If you have children in your life then it’s likely that you’ve recently read a children’s book with them – bedtime story, school readers, maybe they are even part of a junior book club and you’ve read the chosen book together. We all know that reading aloud to your child is important and that we should keep doing this for as long as they will let us, but have you read a children’s book on your own lately?
Recently in The Guardian the absolutely fabulous children’s author Katherine Rundell wrote that we should all be reading children’s books – she listed five that she thought were essential reading for all adults.
I wholeheartedly agree with this, and the selection she has made. I’ve read at least one children’s book a week for the last twelve months and have noticed a big change in the way that my children and I interact with and share books. Children’s books have become a significant part of my reading life and my broader life for that matter! Reading with kids or to each other is great but there is also something special about reading the same book separately and then discussing it.
Kids these days are absolutely spoilt for choice when it comes to high quality and highly entertaining books to read. Every month there are hundreds of books that pass my desk that I share with you all in the hopes that they will be something your little reader will love. As I have three children of my own, I also think about them when something really great hits my desk.
I have always been a big reader and spent a lot of time working in the book industry but when it came to selecting children’s books there were some ages that were easy and others not so much!
Now, as I read more children’s than adults books, I have also made this accidental discovery: there is nothing better than reading the same book as your child (separately) within a few weeks of one another. When you do this you both get a chance to mull over the story and come to your own conclusions, formulate your own questions and generally think about it before sharing your thoughts.
You’ll not only be able to answer all their questions with great accuracy – particularly if you’re reading about a serious issue such as refugees or bullying – but if it’s a really vivid story you’ll also find yourself existing in that fictional world together for the week or so you’re reading it. You’ll find that you and your child naturally start to make comparisons about things – something might happen that also happens in the book, a character might be described and they appear remarkably similar to someone you both know. You find yourself celebrating their failures and victories together and so much more…
And don’t think that this is only something that you should do with your older children. You would be surprised at how many middle grade books are just as riveting as an adult book. There is also something wonderful about the nostalgia you feel when you get your hands on a great children’s book written by one of the amazing children’s authors such as Emily Rodda, Kate DiCamillo, Patrick Ness, Jackie French, and Morris Gleitzman.
I have read books to review that my 8-year-old has literally grabbed from my hands after I finished and then we laughed and laughed over the disgusting things that The World’s Worst Children got up to.
My 10-year-old and I both read the Mr Bambuckle series by Australian author Tim Harris. Over a shared love for the character Canteen Carol, we recited scenes of dialogue that had us constantly in fits of laughter and sharing a joke only we knew about! We followed that up with Peski Kids by R. A Spratt, Pirate Boy of Sydney Town by Jackie French and The Great Escape by Felice Arena – we have now discovered that we both enjoy a bit of historical fiction and Jackie French of course!
My teenager was finding it hard to get the right book – after a very active start to reading she was still returning to the likes of Tom Gates and Diary of a Wimpy Kid (both great series but there are only so many times you can read the same book!) as there was no direct path to the next step. The first book I gave her was Whisper by Lynette Noni and we have since read The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas and Dry by Neal Shusterman within a week of each other. I love that we can talk about the plots and characters together. Recently she has become a vegetarian and we both read Sky and Snow by Ondine Sherman and there were lots of things to talk about after that. Small Spaces and Lenny’s Book of Everything were also great conversations starters I am now hoping to guide her on to some fantasy titles where she can explore these more complex worlds in depth.
It’s also really enjoyable to re-read your childhood favourites when you hand a copy to your child. If you loved Alice in Wonderland, Winnie the Pooh or Paddington then read them again to remind yourself why.
You know that feeling when you and a friend have an animated conversation about a book you’ve both loved? Imagine having that with your kids.
Do you read children’s books? If you feel like your imagination needs a kick start then you may want to give it a go.
Melissa Wilson looks after children’s content for Better Reading Kids