Wombat Books Blog

Wombat Books blog is the place to keep up to date with all the goings-on in the world of Aussie kid's books.

What was your favourite book when you were a child?

When my son was born I rummaged through my cupboard and located an old box. I knew I had stored my favourite books from my childhood in it in case my children, one day, enjoyed them too.

Going through them as an adult was a bittersweet experience. Some of them I read again with fondness. With some I looked through their pages and said to myself, ‘What did I ever see in this thing?’. The book of fairy tales was especially scary. I wonder if my parents did some editing when they read us those stories, because they certainly scared me as an adult!

There’s no doubt it hurt me when my son didn’t feel the same way I did about the books I gave him. Being a boy, I probably couldn’t expect him to appreciate Sparkle the Pony or Dot and the Kangaroo as much as I did, but it was difficult to deal with, especially considering how many wonderful memories there were for me in those books.

The books we read as a child can provide us with memories we will treasure forever. I remember how often I asked my father to read The Wheedle on the Needle and The Mole Family Christmas. These are books that few people apart from me will have heard of, but I will never forget them. I wonder which books my son will remember most? Will it be a common classic like The Cat in the Hat or The Gruffalo? Will it be some others that we found in some obscure place that will only be special to him? Will it be some of Wombat’s own titles, like Little Good Wolf or The Anything Shop? 

I will watch with interest to see which books he keeps to pass on to his children.

Lynne Stringer

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Reading aloud to your child

When I (Lynne Stringer) was about seven years old the teacher in my class started to read aloud from Charlotte’s Web by EB White. It was my first encounter with this classic, and I fell in love with it instantly. I’m not sure if that was just because of White’s brilliant prose, either. I think my teacher also played a part in it.

When she read the book, she really read it. It was clear she was familiar with it. The ‘voice’ of each character in the story had a different sound. She would change the way she spoke when reading the dialogue of different characters and was expressive in the way she read it. It felt like we were seeing the story unfold in front of us, rather than hearing someone read aloud.

Unfortunately, before she finished the book, this teacher left the school. A substitute teacher took her place. She read aloud the next chapter of Charlotte’s Web. I remember it as well as if it was yesterday. It was an appalling change! It was clear this new woman wasn’t much of a reader. The book went from being something magical to being something dull simply because of the lack of expression and interest she put into reading it. I could tell that she took no joy in what she was doing and that feeling was passed onto the class.

If you are reading to children I commiserate with you if reading is not something that you are fond of doing. That makes it difficult for you. I’m fortunate that I enjoy it and am enthusiastic about it. But I know it can be a chore for some, but the more effort you put into it, the more your child will get out of it.

Try reading the book before you sit down with your child so you know what happens and where it goes. Then try and think about how you would say the lines of dialogue if you were in that conversation yourself. We all speak differently depending on what we are saying and who we are talking to, and it will help keep your child engaged if you try and put that in your voice.

Does a character in the book seem old and crotchety? Try and make them sound that way. Does one seem prim and proper? Is there some way you can express that? Try and imagine it as a movie and how it might play out. This may help you as you try to express it to your child.

As many children’s books are now being made into movies you may wonder if it serves any purpose to do this, but nothing will beat the pleasure your child gets from experiencing the book with you, especially if you try and bring the characters to life for them. It may be something that stays with them forever.

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How important is reading with your preschool child?

It’s easy to underestimate how important reading is. As adults, we forget how much we read every day. Whether it’s a text message or the shelf at the supermarket, reading is an essential tool for living in this world of ours.

But surely reading is something that our child will learn in school. Do we really need to tackle it beforehand?

The answer is yes.

If you introduce your child to reading before they start school, you will be giving them a headstart on the other students. If they have the opportunity to look over your shoulder while you are reading it will help them recognise words before they start school. Believe me, they are not just looking at the pictures. They will look at the words too. Think of the extra confidence they will have when they know that they can recognise words that are meaningless to some of their peers.

Many books for children also contain useful morals and can educate your children in how to behave in social situations and give appropriate responses to conflict. Again, this can be a useful tool to learn before they start school, as then they will have strategies for dealing with children outside the family from their first day. Reading is also a fun way to learn about these social and moral issues, and the child stands a better chance of remembering these things than he or she would if you simply talked to them about it.

Also, reading with your child will nurture a bond between the two of you. Children enjoy the chance to sit next to Mum or Dad and listen to the soothing tone of their voice as they read to them.

Reading can also be helpful with other things. When I (Lynne Stringer) was toilet training my son, I bought a number of books with stickers of cars, trucks and other vehicles to place on each page. The books also contained a lot of information on the vehicles themselves.

As a result of spending hours with my son reading to him about cars and trucks and putting stickers on a page, by the time he started school his vocabulary and reading skills were far beyond those of his peers. If you try finding books like this on a subject that interests your child they will want to know more and it will encourage them to read just so they can learn.

While it’s hard to find time in our busy lives to read to our children, there are many benefits to doing so. Even if it’s just for ten minutes at bedtime every night, it will provide your child with a firm foundation for the future.

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