- As a parent you play a vital role in preparing and encouraging your child for the world of reading and writing.
- Try for a wide variety of stories to expose your child to a number of different genres.
- Your local library is a great source of books and information.
- You might want to consider electronic books too.
Generally speaking, children enjoy books about people, places and things that are just like them. Books about where you live, your culture and your child's interests are all worth considering. Try for a wide variety of stories – fiction, non-fiction, plays, poetry, short stories and graphic novels – to expose your child to a number of different genres.
Genres are the way books are categorised and help you find books that have things in common. The more stories and books you read to your child from across all the available genres the better. Not only does this help you narrow down the types of stories your child is interested in, it also helps you develop your child’s vocabulary and understanding of the written word.
If your child’s first language is not English, learning words and reading in their first language is beneficial and should be encouraged.
For books in languages other than English, see: 50 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Know
Each year awards are given to Australian children’s books by judges selected by the Australian Children’s Book Council. The books are nominated by the book publishers and are judged on their literary merit, cohesiveness, appropriateness and originality. Nominations are short-listed according to categories that include older readers, younger readers, early childhood, picture story and information books (Eve Pownall Award).
Taking your child to the library regularly is a great way of increasing access to a variety of stories and books and your local librarian is an invaluable source of information. They can help you find award-winning children’s books and books that will allow your child to develop and pursue their interests.
Libraries often hold special reading or story times and some offer books in languages other than English. Many local libraries also host events during National Literacy and Numeracy Week.
A balance between traditional books and electronic books is ideal, but the most important thing is that your child is reading and enjoying the experience.
There are various types of electronic books that use a variety of devices to ‘read’ stories:
- Kindle – a small tablet-style device that is text based. You need to set up an Amazon account before you can download any children’s books, though the Kindle Amazon site has a wide variety of children’s books available.
- iPad or similar tablets – can display colourful, animated stories with a narrator to read the story to your child. You need to have an iTunes account before you’re able to search for and download books from the Apps store.
Each device has its own advantages, like the ability to engage and interest a reluctant reader. This is especially true for an iPad or a similar tablet.
For more information on electronic books, see:
Many bookshops have large children’s book sections, usually organised according to age. Some major centres may also have specialist children’s bookstores.
Bookshops also have websites that are usually arranged by books, e-books, audio-books and then by category like ‘kids and teens’ or ‘children’.
For more information, see:
- Angus and Robertson’s Kids and Teens – a range of titles from simple stories, to chapter books
- Dymocks Children’s Reading Guide – get your kids on the path to reading
- ABC Shop’s Books – you can search by genre, category or format.
You can often find great children’s books for much less than full price at second-hand book stores and opportunity shops like St Vincent De Paul and the Salvation Army. Look for books that are in good repair and have stories, pictures, rhymes or poems that will interest your child.
Garage sales are also a possible avenue for buying good quality second-hand children’s books.
Another inexpensive source of suitable books is the local school fete. Books often range in price from 20c each, and later in the day you may be able to purchase a box of books for a little as one dollar. The books are usually donated by families once their children have outgrown the books, so they get to live on with new readers.
What you can do at home
Here are some suggestions for what you can do at home when reading with your child:
- When you are reading with your child, ask them to turn the pages of the story for you.
- Encourage your family and friends to give your child books for their birthday or other special occasions.
- After you have finished a story ask your child to tell you about their favourite part, or ask them to imagine a different ending to the story. You could even ask them to retell the story in their own words.
- Read stories or passages in short sections and let your child tell you what happened before you continue reading. This way you can check their understanding, without pressure, and help them understand how stories are put together.
- Discuss the meanings of unknown words, both those your child reads and those they hear. Show them how to look up the meanings by using a dictionary or searching online.
- Create and update a list of words that your child knows and can recognise, and use magnetic letters and put them on the fridge.
- Talk to your child about the books they read at school and with you at home to help hone their comprehension skills. Ask your child probing questions about the book – ‘I wonder why they did that?’ or ‘how do you think they felt when that happened?’ or ‘what might have happened if they didn’t do that?’
- Where possible, connect events in the book to things that have happened in your child’s life. This will help them understand why a character does things and may help them to enjoy the story more.
Other things you can consider include encouraging your child to:
- tell you about what is happening in the book as if they were the main character
- draw a map of the book's setting – where do the characters live, where do they travel to, how do they get there, how long does it take, who else might live there?
- think about why particular characters do things – for example, why did they decide to visit the wizard? Or think about things that happen in the book, like why the main character got angry – what did they do, what happened after that?
- tell you about an experience or something that interests them. Write this story down, using your child’s words. You could even help your child write the story themselves, depending on where they are up to in developing their writing skills. Then read their story back to them, letting them see their words written down and read aloud.
Start a children’s book club
Children are much more likely to look forward to reading if they know they can socialise and have fun. With the help of your friends and other parents at your child’s school you can start a children’s book club.
You could hold book club meetings in the local library or rotate between the member’s homes, your child’s school or your local community centre. You may consider structuring the book club meetings around a story hour or half-hour, allowing time for the kids to talk about the characters and what is likely to happen in the story.
Knowing there will be questions asked and a discussion about the book may also help your child to enjoy the experience and look forward to reading.
- Premiers’ Reading Challenge – contains a list of books your child may like to read. These lists are updated in consultation with experienced teachers and librarians.
- 201 Literacy and Maths Tips to Help Your Child – this provides handy hints and activities you can do with your child at home that will help them learn to read.
- Find your public library – The Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure’s directory of public libraries where you can find CDs, talking books, DVDs and lots of children’s books to borrow. Your local library may also have children’s story time throughout the year.
- FUSE: Primary Students – educational resources and activities for primary school children.
- Children's Book Council of Australia – recommends books for young readers and has links to websites of Australian authors.
- Read Write Think – tips for parents to help a child choose a book.
- Storybird – make stories with family and friends to share.
- Giggle Poetry – choose from hundreds of poems to read and rate.