine.
  3. Start with picture books that have only a few sentences on the page, then gradually move to books with more text and fewer pictures before building to chapter books.
  4. As you read, keep listeners involved by occasionally asking ‘what do you think is going to happen next?’
  5. If the chapters are long, or you don’t have enough time to finish one each day, find a suspenseful spot at which to stop. Leave your little audience hanging and they will be counting the minutes until the next reading.
  6. Allow your listeners a few minutes to settle down and adjust their feet and minds to the story. Mood is an important factor in listening, make sure you foster a receptive one.
  7. Use expression when reading. Change your tone, adjusting pace and lowering your voice in suspenseful parts makes it all very exciting.
  8. Slow down. The most common mistake is reading too fast. Reading quickly allows no time for mental pictures to be made and more expression to be used.
  9. Bring the author to life. Google the author to find out more about them. This lets them know that books are written by people and not machines.
  10. When children wish to read to you, it is better for the book to be too easy than too hard, just as a beginner’s bicycle is better to be too small than too big.

The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease

Upon its first publication in 1982, millions of parents and educators have turned to Jim Trelease’s beloved classic for more than three decades to help countless children become avid readers through awakening their imaginations and improving their language skills. It has also been a staple in schools of education for new teachers. This updated edition of The Read-Aloud Handbook discusses the benefits, the rewards, and the importance of reading aloud to children of a new generation. Supported by delightful anecdotes as well as the latest research (including the good and bad news on digital learning). The Read-Aloud Handbook offers proven techniques and strategies for helping children discover the pleasures of reading and setting them on the road to becoming lifelong readers.

 

Here’s a few of our favourites to help you share the joy of reading aloud:

 

Creature abc by Andrew Zuckerman.

Alphabet books can be valuable for teaching kids the sounds that letters make — but only if they are fun to read! Creature abc is fun; it features amazing animal photographs and an entertaining format. On one page is a letter (e.g. “Aa”) and a photograph of an animal’s body part (e.g. an alligator’s hand). When I read this book, I make the letter’s sound, and my kids guess what animal they will see on the following page.

 

 

Where is the Green Sheep by Mem Fox

There are red sheep and blue sheep, wind sheep and wave sheep, scared sheep and brave sheep, but where is the green sheep? The search is on in this cozy, sheep-filled story from beloved author Mem Fox and popular Australian cartoonist Judy Horacek. Complete with sleepy rhymes and bright illustrations, this book is sure to delight children of all ages, from the very young to those just beginning to read. Mem has never owned a sheep, let alone a green one, but she does admit to having woolly thoughts from time to time. Judy loves drawing things, especially sheep. This is her first flock.

 

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

This gentle bedtime story, which has lulled generations of children to sleep, is the perfect first book to share at bedtime. In a great green room a little bunny is tucked up snugly and safely in bed and is getting ready to say goodnight to all the familiar things in his room, one by one. Margaret Wise Brown’s comforting, rhythmical text accompanied by the warmth of Clement Hurd’s classic mid-century illustrations make Goodnight Moon a timeless picture book, which is known and loved around the world.

 

I Am So Strong by Mario Ramos

This is a terrific read aloud – it’s a book with some yelling in it, with a handful of  familiar characters like a wolf and Red Riding Hood and three pigs, joined by a couple of dwarfs, and a baby dinosaur and his HUGE mother.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most of all, have fun together!

How to set up a reading space for kids

There’s nothing like having a comfy, quiet space to enjoy reading a good book.  In order to spark an interest and engagement in reading with our kids, the same idea applies.  When it comes to teaching your child to read, finding a special reading space promotes quiet and calm and is particularly good for children who struggle to concentrate.

f8aec4e4abc4c6275272e74231d018c5A reading nook doesn’t need to cost hundreds of dollars or follow the latest design trends, but we’ve looked into some of the recommendations from My Little Bookcase and Creatingalearningenvironment.com to firm up our ideas.  Here are our tips on setting up a reading space for kids:


Light
– Set up a space in a light-filled room.  Use lamps when required to create a warm, ambient glow.  There should be enough light to be able to read the books easily but also create a lovely atmosphere.

4460438978_9174e6f4e5Enclose a space – Children love the idea of a ‘cubby’ or a secret space just for them.  It’s also nice to enclose a space within a larger room, so their reading nook is easy to identify.  Different ways to do this are to set up a tent over a few floor cushions.  Other ideas are to take the doors off a cupboard and deck out the shelves with books, adding seating into the bottom.  We love this version by Playtivities.com


Make it cosy
– By adding floor cushions, soft toys and throw rugs, the reading nook will become a favourite place to ‘chill out’ and relax after a day at daycare or school.  Adding  comfy elements will also allow the child to ‘make it their own’.

readingbench-225x300Add some books – Make sure that books are at your child’s eye level.  Find different ways of storing the books, such as in baskets and bins.  Mix up the books so that a selection of their book collection are sitting in the reading nook.  A great idea is to ask your child to select which books are brought into the reading nook at a time and when they should be swapped for new ones.  This promotes ownership of the space.  Other ways to store books is to create a reading bench, such as that featured in Creatingalearningenvironment.com.  A simple idea of turning a bookshelf on it’s side, adding a padded top and filling it with books creates a beautiful and cost effective DIY reading bench.  We love this!

So that’s it!  A reading nook doesn’t need to be over-engineered, it just needs a few basic elements to become part of your child’s learning journey.

Looking through the ideas on Pinterest there are amazing and intricate reading nooks and spaces that clever people have created for their children.  Here are some of our favourites.

 

 

How to encourage your child to read more

This month we are celebrating readers of all genres and as we had such a great response to our post last year on encouraging children to read we thought we would share it again for you.

Most people would agree that reading is a good thing, and that it is critical to language and literacy development.  But not everyone is a natural bookworm – so here are some tips on how to help your child develop a love of reading.

Tip 1: Reading should be fun

Your first goal is to convince your child that reading is a pleasurable activity that they will want to do again and again.  Focus on making reading a fun experience.

Tip 2: Target their interests

Choose books that reflect your child’s interests – whether it be trucks/ princesses/ food/ shoes.  There are books on just about every topic – the right one can get the reader hooked on reading for life.

Tip 3: Create a reading-friendly lifestyle

Create a comfortable space for reading – it can be a couch, or beanbag, or cushions, or in bed – and stock up on a variety of books or other reading materials, such as magazines or newspapers.

Incorporate reading into your weekly routine, for example by visiting your local library regularly, or by setting aside some “reading time” at bedtime or on weekends.

Tip 4: Model good reading habits

Let your child see you read.  Show that you enjoy reading, want to do it regularly, and that you feel confident about reading.  You can also explain why you love reading, such as “reading helps me make sense of things”, or “reading makes me laugh”.

If you want to improve your own confidence in reading, there are community resources to support you.  Contact your local library or adult education organisation to see how they can help.

Tip 5: Try different formats

Reading isn’t just about novels.  Some children prefer non-fiction (information books), particularly illustrated titles.  Don’t forget that newspapers, magazines, even recipes and instruction manuals, can offer good reading opportunities – whatever interests the child.

If your child prefers pictures to words, then why not try picture books or graphic novels? There are many sophisticated picture books aimed at older readers (such as The Arrival by Shaun Tan)  , and the graphic novel format has been used on a range of topics including literary classics (for example Nikki Greenberg’s adaptation of Hamlet) .  Children who like to listen to stories can try to read and listen at the same time – play an audiobook and encourage them to follow the story on a printed copy.

Tip 6: Make it a family activity

Some children may find reading more appealing if it is done as a family activity.  It could be reading aloud to each other; or reading silently side by side; or listening to an audiobook together during a car trip.  It can even be watching a film adaptation together (and discussing how it differs from the original book).  Be creative, and choose something that all of you can enjoy.

Tip 7: Talk to the experts

Teachers, school librarians, local librarians and children’s booksellers all have professional knowledge and experience in engaging reluctant readers.  Talk to them and ask for useful strategies and/or book recommendations.   Beloved author Paul Jennings, who is also a teacher and speech pathologist, has written a guide called “The Reading Bug and how to help your child catch it”.

Final tip: Relax

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Remember Tip 1: Reading should be fun?  Encouraging children to read should not be stressful for parents either.
Don’t worry if they don’t read everyday – this is understandable, especially at the beginning.  Be gentle but persistent with your encouragement.
Don’t worry if they don’t choose “good” literature, or if they only read about a single topic or character; sooner or later they will branch out.
Don’t worry if they choose something that is too hard or too easy; gently offer a more appropriate alternative, but also respect their choice.
Finally, try not to feel disappointed if your child shows no interest in reading your own childhood favourites.  Encourage them to read widely, and one day they may give your favourite books another chance!

Back to school: books that smooth the transition

As January hurtles along, many families will be preparing for a big milestone – the First Day of School.  To help both kids and parents prepare for this exciting event, we present our favourite books on starting school.  The big kids have not been forgotten – we have included books on starting secondary school, because we understand that this is a big challenge too.  Hopefully this list will also help any families starting school later in the year!

For Young Kids

Many picture books talk about starting school.  A good place to start may be your child’s favourite book or TV character – many of them, including Hugless Douglas, Maisy, Charlie and Lola and Peppa Pig, offer stories about starting preschool / kindergarten / primary school.  Other great stories (and conversation starters) include:

Starting School by Jane Godwin and Anna Walker

This gentle and sympathetic book follows five children – Tim, Hannah, Sunita, Joe, and Polly – on their first day of school.  The children have different personalities and experience the day differently.  The story is engaging and also informative, since it highlights the many predictable events of orientation, such as finding your way around, getting to know people, and learning new routines.  From the team that bring us the equally gorgeous and popular All Through the Year (about the months of the year) and Today We Have No Plans  (about the days of the week).

Amelia Bedelia’s First Day of School by Herman Parish and Lynne Avril

This is a good introduction to the Amelia Bedelia series, which can grow with your child through their primary years – the series range from picture books to early readers and chapter books.  Amelia Bedelia is a very literal-minded girl who gets confused by common sayings.  Her misunderstandings land her in many funny situations!  Here, Amelia Bedelia learns to enjoy her first day at school despite feeling nervous and having a very eventful time.

 

First Day by Andrew Daddo and Jonathan Bentley

First Day gives “first day nerves” a little twist when it’s the parent, not the child, who is feeling them!  This is a joyous, affectionate look at the excitement of getting ready for school on The First Day.  The excitement may be tempered by a little sadness, but that’s okay, because “the best bit about waving goodbye is the next wave will be hello”.  Andrew Daddo and Jonathan Bentley is a great team who is adept at capturing the moods and behaviours of young children.

The Terrible Suitcase by Emma Allen and Freya Blackwood

The combination of Freya Blackwood’s illustrations and a grumpy main character made me smile and smile as I read The Terrible Suitcase.  The little girl longs for a red backpack with yellow rockets to take to her first day of school, but all she has is a Terrible Suitcase. She feels so mad that she hides in a big cardboard box in her classroom.  Luckily, friendliness and imagination turns this terrible day into something magical. I love how real the characters seem, and how inventive this story is.

For Parents

Ready, Set, Go? How to Tell if your Child’s Ready for School and Prepare them for the Best Start by Kathy Walker

Deciding when to send your child to school can be daunting, particularly when present-day ideas about “school readiness” focus on emotional and social maturity (which can be hard to recognise), rather than the more clear-cut criteria of age or intellectual development.  Kathy Walker, a leading parenting and education expert, is here to help you with this guide.  Based on her experiences working with families and educators, Kathy explains what school readiness means and how to assess it; she also describes how schools work, and gives advice on how to choose a school that suits a child and their families. Finally there are tips on preparing children for school, both in the lead-up and in the early weeks of term.  Readable and highly informative.

High School Rocks: Make Starting High School an Awesome Experience by Jenny Atkinson

Jenny Atkinson is a former teacher who now specialises in helping students, parents and staff achieve a confident, happy transition to high school.   Based on survey feedback from over 1600 students, High School Rocks addresses the challenges that concern students the most – including friendships, independence, time-management and bullying.  A mix of tips, stories and advice will help families develop their own coping strategies, and improve resilience.  High School Rocks is currently available only from the Kindle Store  or the author’s website.

For Big Kids

Many stories aimed at upper-primary or early teen readers explore themes of dealing with change, loneliness and understanding oneself, issues also relevant to the transition to secondary school.  Some novels that specifically mention school transition include:

New Boy by Nick Earls

Herschelle and his family have just moved from South Africa to Australia, and despite his careful study of Aussie slang, he is struggling to fit in.  At school, he is lumped in with the nerds, though he was one of the cool kids back in Cape Town.  Nobody understands his accent or his Aussie-isms, and both he and his family make gaffes because they are confounded by local customs.  Things come to a head when Herschelle is picked on for being different.  New Boy has great messages about diversity, racism and bullying – especially because it offers the interesting twist of having a bullying-victim who is white.  This is Nick Earls’ first book for younger readers, after a string of successes for teens and adults.

Pea’s Book of Best Friends by Susie Day

Life changes for Pea and her sisters when their ditzy mum becomes a successful author.  Her new glamorous image means they have to relocate from a ramshackle flat in Wales to a house in London.  Pea is excited about London’s various attractions – and even likes her new school uniform, “in a masochistic Malory Towers sort of way” – but she really misses having a best friend.  Catastrophes ensue as Pea hunts for a new best friend while her sisters plot to return to their former lives.  Pea’s Book of Best Friends is a fun read with likeable, quirky characters.  The first in an ongoing series.

 

How to be Happy: a Memoir of Love, Sex and Teenage Confusion by David Burton

For mature readers, or with adult guidance – How to be Happy is an award-winning memoir that has been variously praised as hilarious, heartbreaking, and important.  It follows David’s life as he enters high school, through his attempts to fit in both at home and at school, and into his early twenties.  How to Be Happy tackles many confronting topics – including depression, friendship, sexual identity, suicide, love and academic pressure – with sincerity and honesty.  It is ultimately uplifting as David realises that life can be okay even when it is not happy 100% of the time.

Early Chapter Halloween Readers

Halloween is a great theme to explore with children starting to read. There’s plenty of drama, scary costumes and twists in the tale. Explore the meaning behind Halloween and have some fun with this selection, aimed at the 6+ age group.

https-::covers.booko.info:300:AntAnt and Honey Bee: A pair of friends at Halloween by Megan McDonald

From the Author of the very popular ‘Judy Moody’ series comes the ‘Ant and Honey Bee’ series. The ant and honey bee are great friends and explore seasonal events together, such as Halloween. This book covers topics such as ‘what makes a great pair’ and ‘what goes together’ as the duo collaborate on fun costume ideas.

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:MercyMercy Watson: Princess in Disguise by Kate DiCamillo

Mercy Watson books feature colourful characters and beautiful illustrations. Persuaded by the word “treating” to dress up as a princess for Halloween, Mercy the pig’s trick-or-treat outing has some very unexpected results. This Halloween reader is full of humour, hijinks, tricks and treats.

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:HubbleHubble Bubble: The Super-Spooky Fright Night by Tracey Corderoy

Three more fabulously funny stories in one book, about a glorious granny, a little girl, a nervy black cat and a great deal of mayhem. A varied layout and illustrations on every page helps children navigate the reading experience. Frighteningly funny!

 

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:peculiarThe Peculiar Pumpkin Thief by Geronimo Stilton

When all the pumpkins in New Mouse City disappear days before Halloween, Geronimo and his detective friend Hercule Poirat investigate, as all the mice in the city receive invitations to a mysterious party. Geronimo Stilton books are incredibly popular and really bring the text to life for new readers through use of colour and varied fonts. We are huge fans of Geronimo Stilton at Booko.

https-::covers.booko.info:300:cemeteryThe Cemetery Dance by Lucy George

Once a century on Halloween, the creatures of the night gather for the cemetery dance. Sounds spine chilling! With minimal copy and stunning illustrations that take up ¾ of the page, this phonics reader is a great option for a first chapter book. It also forms part of a structured reading program that takes children through pairs and groups of letters, which improves reading and spelling ability, and overall confidence which is so important at this level.

How to encourage your child to read more?

Most people would agree that reading is a good thing, and that it is critical to language and literacy development.  But not everyone is a natural bookworm – so here are some tips on how to help your child develop a love of reading.

Tip 1: Reading should be fun

Your first goal is to convince your child that reading is a pleasurable activity that they will want to do again and again.  Focus on making reading a fun experience.

Tip 2: Target their interests

Choose books that reflect your child’s interests – whether it be trucks/ princesses/ food/ shoes.  There are books on just about every topic – the right one can get the reader hooked on reading for life.

Tip 3: Create a reading-friendly lifestyle

Create a comfortable space for reading – it can be a couch, or beanbag, or cushions, or in bed – and stock up on a variety of books or other reading materials, such as magazines or newspapers.

Incorporate reading into your weekly routine, for example by visiting your local library regularly, or by setting aside some “reading time” at bedtime or on weekends.

Tip 4: Model good reading habits

Let your child see you read.  Show that you enjoy reading, want to do it regularly, and that you feel confident about reading.  You can also explain why you love reading, such as “reading helps me make sense of things”, or “reading makes me laugh”.

If you want to improve your own confidence in reading, there are community resources to support you.  Contact your local library or adult education organisation to see how they can help.

Tip 5: Try different formats

Reading isn’t just about novels.  Some children prefer non-fiction (information books), particularly illustrated titles.  Don’t forget that newspapers, magazines, even recipes and instruction manuals, can offer good reading opportunities – whatever interests the child.

If your child prefers pictures to words, then why not try picture books or graphic novels? There are many sophisticated picture books aimed at older readers (such as The Arrival by Shaun Tan)  , and the graphic novel format has been used on a range of topics including literary classics (for example Nikki Greenberg’s adaptation of Hamlet) .  Children who like to listen to stories can try to read and listen at the same time – play an audiobook and encourage them to follow the story on a printed copy.

Tip 6: Make it a family activity

Some children may find reading more appealing if it is done as a family activity.  It could be reading aloud to each other; or reading silently side by side; or listening to an audiobook together during a car trip.  It can even be watching a film adaptation together (and discussing how it differs from the original book).  Be creative, and choose something that all of you can enjoy.

Tip 7: Talk to the experts

Teachers, school librarians, local librarians and children’s booksellers all have professional knowledge and experience in engaging reluctant readers.  Talk to them and ask for useful strategies and/or book recommendations.   Beloved author Paul Jennings, who is also a teacher and speech pathologist, has written a guide called “The Reading Bug and how to help your child catch it”.

Final tip: Relax

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Remember Tip 1: Reading should be fun?  Encouraging children to read should not be stressful for parents either.
Don’t worry if they don’t read everyday – this is understandable, especially at the beginning.  Be gentle but persistent with your encouragement.
Don’t worry if they don’t choose “good” literature, or if they only read about a single topic or character; sooner or later they will branch out.
Don’t worry if they choose something that is too hard or too easy; gently offer a more appropriate alternative, but also respect their choice.
Finally, try not to feel disappointed if your child shows no interest in reading your own childhood favourites.  Encourage them to read widely, and one day they may give your favourite books another chance!