Children’s Reading Fun

Good books for one year olds

By Leslie Clague


I have just had a month of fairly full-on grand parenting and one of the joys of this activity is, of course, reading to one’s grandchildren and getting back in touch with children’s literature.

The children involved in my recent experience are one and six, so I got in touch with a range of reading levels while visiting them in the South Island.

For our one year old grandson the standouts were Grizzly and the Bumble -bee by Joy Cowley and Roadworks by Sally Sutton; illustrated by Brian Lovelock. The latter was the winner of the New Zealand Post Book Awards 2008. I was reading out loud the 2011 edition.

Roadworks is full of good action verbs and noise words like “Screech! Boom! Whoosh!”

I particularly liked the author’s dedication as well: “For Alice – why should the boys have all the fun?”

Another nice one, a Sesame Beginnings Book, Level 3, was It’s Naptime, Little One by Naomi Kleinberg. It rather made me want to doze off as well, but in the nicest possible way.

Keeping a six year old entertained

Enid Blyton

My six year-old granddaughter is currently being read the classic Enid Blyton’s Five Run Away Together, which she thoroughly enjoys (as did her mother, which is why she is reading the series). She does her assigned reading from school and then a few pages of “famous five” before lights out.

She also wanted to be read from Barbie Sight Words, a series of 10 story books and two work books. She is attracted by the fact that it’s Barbie and the books are pink and glamorous, but just between you and me, the stories themselves are terrible. Still, if it motivates the young to read….

With school holidays in May, granddaughter came to stay the two weeks with us in Turangi. She brought a collection of Scooby-do books with which she entertained me each night. They were good fun. As she is into Blyton, I thought we should try sharing some classics that I still have from my own childhood and that I also read to my daughter.

The all-time favourite — A. A. Milne’s The World of Pooh, which includes The Complete Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner, illustrated by E. H. Shepard – went down very well. We read the first six chapters of Winnie-the-Pooh.

I sensed a need for something else, however, and we went to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Personally, it didn’t grab me too much, but granddaughter was hooked. We got through four chapters, but then, alas, the holidays were over.

A book illustrator’s perspective


Another literary treat during the holidays was a presentation by children’s book illustrator Donovan Bixley at the Turangi Public Library. Bixley’s latest claim to fame is that he had two of his books gifted to Prince George on his recent visit to New Zealand. These were The Three Bears Sort of  and The Wheels of the Bus.

Bixley gave a good talk, encouraging children to see the pictures in their head when they are being read to, noting that when you are read a whole story, your ‘brain’ draws the pictures. He encouraged kids to do scribbles first and then develop them into pictures.

He demonstrated on large drawing paper the importance of eyebrows in creating the emotions of characters.

His latest illustrated book is Monkey Boy, to be available in June. It took him six years to complete the drawings for this work.

Writing and drawing

Listening to his talk reminded me of a quote from The People’s Act of Love by James Meek (not a children’s book!) “…it was like the difference between writing and drawing. We live our lives like writing. The pen moves over the paper in regular lines. The past is written and can be read, the future is blank, and the pen must stay in the word that is being written now. The Mohican (a character in the book) lives like drawing. He draws one stroke after the other, but the strokes can be anywhere on the paper. When you watch, the strokes look disjointed and meaningless, but in his mind he sees the whole picture complete.”

So by writing we create more or less like we live, while visual art comes from whole pictures in the head. It doesn’t really matter – as long as the joy of reading to children remains.


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