Today is International Children’s Book Day.
“Since 1967, on or around Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday, 2 April, International Children’s Book Day has been celebrated all over the world, aiming to inspire a love of reading and to call attention to children’s books.
The celebratory day is co-ordinated by the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), a non-profit organisation dedicated to bringing children and books together. Activities include writing competitions, announcements of book awards and events with authors of children’s literature.”
Clancy & Millie and the Very Fine House is a favourite of mine, and it is now a book that is included in the Australian National Curriculum. It is a book that invites children to use their imaginative thinking to come up with all kinds of inventions and buildings using cardboard boxes- a wonderful invitation to create using ‘loose parts’. My sister recently read this book to her kindergarten class and I saw some photos of the amazing structures the children created as their engagement in the task. Wow! Not only that, the book is illustrated by my favourite, Freya Blackwood. Her work is always magnificent! (I wrote an email to Freya not so long ago, telling her how much I truly value her work that encourages children to love books, and I was chuffed to receive a personal email from her the next day. How lovely was that. Yet another reason to love her books!)
The Milly-Molly-Mandy Storybook, and the follow up,More Milly-Molly-Mandy, are my two go-to books in my shelf. My mum used to read my two sisters and I the stories of Milly Molly Mandy, and they remain timeless to this day- she enjoys the simple adventures of growing vegetables in her garden, visiting fetes, competing in running races, visiting friends, learning to cook, enjoying picnics in the garden, and dreaming about her future. I love to watch and see how the children who hear the stories will be inspired and encouraged, and if they will take action to create their very own play scenarios or adventures, inspired by what MMM encounters. In my experience, they always do. Good quality, wholesome fun. We need more of that.
Pamela Allen is a prolific writer with plenty of (best-selling) titles under her wing. Mr. Mcgee and the Biting Flea (Picture Puffins) is just one, filled with flowery language and a rhythm that encourages reading aloud. I just love it when I come across books that are as FUN for me to articulate, as they are for Ned to hear. Pamela has the nack!
Ned and I came across Margaret Mayo’s Stomp, Dinosaur, Stomp! in the bookshop attached to the Brisbane State Library. Enchanted by the rhyming language and repetitive melody throughout the book, we soon discovered she had written more in the same vein…
Ned was about 3 and he was well immersed in his trucks and cars phase so of course, I couldn’t help but purchase Dig Dig Digging by Margaret Mayo too. It is not easy to find picture books about trucks or cars, unless they feature Lightning McQueen and friends, (trucks especially! There is definitely a market there!) and as a mum who was actively trying to avoid immersing my child into the world of commercialism and branded toys for as long as possible, we were searching hard for alternatives. Margaret’s books fitted the bill perfectly. So perfectly in fact, that I must have read both of these books each night for 3 months running! And I tell you, as a mum who didn’t know much about machinery or dinosaur species before, let me tell you, I do now!
Sally Hunter’s book, Humphrey’s Bedtime, not only features her elegant and subdued illustrations but in my experience, is a perfect accompaniment to the bedtime ritual, especially for those children who rather feel like staying up a little longer! We all know children who have become a little ‘hot and cross’ when preparing for bed, yet this book gives children an opportunity to see that it is ok to let go and be taken care of- just what they need!
There has only ever been one children’s picture book that made me cry upon reading it. I’m sure Henrietta wondered what was wrong with me! But my tears were not so much sad, as they were sentimental. My heart has never been touched the way it was through this story of compassion, and friendship, between a young boy and an old lady. Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge (Picture Puffins), is another story by the author of Possum Magic (Voyager Books), Mem Fox, but I think this is her best ever.
Where the Wild Things Are. Need I say more?
Welcome to the Zoo! was given to Ned a few years ago. It contains no text at all and yet, we have ‘read’ it hundreds of times! It is a book that invites YOUR creativity and storytelling ability to rise and shine. We are given the opportunity to tell the story we need to tell, using the quirky pictures and slightly mad scenarios to build our adventures. It is just like those ‘choose your own adventure book’ you too might remember from childhood… who needs the possible endings to be spelt out? With this book, you speak the story as you see it.
Visiting the amazing world of a Barnes and Noble bookshop last year while on holiday in Hawaii, we gave Ned free rein to choose three books. This was one he chose, and I was quite chuffed actually as it is a story I’ve often told in my kindergarten classrooms. Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys, and Their Monkey Business. ’Caps for sale’ tops my list for a laugh-out-loud book for kids. All kids love this story- I think they might just be able to see a little bit of themselves in the cheeky monkey who sits up high in the tree! Oh, the mischief making! Oh, the trickery. Yes, I think we all have a little bit of cheeky monkey inside- no matter how grown up we might feel.
I’m a HUGE fan of Oliver Jeffers. Lost and Found (Paperback) is a beautiful book on friendship. Fortified by Oliver’s eye-catching drawings, it is a winner in my eyes. Of course, Oliver has plenty of other lovely books too… my favourite being the other one we have in Ned’s book collection, How to Catch a Star. If you have not yet have the joy of reading one of his books, take a trip to your local library or bookstore today. Heart warming.
Mabel’s Magical Garden is predominantly a book on friendship but I love the environmental message in here too. Sharing is caring, that much can be seen.
I couldn’t write a list of delightful books for children without including Enchanted Woodand the companion book, Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. If ever there were a book (books) that made an impact upon the lives of millions of children, this must be it. Everyone has a memory of Jo, Bessie, Fanny and cousin Dick, and their friends Moonface, Old Saucepan Man, Silky the Fairy, and grumpy old Dame Washalot! (Of course, in modern interpretations in a politically correct world, it is Jo, Bessie, Franny and Rick!) My mum bought the audio CD featuring Kate Winslet reading the text for Ned’s 4th birthday, and I have spent many enjoyable moments sitting on the couch listening along too!
I LOVE the fact that my both my children are voracious readers. Well, Ned is yet to ‘read’ but he is a lover of books and words, and can recite- word for word- many of his favourites. I’ve become (quite unintentionally in fact) a big fan of audio books for children too, especially when they are read by an artist with a lovely voice and intonation. I used to be a bit of a book snob and could never have envisioned myself giving the nod to an audio book when I could (or felt like I should) have been reading the books myself. But….. I’ve come full circle on that one! Audio books, well chosen, are miracle makers! It really doesn’t matter who is reading, so long as children are listening and being given the opportunity to make their own imaginative pictures! When children simply listen, they create their own showreel in their mind. It is a very different experience to watching a dvd, tv show, or story on the ipad or computer- this requires NOTHING of them at all. (PS: Plenty of this kind of discussion in my new book Creative Parenting for Fun by the way… I’ve posed a whole heap of questions for you to think about! )
I’d like to share another little thing we do in our house. We have a ‘book quota’, otherwise I’d be reading Ned books all night long! So, when he was 4, we read 4 books every night before bed. Now he is 5, we read 5 books before lights out. (This doesn’t include the many books we read or listen to during the day of course!) But it is a wonderful technique that encourages a love of books, a love of words, and a love of language, while also helping with the ‘going to bed’ routine. We’ve been using it for years! You might like to as well.