There is strong evidence that reading to infants and preschoolers can have a positive impact on their development and language skills. But choosing the right books also plays a major role in engagement and fostering a love of books.

Clare Court Educational Leader Sarah Gardiner says studies reveal the importance of reading to infants from birth. “It’s so crucial in supporting the development of language skills and role-modelling vocabulary and the way sentences are put together,” she says. “Books for this age offer a beautiful opportunity to read off-script and engage in a conversational-style reading between you and the child. It can encourage critical thinking and becomes an interactive experience because the text allows you to involve the children in the storytelling.”

Reading is also seen as a wonderful opportunity for bonding between children and parents, carers or educators. “It’s a beautiful ritual for families and educators who can share a special connection through reading, while building a lifelong love of books,” Sarah says.

But how do you choose the best books from the heaving shelves of libraries and bookstores?

  1. When looking for early childhood picture books to read with children, Sarah says to avoid anything “too didactic”. “If the adult can see the message from a mile away then it’s unlikely to be engaging for children,” she says. “It’s OK to have clear educational messages, but high-quality children’s books convey this with skill: subtlety, originality and artfulness.”
  2. Consider the use of language in the book, whether it’s onomatopoeia, rhyme, or rhythm. “Think about the vocabulary and use of interesting words and draw attention to rhyming words,” Sarah says. “Rhyme and meter are a great way to engage and build emergent reading skills.”
  3. Engaging illustrations are essential in captivating a young audience. Sarah says depictions of real children in culturally diverse texts are important. “It’s authentic and engaging for children to see representations of themselves in books,” she says. “Look for Own Voice authors that represent First Nations and LGBTQI perspectives.”
  4. A book with a good sense of humour is always a plus in Sarah’s opinion. “I love a funny book,” she says. “It’s such a fabulous and clever way to engage children and help nurture a love of reading. Some of my favourites are The Book with No Pictures and Dragons Love Tacos.”
  5. Look for picture books that give children agency. “I love books that are naturally contrary, such as This Is A Ball, by Matt and Beck Stanton. They automatically invite interaction and encourage children to engage with the story,” Sarah says.

Celebrating Book Week

There were Care Bears and dinosaurs, Pig the Pugs and a Cat in the Hat. Book Week celebrations at Gowrie Victoria have highlighted the joy of reading from a very young age.

At Clare Court and Broadmeadows Valley, children explored their creativity through Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Brown Bear, Brown Bear. Inspired by the timeless classics, the budding illustrators created their own versions of the books, based on Carle’s signature style. The children experimented with various textures and patterns on paper, before cutting and layering them to form the final images.

Clare Court children chose The Very Hungry Caterpillar following their recent inquiry project on butterflies and caterpillars, while GVBV children focused on the similarities and differences of animals represented in Brown Bear, Brown Bear. Both classes added their own creative flair and enjoyed sharing their insights with each other.