Get children their own library card

Start the practice of visiting the library at a very young age. Let them choose their own books – a bit of subtle guidance and even sleight of hand may be needed, but children love to choose things for themselves.

Cooper reading with Patch

Cooper reading with Patch

I have two special memories of libraries. I was introduced to the Kew library in Victoria when I was 8 (way too old). I can still remember how astonished I was to find you could take books home. When I left the library with my books I kept looking back to see if anyone was following me to take them back again.

My other memory is of Juliet, my daughter, lying on the floor of the library and refusing to get up when it was time to leave. ‘Come on, Juliet,’ I said. ‘I can’t,’ she replied. ‘I’m a library book. I’m me with Connorwaiting for someone to take me out.’

I am often found in the children’s section of our local libraries looking for books to read to my Kindy group. That is where I met Cooper with his mother, Lyn. Here he is reading a book of his own choice with his bear, Patch, beside him. He was completely absorbed in his task.

These days libraries offer many different free programs and events to inspire children’s love of books.  It is worth checking out what is on for children, especially in the holidays. One program some Queensland libraries have been involved with is First Five Forever which is about how important the first five years of a child’s life are in terms of brain development and learning.

Make books for your children. 

 You can use your computer to make something that will be special just for your child. It can be done quite simply as a power point or pdf, run off and stapled together. That is a method I used for a book I made called ‘The Great Strawberry Mystery’ for my step grandson, Max. We were visiting in KL and at the time he was very fond of strawberries . You can look at the story The Great Strawberry Mystery.

The Great Strawberry Mystery

The Great Strawberry Mystery

Another approach is to purchase a photo book from a commercial firm (eg Snapfish, Photobook) and then paste your text, photos or pictures into it. They will print your book and post it to you. Watch out for their special offers – sometimes they waive postage or offer up to 80% off.

Making up the story need not be difficult. You can take the plot from any story and change the details if you don’t want to invent your own. Or you can write about your child’s daily life and introduce a visit from a storybook character.Cover - Copy

I made a book for my niece, Chilli, called ‘Chilli’s secret tea party’ using Photobook. I knew she loved the Olivia books by Ian Falconer and I had gathered lots of information about her sayings, her friends, what she liked doing and so on.  Then I fitted these details into a story that showed Chilli having a secret tea party for Olivia. You can watch her listening to the first part of her book right here on this Facebook video.

It was great fun for me to make and you can see Chilli was very involved right from the start. Her mum says it is a favourite. And it will be interesting for her to look back on when she is older.


Make books with your children.

This can work well with most ages. It is often good to start with something a child draws. Talk about the drawing together. That is how The Rainbow Dragon and The Rainbow Dragon’s Revenge began. My grandson, Oliver, drew a beautiful coloured dragon and it was our talking about his dragon that got us started. Oliver and James, his brother, were soon involved in telling me about its adventures. This gave me a plot to work with (a bit weird and wonderful) and I wrote the stories while the children added illustrations. I made two books with my grandsons in this way. I recently put them on Create Space and made them available online (see my website).

Look out for books about things that chime with your child’s current interests.

As children develop, they move through many different experiences, passions and stages. Tapping into what a child is experiencing at a particular moment and finding books that explore similar things is a great way to capture a child’s interest. An example that brought me a lot of pleasure recently was sparked by a poem in my book, ‘I Like Poems’.  Molly had spent many years of her young life wanting a dog and then she finally got one. When she was reading my poetry book, given to her by her grandparents, the poem ‘If…’ about not having a dog really struck a chord. She wrote a poem in response to show what it meant to her to own a dog, a poem full of feeling and empathy.

If . . .
If I had a dog
I’d feed it every day.
I’d brush its coat,
I’d check for fleas,
We’d walk and run and play.

If I had a dog
I’d sneak it in at night.
I’d pat my bed,
I’d make a space,
We’d sleep till it was light.

If I had a
I’d train it to obey.
I’d give commands,
I’d give rewards,
‘twould do just what I say.

If I had a dog
I know that in the end
We’d be a team,
We’d be best friends.
Till then – I’ll just pretend.

Molly wrote a wonderful poem in response.

Now . . .
Now I have a dog
His name is Harvey bear
He’s black and white
And very cute
Of him I take good care

Now I have a dog
He can dance and run and play
He licks and barks
He sneaks our food
He loves us everyday

Now I have a dog
He often goes to sleep
He lies on my bed
He sleeps on my couch
Maybe he’s counting sheep

Now I have a dog
His name is Harvey bear
He’ll be my friend
Until they end
We’ll always be a pair

By Molly

Molly's Harvey Bear

Molly’s Harvey Bear

Finally If I can be of any help with your own book-making experiments please email me. I am far from expert with any of these things but I am willing to help if I can.