When my first child was born I was given lots of advice. My favourite was “Your child’s education doesn’t begin when they go to school”. I wonder if my mum even remembers saying it. She went on to say “Read three books out loud to your child every single day”. Now I’ve made quite a few parenting mistakes since then, but I’m proud that I’ve stuck to this little gem – reading to my children every day!
And for something a little different, you can even watch astronauts read popular books from space!
Reading to Newborns
Newborns can’t see the pictures in the books straight away. But they like hearing your voice and it can help to soothe them. So anything you can read to them is a great way to start. Baby books, children’s books, facebook status updates, magazines or news articles – as long as you are reading out loud, you are giving the child an opportunity to fall in love with reading.
Books are great toys. Kids need to take care but don’t be too precious…it is better that they are ‘playing’ with them than gathering dust.
Reading to Babies
When it comes to reading to babies, they love rhyming, colours, textures, songs and anything interactive. If the book has lots of textures, guide their hand over each one so they can feel the differences.
Interactive books include where you can press a button to hear a noise, squeeze something to make a squeak or that have finger puppets in the pages to make the book ‘come alive’. You may also wish to introduce interactive ‘lift the flap’ books at this age. Might be worth sticking to material books with flaps as the children do tend to get excited with lift the flaps and the paper/thin cardboard ones don’t hold up so well. And if you are reading a book about animals, don’t just read the name of the animal, teach the sound that the animal makes too.
Great Books for Babies
- Alphaprints 123. Written by Sarah Powell and illustrated by Roger Priddy
- That’s Not My ……. (Bear, Dragon, Car, Dolly, Santa, etc). Written by Fiona Watt and illustrated by Rachel Wells
- Spot Bakes a Cake. Written and illustrated by Eric Hill
- My Animal Sound Book. Written by Hinkler Books
- Baby Can Bounce. Written and illustrated by Lynne Chapman
- 101 First Words at Home. Hinkler Books
- Play School Nursery Rhyme Treasury. Harper Collins Publishers
- Peter Rabbit Finger Puppet Book. Puffin Books
- Dear Zoo. Written and illustrated by Rod Campbell
- Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes. Written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
Reading to Toddlers
Toddlers will continue to enjoy the same features when reading books as when they were a baby. Plus, they will like listening to books that tell a story. They are starting to understand repetitiveness (in the storyline) before reaching the conclusion/ climatic ending. Yes that does sound funny to say that about books for toddlers but the ingredients for a great story don’t change too much.
Toddlers are incredible little sponges. This age is perfect to show them that books can be read in more ways than one. Reading the book as a story is the go-to, but you can use the book as a learning tool too. You can point out how many of each animal are on a page. You can point out the first letter of the child’s name or find ‘red’ things on a page, etc. My boys love when I replace the main characters name with their name and other characters with a sibling, cousin or friend. I use the little name replacement trick when singing nursery rhymes too.
Great Books for Toddlers
- Where is the Green Sheep? Written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Judy Horacek
- Alexander’s Outing. Written and illustrated by Pamela Allen
- I Went Walking. Written by Sue Machin and illustrated by Julie Vivas
- Waddle Giggle Gargle! Written and illustrated by Pamela Allen
- When I’m feeling ……… (Happy, Scared, Sad, Kind, etc). Written and Illustrated by Trace Moroney
- The Hungry Caterpillar. Written and illustrated by Eric Carle
- On the Farm, a Lift-a-Flap Book. Hinkler Books
- We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. Written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
- In My Heart. Written by Jo Witek and illustrated by Christine Roussey
- Who Sank the Boat? Written and illustrated by Pamela Allen
- Squirrel’s Busy Day. Written and illustrated by Lucy Barnard
- It’s Bedtime, William! Written and illustrated by Deborah Niland
- Playtown – A lift-the-flap book. Written and illustrated by Roger Priddy
- Buster’s Zoo. Written by Rod Campbell
- Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy. Written and illustrated by Lynley Dodd
Reading to Preschoolers
Let your child guide you. Some children will love to hear books well above their age and understanding but enjoy the reading experience and like the longer stories. Or if they have an obsession don’t be scared to encourage it. If they have a favourite cartoon, find a book about the show and let them see how easy the crossover is from TV to books. If they love construction, unicorns, dinosaurs, gardening, science or whatever their passion is, try to borrow or buy some books to read about their favourite topic together.
Interactive books continue to be a hit. At this age, it tends to be more about finding items on the pages (Where’s Wally style) or books may have an insert with a ‘clock’ to learn about time. My boys like to move the clock hands around to match the new time shown with every page turn. They don’t really understand yet but step by step they are absorbing new concepts like telling the time. I like books that show clever problem solving. I think they encourage children to think outside the box a bit more.
And it is at this age, that kids really start to enjoy audio versions of their favourite books. So if you spend a bit of time in the car, you may want to get some audio books to listen to.
Books can also be a great way to help preschoolers better understand some of the things they are going through and things they are finding challenging. Like their emotions, starting preschool, toilet training, a new sibling, losing a family pet, the passing of a family member and sharing.
Great Books for Preschoolers
- The Snail and the Whale. Written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler
- Possum Magic. Written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Julie Vivas
- Fidgety Fish and Friends. Written by Paul Bright and illustrated by Ruth Galloway
- Where the Forest Meets the Sea. Written and illustrated by Jeannie Baker
- Right on Time, Thomas and Friends. Written by Hinkler books
- How Full Is Your Bucket (for Kids). Written by Mary Reckmeyer and Tom Rath
- Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas. Written and Illustrated by Aaron Blabey
- Where the Wild Things Are. Written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak
- Shoes from Grandpa. Written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Patricia Mullins
- Magic Beach. Written and illustrated by Alison Lester
- The Gruffalo. Written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler
- My First Search and Find Dinosaurs. Written by Hinkler Books and illustrated by Nicola Anderson
- The Little Yellow Digger. Written by Betty Gilderdale and illustrated by Alan Gilderdale.
- Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site. Written by Sherri Duskey Rinker and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
- The Day the Crayons Quit. Written by Drew Daywait and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
- Fox in Socks. Written and illustrated by Dr Seuss
- Giraffes Can’t Dance. Written by Giles Andreae and illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees
- The Very Cranky Bear. Written and illustrated by Nick Bland
- Roadworks. Written by Sally Sutton and illustrated by Brian Lovelock
- The Cow that Laid an Egg. Written by Andy Cutbill
- Meet the Parents. Written by Peter Bently
Don’t be worried about skipping ‘forward’ or ‘backward’ between the different lists. Some books will continue to be their favourites for quite a while. If you really enjoy reading a book (and the children enjoy listening to it), look up the author and the illustrator to see what else they have published. My boys loved The Gruffalo so much, that we starting buying (and being gifted) some other books by the same author/illustrator duo. We haven’t been disappointed by one yet. We now have 19 of their books! And a few left on the wish list.
Where to Get Books
Borrowing books from your local library is probably the easiest way to access a LOT of books. I had been to several libraries over the last few years to attend different rhyme times and story reading sessions. I would often sit and read a few books afterwards but for some reason we never actually borrowed any books. Probably because we have sooo many at home (asking for books instead of toys for presents is definitely worth it!). Then master 4 came home from daycare one day and said he wanted to go to the library and borrow some books. So a few days later off we went to the library and the boys chose some books. They loved the experience and now we regularly borrow books. At the City of Parramatta libraries, you can borrow up to 40 books at a time, for 3 weeks. Check our Local Libraries Guide for Families to find your local local library and see how many books you can borrow.
FREE Reading Sessions
Nearly all libraries offer rhyme time sessions and Story reading sessions. Most sessions are run in the mornings by a librarian and go for approximately ½ an hour. Rhyme time is where you can sing along with actions to popular nursery rhymes. Story reading is just as described. These events are a great way to meet other families (if you take the first step to say hello) and get your kids excited about reading.
1000 Books Before School
1000 Books Before School raises awareness amongst families, preschools, playgroups and child-care centres that reading 1,000 Books with their child/children prior to them starting school will prepare them for a lifetime of learning and a love of reading. Parramatta Library is the first metropolitan library in NSW to offer this program.
Have you heard of street libraries? What could be better than a library? A library where you don’t have to return the book within a certain time frame or even at all! That’s right, members of your community have donated books in boxes on local streets, schools, childcare centres and parks because they want other people to be able to enjoy them. The libraries do kind of work on a ‘pay it forward’ system. If or when you are in a position to pop a few books in a street library you can return the favour.
There are currently over 80 street libraries in and around the City of Parramatta. Find out about starting a street library and where to find one in our hand article.
Books as Gifts
Another great way to fill your bookcase, is asking family and friends to give your child a book instead of card for their birthday or baby shower. Or as the parents, you may wish to gift your child a book every year for their birthday that reflects their favourite thing or something important from the year as a keepsake. The book itself can be the birthday card – with a lovely inscription inside the first page. Hopefully you will still have them all when they are 18 so that they can look back at their favourite books/ things over the years.
Pre-Loved Books for Sale
There are a few Facebook groups dedicated to buying and selling children’s books that you can join. I am part of the ‘North Shore book nook’ where most members sell books for just $2 each.
You can also check out your local op shop to see if you can pick up some good value for money books. And of course book fairs, like the Scholastic Super Sale, are a great way to buy new books (and at reasonable prices).
Buying New Books
Sadly bookstores are becoming a rare thing to find. But there are still some great ones to visit, like The Children’s Bookshop in Beecroft and Harry Hartog at Macquarie Centre. Plus you can grab some very reasonably priced books online, at stores like Book Depository and Booktopia.
Remember, a child’s education doesn’t start at school. Read to your child everyday. A child who falls in love with reading also falls in love with learning.