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Finding Great Books for Your Child

The virtues of reading are endless and heavily documented. There are the obvious academic benefits such as brain development, vocabulary expansion and improved concentration, but there are also the social benefits such as teaching a child empathy, compassion and flexible thinking.

Fostering a child’s love of books is a responsibility. We do our best to support their literacy development, but sometimes finding engaging and level appropriate books for young readers can be challenging. This is particularly so if you have a child that reads above or below their peer level.

 

Davina Bell, acclaimed author and past editor at Penguin Australia in the Young Readers says

“I think some of the hardest matches to make are for meaty yet still age-appropriate reads for advanced readers of a young age. Harry Potter and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe can be a little scary, but it’s equally off-putting to be stuck on boring, simple, repetitive reads that they’ve grown beyond. And conversely, it’s hard to find meaty and interesting reads for reluctant or struggling readers who are older and yet wanting something meaningful and not too babyish. "

Discovering suitable stories means not only uncovering topics that interest the child, but ones that have appropriate sized text. A beginner reader will appreciate less words on the page and a larger font. This can prove a sticking point for older children struggling with reading as many ‘age appropriate’ stories resume to fine text and more complex language. 

We need no expert to tell us that once a child discovers the magic of reading they are hooked for life. However to start this journey we need to help find them stories that really interest them. The responsibility and stakes can be particularly high with a reluctant reader. If you make a few ill fated attempts and choose books they don’t enjoy they may start refusing your suggestions and settle into the mentality that reading is not for them.

 

Camilla, mother of Imogen, Matilda and Archie

“I think parents sometimes take it a little too seriously - yes reading is important but let them read what they want to, it doesn't matter if it's not Anne of Green Gables. Lesson here is to let your kids read what interests them - it might be magazines, comics, newspapers, an atlas. It just doesn't matter as long as they are reading. “

Archie 5

He's at that age where he is so enthusiastic about reading so loves books that correspond with pictures that he can guess the words in. Makes him feel clever! He also really loves the classics - Mr Men, Beatrix Potter, the Wind In the Willows is a favourite. I am sure a lot of the story goes over his head but he seems to love the sound of the old style, poetic writing. I really notice how much he repeats books too. We will sit on the same book for weeks and often it’s a certain picture or page that he just loves which keeps him wanting to read it again. We also have a child's atlas that we read which tells him about different people in the world and where they live - he finds it fascinating.

Matilda 8

She is a fantasy junky. Fairies, fairytale pop up books, stories of young girls on adventures (Rainbow Magic, Billie B Brown, Lulu Bell). She also loves books on animals, butterflies, bees, birds. She recently joined a little kid’s book club which has been amazing and introduced her to lots of different types of books. I really recommend people to organise these in their local areas or through their local book shop.

Imogen 10

An amazing reader but I couldn't get her to read at home, until we realised that we were putting books in front of her that we thought she should like but didn't. For example she hated Harry Potter while all her friends loved it. Imogen loves fact so reads Ridleys Believe it or Not, Guiness Book of Records and autobiographies such as Anh Do Happiest Refugee. He also loves a sense of humour - Roald Dahl, Geromino Stilton, Tom Gates. 

Davina’s Favourites

"The most exciting book I’ve read in ages that I think could be great for able young readers is Flora and Ulysses by Kate De Camillo. It’s so funny and sweet and heartfelt and wonderfully written. In fact, her stuff would be great for this bracket of readers. Another that springs to mind is Because of Winn Dixie.

I may be biased but, I think that the Our Australian Girl series is fantastic for both young able readers and  older readers who are struggling a little. We’ve had great feedback from readers as young as 6 and as old as 14, and surprisingly it's come from both boys and girls. There is nothing too scary or intense in them, and the vocabulary is pretty simple, the sentence lengths quite short. And yet because they are character-focused, they are rewarding narratives – the reader is on the side of the protagonist right from the start, cheering them on. 

Then, of course, for reluctant readers there are the Treehouse books by Andy Griffith and Terry Denton, and anything David Walliams, and a new series called Johnny Danger: DIY Spy by Peter Millett. These are all great examples of using humour to engage.

In terms of a book that no child should leave childhood without, I would say Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. It still has currency with young readers because of the recent movie, and it’s such a beautiful exploration of belonging, growing up, grief, identity and friendship. It’s important to remember that kids don’t just want to see their own experiences reflected in their books, though that can be gratifying and important, too. Books are where they are exposed to big things, scary things, sad things, hard things – often for the first time. Bridge to Terabithia is a beautiful, gentle, powerful exploration of loss, and is aimed just at the level of maturity (8 to 12) where kids are ready to explore this. 

In our next post we will present our list of favourites compiled by mothers, authors, teachers and children.

 

Enjoy xoxo

 

Also don't forget to enter our Instagram competition for your chance to win a $200 Children's Gift Pack from Hickory Hill Home. Tag your child reading and use hashtag #hickoryhillhome.

Entries close 4th July 2015.

 

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