Many of our favourite childhood memories involve getting cozy with a book – either someone we loved reading to us, the magic of curling up on the classroom carpet and being taken away by a wonderful story, or even snuggling under the covers with a torch and a book, staying up way past bedtime for “just one more page.”
Although children of today are often “tempted by tech” the magic of reading is still there, just waiting to be discovered and cultivated by parents and passionate educators.
During this time early childhood services, schools and public libraries spend one glorious week celebrating books and Australian children’s authors and illustrators. Educators, teacher librarians and public librarians create colourful displays, develop activities, run competitions and tell stories relating to a theme to highlight the importance of reading, and often host parades with children dressed as their favourite book character.
In 2022, the theme is Dreaming with eyes open, and to get ready for Book Week, we’ve prepared the following advice to share with families in your service, to help switch children on to a love of reading.
Why reading matters
Researchers have found that children whose parents read them five books a day enter kindergarten having heard about 1.4 million more words than children who were never read to, placing them at a massive advantage over their peers in terms of brain development and vocabulary.
Imagine only knowing one word to describe a hot day, a big dog, or a scary experience? For children who enter their school years bathed in words and language, the advantages are clear.
While reading five books a day might sound like a massive undertaking for busy families, consider options like audio books during car rides, reading apps on electronic devices, or even setting up Facetime calls for older relatives to share a story with younger ones.
Families bond over books
While apps and electronic devices can help to support families to get the books in, the old saying is true “no app can replace your lap.”
Reading to children is not just about exposing them to new words. It’s about asking questions (what do you think happens next? How do you think the puppy was feeling when it got lost?) and using stories to approach tricky life transitions, like a new baby coming along, a trip to hospital, or even starting school.
Reading with parents gives children a chance to ask questions too – as well as building priceless memories of Dad’s funny monster voice, or Mum’s silly laughing. Children adore the one on one attention which comes when they are engaged in a story.
Some books to inspire children to dream with eyes open
The best books to read to children are often the ones which adults are excited to share, because their enthusiasm is contagious. While children may be drawn to texts which feature familiar commercial characters, it’s important for adults to also introduce texts which are well written, have strong story and structure, and which support the topics which children are interested in or passionate about.
Sharing stories from their own childhood is a special way for parents to bond, but be aware that some themes may not have stood the test of time. Books from the 1970’s, 1980’s and even 1990’s may feature themes which are not consistent with today’s understanding of race, relationship and inclusion.
Here are five great picks to get you started on your reading journey:
Each peach pear plum – We love this book for its gentle rolling rhyme, its familiar nursery rhyme characters, and for the “treasure hunt” read along factor which keeps children engaged and guessing.
I just ate my friend – This is the type of story that children beg to hear over and over again. It’s funny, quirky and engaging, but also delivers a serious message about the value of friendship, and the importance of thinking things through before acting.
Mo Willems Pigeon series – Mo Willems has been writing about one headstrong pigeon since 1994, when The Pigeon Has Feelings Too! first came out. The books feature deceptively simple lines to illustrate characters that have common childhood experiences, but these are those rare characters which become part of the family.
Magic Beach – Curious pre-readers are captivated by the layered illustrations in Alison Lesters work. There’s many things to look at and talk about on each page, opening children up to important pre-reading skills like noting visual cues and predicting pattern in the story.
Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge – A perennial favourite about a young boy and an older woman, and how they work together to realise how memories and magic are found in the everyday. Not only is this book a delight to read out loud, it’s an important tool to help children to connect with those around them, and to hold tight to special moments.
We’d love to hear about your favourite books to read out loud. Head over to our Facebook page for more ideas and to join in the conversation.