Sunday, May 24, 2015

How Children's Reading Habits Are Changing & Six Ways to Support them

The National Literacy Trust in the United Kingdom has just published its annual report on children's literacy and there are some encouraging signs. The trust is the only national charity dedicated to raising literacy levels in the UK.

1. The report highlights

The 2014 report (released in 2015) of 32,026 children in grades 3 to 11 suggests some interesting trends:
  • Levels of enjoyment have risen with 54.5% enjoying reading quite a lot.
  • Daily reading rates have increased substantially with a 28.6% increase in children who read outside the class on a daily basis.
  • Twice as many children read outside the class for fun each day (now 29.6%).
  • Except for magazines all forms of reading increased, with musical lyrics (50.3%), text messages (72.6%), websites (60.2%) and social networking being the highest (53.6%). Interestingly, 46.7% of all children read fiction at least once a month outside class.
  • The majority of children said they have a favourite book (61.0%).
  • Girls continue to be the most devoted readers
  • Girls and boys read different material outside school - more girls than boys read computer-based formats.
  • Children who enjoyed reading are three times more likely to read above their appropriate level than children who do not enjoy reading (34.9% compared to 10.7%).
2. Six Tips to Help Children to Grow in Enjoyment for Reading

Once again, results of this kind show why it is important for parents and teachers to work hard to increase children's enjoyment of reading. Here are six tips that will help to make a difference:

#1 Work hard to connect children with books that they will enjoy - try to supply books that match interests, that are at an appropriate level, and provide time and space in their lives to read.
#2 Help children to manage their time so that they have time to read - this might require us to restrict screen time for activities those activities that offer only limited reading opportunities.
#3 Provide opportunities for children to experience many forms of reading - books, careful use of social media for class, group and exchange with students in other places. Create varied opportunities for reading magazines, graphic novels, books, music, non-fiction, poetry, cultural texts (e.g. advertising, news, political posters).
#4 Show interest in the things children read - talk to them about their reading, ask them to share what they are reading and why, engage with them concerning the content of their reading and their interests.
#5 Encourage opportunities for children to share their reading interests - try discussion groups on specific texts or genres, one-on-one reading conferences, 'dining room table' discussions with small groups of students (as developed by Nancie Atwell).
#6 Help children to become writers as well - reading feeds writing and writing feeds reading. Get children excited about both by allowing them to take greater control and by supporting them at every step. Encourage them to write for real readers and try to establish ways for others to read their writing as well.

Other related posts on giving children READING SUPPORT





Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Sketching and imagination as tools for close reading and comprehension


*This is a revised version of a post I wrote a couple of years ago.

Every teacher wants to help children to read deeply, to grasp the richness of characterisation, the devices the author uses to create mood and tension, the intent and purpose of the writer and the language devices employed. We also want them to be moved by the text and able to reflect and respond critically to it. I've written lots of posts about comprehension, but in this one I want to revisit a previously discussed strategy that I've used with children aged 3 to 12 years and which I continue to see as one of the most powerful comprehension strategies I have used.

‘Sketch to Stretch’ is essentially a strategy that involves asking children to sketch in response to reading, hearing or even viewing a story. It requires them to use drawing to 'stretch' or enhance the meaning as they are reading. You can do it during and after reading and there is even a place for drawing as an ‘advance organizer’ before reading, but that’s another post. It can involve varied directions including:

Sketch what just happened.
Sketch what he/she [insert character name] did, lost, saw, heard etc.
Sketch how this [insert and event] makes you feel.
Sketch a picture that shows what might happen next.
Sketch a picture of [insert character].

The sketches on the left are from my book 'Teaching Reading Comprehension', and show just some of the responses from a group of 10 year-old children I had been teaching as part of a research project. I had interrupted a reading of the graphic novel ‘The Wedding Ghost’ (1985) written by Leon Garfield and illustrated by Charles Keeping.

Garfield's book is set in the late 19th century, in a small village in Hertfordshire in England. Like all of Garfield’s books it is rich in historical detail and a depth of language and mastery of storytelling that few children’s authors have ever achieved. The book tells the story of a young couple (Gillian and Jack) who are about to be married. It follows the normal sequence of events for a wedding in the 19th century, beginning with the invitation, preparations, then the rehearsal, present opening, more preparations and eventually the wedding.

Much of the story centres on a journey taken by Jack after he opens an unusual gift addressed only to him. This is the first moment of intrigue. Jack sets off armed with an old map sent by an unknown person, and the events and discoveries that lead ultimately to the dramatic events of the wedding and the outcome.

On the occasion that sketches above were drawn I had introduced the book by sharing the title, showing the cover and then explaining a little about the author. I told the class that Leon Garfield usually wrote what is known as historical fiction, and that this is the writing of fictional stories that are inspired by real events, setting and characters.

I interrupted my oral reading after a few minutes at a point where Jack is to open the mysterious present. This is just a few from the start of the story and the guests are gathered around watching the groom to be. People are making jokes and speculating about the gift and why it might just have his name on it.

I asked my students to quickly sketch what the gift might be. As you can see from the sample of the sketches, the responses varied greatly and included a ghost, map (an uncanny prediction), book, hourglass (suggesting time), a genie’s lamp letter and so. The sketches offer an insight into the level and depth of children’s comprehension of this complex picture book up to this point. As well, they illustrate that they are trying to make sense of what’s going on, where the story might go next and the extent to which they are picking up on the themes in Garfield’s book. As well, they show something of their literary history and the background knowledge that they bring to the reading and the sketching.

Even when children drew the same object there was great diversity. For example, a number of students drew ghosts probably basing their prediction upon the book's title (there had been nothing explicit in the text to suggest this); and yet, the drawings showed a diverse range of ghosts. One student drew a genie type 'ghost' emerging from lamps, several drew 'Casper like' ghosts and others drew ghosts more human in form. Each reflected different literary histories and background knowledge. Where they were at the point of the sketch involved each in a different literary journey and experience of this book.



Summing up

'Sketch to Stretch' as its name implies, stretches children’s understanding, and their knowledge of and appreciation of literature. It is enhanced of course by discussion and skilful teaching, as sketches are shared and responded to by students as well as the teacher. It isn't really an easy strategy; in fact it is a very sophisticated multimodal strategy that requires reading, discussion, response, drawing and sometimes writing in association with it. It can also be used with film in a similar way to the way I used it with the 'Wedding Ghost'.

One of the strengths of Sketch to Stretch and in fact drawing generally, is that it offers an alternative to word-based strategies for heightening engagement. Each response whether it is written, spoken, drawn or displayed in any form, helps children to read more ‘deeply’. The sketches also help us to understand how our children are empathizing with characters, evaluating the text, what they are predicting will come next, how they are reflecting upon earlier events, how they are connecting with life situations and so on. This offers us greater insight into our children’s comprehension as they read and it helps us to enrich the mental journey children are making as they read a book.

Related Resources

Previous posts on 'Comprehension' (here)

'Pathways to Literacy', Trevor H. Cairney (1995). This is a book I wrote and which has more material on reading comprehension and 'Sketch to Stretch'. 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Six reasons we sometimes need to say no to our children

It seems in this age that parents struggle increasingly to say no to their children. "No you can't have another biscuit". "No you can't have a mobile phone because Ralph has one". "No you can't stay over at Annette's place when I don't know the family". "No we aren't going to McDonalds tonight".  "No you can't play that online game any longer tonight". Parents vary in terms of their parenting styles along a continuum from permissive to more authoritarian, and I've seen fine young people emerge from families with quite different styles. But it seems to me that irrespective of whether your style is permissive or towards the more authoritarian end, all children do need to hear the word "No" at times.

Why? Here are my top 6 reasons we need sometimes to say 'no'.

#1  Failing to get something that you want, helps to make you more grateful when you do.

#2  We learn from failures, and by not always getting our way or the things that we want.

#3  Being told 'no' is arguably the greatest contributor to understanding the failures of others and developing empathy.

#4  Learning to accept a 'no' helps you to learn how to say no to others; an important key to self-control and preservation.

#5 Having people who love you saying 'no' teaches you a great deal about what true love is.

#6  Being told 'no' helps to develop endurance and determination.

Of course teachers can also have the same problems with saying no. Being able to say 'no' is a great gift from a parent or teacher to a child. But when you do say no it is important to remember a few basics:

  • First, always try to explain why you are saying no. This will help children to grasp that you actually want what is best for them and that you value them.
  • Second, be consistent! There is no point saying 'no' once and then giving in to the same thing an hour later.
  • Third, never say 'no' simply in anger. Yes, at times kids make us angry, but your delivery of a 'no' should be delivered while under control and focused on their good not just punishment.
  • Fourth, don't allow your children - when faced with a no - to engage in a debate; they need to respect your authority as a parent and your right to say no.
  • Fifth, don't allow your children to work one parent against the other. In my family a no to one parent was enough. You need to shut down this type of manipulation by not allowing the child to split parent opinion down the middle.

Good luck saying no.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

11 Memorable Picture Books for Anzac Day

1. 'I Was Only Nineteen' by John Schumann and illustrated by Craig Smith (Allen & Unwin)

John Schumann wrote an unforgettable song 'I Was Only 19' in 1983 with the band Redgum. It had the memorable refrain 'God help me, I was only 19'. The lyrics of this well-known Australian song have been brought to life in a children's picture book illustrated by the widely acclaimed Australian illustrator Craig Smith. The lyrics are used exactly as in the song and with Craig Smith's wonderful water colour and line drawings are a moving reminder of the Vietnam War. This was a war that was fought in different ways to the previous great wars and had less universal support than previous conflicts in which Australia and other nations had fought. This was a war that for many didn't seem 'quite real', and our servicemen still carry the physical and mental scars. The book is a moving insight into a war fought by young men who knew little about the country in which they fought and why they were there. It would be an ideal book to share with children aged 6-12 years as we approach ANZAC Day in Australia on April 25th.

2. 'Simpson and his Donkey' by Mark Greenwood & illustrated by Frané Lessac

Every Australian and English child who grew up in the 1950s to 70s in Australia would know of the story of Simpson and the donkey he used to retrieve wounded men on the WWI battlefields of the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey. This was one of the greatest of all defeats for the forces of Britain, France and of course the Australian and New Zealand armed forces (the ANZACs). In the midst of the massacre of thousands of allied troops and the eight-month siege of this isolated beachhead, a man and his donkey were responsible for saving many lives, before Simpson was eventually killed on yet another mission.

Mark Greenwood offers a moving story of John Simpson Kirkpatrick and how he and his donkey, Duffy, rescued over 300 men during the campaign at Gallipoli. It traces his life from his home in South Shields in Newcastle (England) and his journey from the Tyne Dock to Turkey. Informed by detailed research, the text includes a brief biography of the man, details of his work at Gallipoli and also the little known story of how one of the many he rescued was actually a childhood friend.

Frané Lessac's illustrations are a wonderful complement to the story and have strength of colour that is not controlled by conventions. There are skies of yellow, orange, aqua, purple and all shades of blue. Her unique style draws your eye deep into each plate; no details can easily be missed.

3. 'Do Not Forget Australia' by Sally Murphy

A poignant picture book about Henri, about France, about Billy and about Australia. It is based on the true story of how strong bonds are developed in the face of adversity.

Sally Murphy wrote the first draft of this special story on ANZAC Day, 2008, while her son was there in Villers-Bretonneux the place where Australian troops fought to save a French town in a foreign war. It took hr four years to complete, and the time spent on this special book shows.

4. 'My Grandad Marches on Anzac Day' (2006), illustrated by Benjamin Johnson

'My Grandad Marches on Anzac Day' was written by Catriona based on her children's grandfather who fought with the British army in World War II. It tells the story of one family's involvement in this day, but at the same time it is a similar story to that of many families who wake up early on the 25th April each year to remember the fallen of war and to celebrate the mateship of those who survive.

This book is an ideal way to help very young children learn something about Anzac Day. It is a simple, thoughtful and touching tale told through the eyes of a little girl. It explains what happens on the day and its significance for a young child.

I sit on Daddy’s shoulders.
It’s a very long wait.
But my grandad will come.
My grandad marches on Anzac Day.

Teaching activities and notes for this books are available for teachers and parents HERE

5. 'Anzac Ted' by Belinda Landsberry (Exisle Publishing)

'Anzac Ted's a scary bear
and I can tell you why.
He's missing bits, his tummy splits,
he only has one eye'

That's how this beautifully illustrated book begins. A battered old teddy, that never wins a prize in the best toy competitions at school and frightens all the kids. But this bear has a secret. No one 'knows my Anzac's woes or just how brave he is.' Like the narrator's Grandpa, Anzac Ted is very old (100 this year in fact) and he made it through two wars as a mascot.

This is a lovely picture book for children aged 4-6 years that will allow very young children to access just as little of the Anzac legend.

6. 'One Minute's Silence' by David Metzenthen & illustrated by Michael Camilleri (Allen & Unwin)

This non-fiction, it is a moving and powerful story about the meaning of Remembrance Day drawing on the ANZAC and Turkish battle at Gallipoli. It is based on true events, but is written in a way that encourages the reader to imagine sprinting up the beach in Gallipoli in 1915 with the fierce fighting Diggers. The reader is also encouraged to imagine standing beside the brave battling Turks as they defended their homeland from the cliffs above.

In the silence that follows a war long gone, the hope is that you might see what the soldiers saw, and feel a little of what the soldiers felt. And if you try, you might just be able to imagine the enemy, and see that he was not so different from 'his' enemy. The purpose is to challenge us to imagine, remember and honour soldiers on both sides of the conflict. All are heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives for their countries.

This is a very moving and powerful reflection on the meaning of Remembrance Day, which is brought to life by Michael Camilleri's incredible pencil drawings. Each double page spread is wonderful. One of my favourites is one that depicts the engineering, physics and impact of a bullet. I found this to be quite dramatic and challenging.

Readers aged 7-10 will enjoy this book.


7. 'The Poppy' by Andrew Plant

Stunningly illustrated in over 70 paintings, The Poppy is the true story of one of Australia's greatest victories, and of a promise kept for nearly a century. On Anzac Day, 1918, a desperate night counter-attack in the French village of Villers-Bretonneux became one of Australia's greatest victories. A bond was forged that night between France and Australia that has never been broken. Villers-Bretonneux is 'The town that never forgets'. What was achieved that terrible night - and what happened after - is a story that, likewise, Australians should never forget. 

8. 'A Day to Remember' by Jackie French, illustrated by Mark Wilson

Anzac Day is the day when we remember and honour Anzac traditions down the ages, from the first faltering march of wounded veterans in 1916 to the ever increasing numbers of their descendants who march today. Containing reference to the many places the ANZACs have fought, and the various ways in which they keep the peace and support the civilians in war-torn parts of the world today, this is a picture book that looks not only at traditions, but also the effects of war.


9. 'Anzac Biscuits' by Phil Cummings

Phil Cummings adopts a dual narrative - each double page switches from Rachel and her mother in their kitchen, to Rachel's Dad who is fighting in the war - referred to as 'the soldier'.

Rachel and her mother busy themselves making ANZAC biscuits, in the kitchen. The language is light and fun filled describing their antics as they prepare their home cooked gift.

Each double page focusing on the soldier picks up on an element from the cosy kitchen - the crash and bang of pots and pans becomes the 'bang bang' of gunfire shots for the soldier. The warm smoke touched kitchen with its delicious aromas from the fireplace, becomes the 'choking smell' of 'angry guns'.

Cummings uses structure brilliantly here, this would be a great book to utilise in story crafting activities.

The poetic overtones to Cumming's language choices are a real highlight, and they are matched perfectly by Owen Swan's illustrations. The delicate soft lines reflect the tone of the narrative. They sweep the reader through the alternate scenes of the soldier, then the warm home.

ANZAC Biscuits is wonderful way to remember ANZAC Day, it offers many discussion points both relating to the subject of war and the use of language.

10. 'The Anzac Puppy' by Peter Millett

Inspired by true events, The Anzac Puppy demonstrates the strength dogs often provided soldiers during war. Freda, born during the war, became a good luck mascot for a soldier and his friends and inspired them to stay safe so they could honour a promise to bring the dog home.


11. 'Anzac Tale' by Ruth Starke and illustrated by Greg Holfield

When Australia pledges its support to Great Britain at the outbreak of World War I, mates Roy Martin and Wally Cardwell are among the first to enlist.

But what the friends first thought would be an adventure soon turns to disaster The day after the landing at Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915, more than 2000 of their fellow Anzacs are dead. As the campaign drags on, life for Wally and Roy and their new friend, Tom, becomes a battle of endurance against a plucky enemy, a hostile landscape, flies, fleas, cold and disease. The story of the Anzac campaign, including the battle of Lone Pine, is interspersed with scenes of Australians at home to show the shift from popular support of the Empire at the start of the war to profound disillusionment as the casualties begin to mount.



This is a wonderful book recommended by Justine who has used it with her class to great effect. The experiences of the soldiers landing at Anzac Cove are offered with animals filling the main characters roles of soldiers, officers, enemies and family at home. This is a different but powerful way to introduce children to this important story of courage, suffering and defeat.

Post modified 25th April 2015

Lest We Forget!

Friday, April 17, 2015

2015 CBCA Children's Book Awards Shortlist

The Children's Book Council of Australia (CBCA) has recently announced the shortlist for the 2015 CBCA Children's Literature awards. There are a couple things worthy of note. First there are many books about war and conflict. This might not be surprising in this year that marks 100 years since the Gallipoli landing that is such a significant part of Australian, New Zealand and British history. Second, there are some wonderful non-fiction books on the list, a number developed by very small presses.

The winners and honour books will be announced in Book Week (16-22 August, 2015). I have already reviewed some of these books in recent posts on children's literature HERE. I will review all the winners when the awards are finally announced in August. CBCA also publishes a list of about 100 'Notable' books each year which can be found HERE.
 

1. Older Readers

'Nona & Me', by Clare Atkins (Black Inc.)

'Intruder', by Christine Bongers (Random House Australia)

'Are You Seeing Me?' by Darren Groth (Random House Australia)

'The Minnow' by Diana Sweeney (Text Publishing)

'The Protected' by Claire Zorn (University of Queensland Press)

'The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl' by Melissa Keil (Hardie Grant Egmont)

2. Younger Readers

'Two Wolves' by Tristan Bancks (Random House Australia)

'The Simple Things' by Bill Condon, Illustrator Beth Norling (Allen & Unwin)


'The Cleo Stories The Necklace and the Present', by Libby Gleeson, Illustrator Freya Blackwood (Allen & Unwin)

'Bleakboy and Hunter Stand out in the Rain', by Steven Herrick (University of Queensland Press)

'Figgy in the World', by Tamsin Janu (Omnibus Books, Scholastic Australia)

'Withering-by-Sea: a Stella Montgomery Intrigue', by Judith Rossell, Judith (ABC Books, Harper Collins Publishers)


3. Early Childhood

'Pig the Pug', by Aaron Blabey (Scholastic Press, Scholastic Australia)

'Scary Night' by Lesley Gibbes, illustrator Stephen Michael King (Working Title Press)

'Go to Sleep, Jessie!', by Libby Gleeson, illustrator Freya Blackwood (Little Hare, Hardie Grant Egmont)

'A House of Her Own', by Jenny Hughes, illustrator Jonathan Bentley (Hardie Grant Egmont)

'Snail and Turtle are Friends', written and illustrated by Stephen Michael King 
(Scholastic Press, Scholastic Australia)

'Noni the Pony goes to the Beach', written and illustrated by Alison Lester (Allen & Unwin)

4. Picture Book of the Year

'Rivertime' written & illustrated by Trace Balla (Allen & Unwin)


'My two Blankets', illustrator Freya Blackwood, text by Irena Kobald (Little Hare, Hardie Grant Egmont)

'One Minute's Silence', illustrator Michael Camilleri, text David Metzenthen (Allen & Unwin)

'The Duck and the Darklings', illustrator Stephen Michael King, text Glenda Millard (llen & Unwin)

'The Stone Lion', illustrator Ritva Voutila, text Margaret Wild (Little Hare, Hardie Grant Egmont)

'Fire', illustrator Bruce Whatley, text Jackie French (Scholastic Press, Scholastic Australia).

5. Eve Pownall Award for Information Books

'A-Z of Convicts in Van Diemen's Land', author/illustrator Simon Barnard (Text Publishing)

'Coming of Age: Growing up Muslim in Australia', Demet Divaroren & Amra Pajalic (editors), (Allen & Unwin)

'Mary's Australia: How Mary Mackillop Changed Australia', by Pamela
Freeman (Black Dog Books, Walker Books Australia)

'Tea and Sugar Christmas', by Jane Jolly, illustrator Robert Ingpen (National Library of Australia)

'Emu', by Claire Saxby, illustrator Graham Byrne (Walker Books Australia)


'Audacity: Stories of Heroic Australians in Wartime', by Carlie Walker, illustrator Brett Hatherly (Department of Veterans' Affairs)

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

29 Great Examples of Children's Books that Feature Birds

Above: One of the Ospreys observed at Tuncurry
I wrote a post about birds in books and have just had the joy of observing osprey while on holidays. So here's a refrain of my previous post. I want to encourage parents and teachers to share some children's literature that feature birds. I had fun brainstorming this list with daughter, son-in-law and 3 of my grandchildren. Why not celebrate the wonder of birds with some great literature.  Here are some examples that teachers might consider using.

Young Readers (0-7 years)

The following books are varied in age range from first books like 'Boo to a Goose' to more demanding picture books like 'How to heal a Broken Wing'.


1. 'Are You my Mother' by P.D. Eastman

A baby bird is hatched while his mother is away. Fallen from his nest, he sets out to look for her and asks everyone he meets -- including a dog, a cow, and a plane -- "Are you my mother?"



2. 'Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus' by Mo Willems

When a bus driver takes a break from his route, a very unlikely volunteer springs up to take his place - a pigeon! But you've never met one like this before. As he pleads, wheedles, and begs his way through the book, children will love being able to answer back and decide his fate. In his hilarious picture book debut, popular cartoonist Mo Willems perfectly captures a preschooler's temper tantrum.

'Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus' was a Caldecott Honour Book in 2004. Other books in this delightful series include 'Don't let the Pigeon Stay up Late!' and 'The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog'.

3. 'The Lighthouse Keeper's Lunch' by Rhonda Armitage and illustrated by David Armitage. Other books in the series include 'The Lighthouse Keeper's Rescue' and 'The Lighthouse Keeper's Picnic'.

My children and grandchildren have all loved these books about Mr Grinling's adventures.

4. 'Waddle, Giggle, Gargle!' by Pamela Allen

Sitting in a tree outside Jonathan's house is a black and white magpie. 'Waddle Giggle Gargle!' the magpie shouts. A delightful story about a boisterous, swooping, waddling, giggling, gargling bird!

This book is worth a read for the language alone. A great read aloud book.



5. A bunch of books about ducks & geese. Some of my favourites:

a) 'Alexander's Outing' by Pamela Allen
b) 'Fix it Duck' , 'Duck in the Truck' and others in the same series by Jez Alborough
c) 'I Went walking' by Sue Williams and illustrated by Julie Vivas
d) 'Make Way for Ducklings' by Robert McCloskey (Caldecott Medal winner 1942).
e) 'The Story About Ping' by Marjorie Flack and illustrated by Kurt Wiese
f) 'Boo to a Goose' by Mem Fox and illustrated by David Miller
g) 'Stickybeak' by Hazel Edwards and illustrated by Rosemary Wilson
h) 'Duck and Goose' series by Tad Hills
i) 'The Tale of Jemima Puddleduck' by Beatrix Potter














6. 'Edward the Emu' by Sheena Knowles and illustrated by Rod Clement and of course 'Edwina the Emu' and by the same duo.
Edward the emu was sick of the zoo,
There was nowhere to go, there was nothing to do,
And compared to the seals that lived right next door,
Well being an emu was frankly a bore.
Tired of his life as an emu, Edward decides to try being something else for a change. He tries swimming with the seals. He spends a day lounging with the lions. He even does a stint slithering with the snakes. But Edward soon discovers that being an emu may be the best thing after all. And so he returns to his pen, only to find a big surprise awaiting him. . . .

7. 'Feathers for Phoebe' by Rod Clements

Phoebe doesn′t want to be ordinary. She wants to turn heads and be noticed - she wants to be fabulous! But when she seeks the help of the outrageous and beautiful Zelda, her transformation leads to some unexpected results.

8. Three great books about penguins

a) 'Tacky the Penguin' by Helen Lester and illustrated by Kim Munsinger
b) 'That's Not my Penguin' by Usborne Children's Books. A great first book for babies.
c) 'The Truth About Penguins' by Meg McKinlay, illustrated by Mark Jackson,


9. 'Slinky Malinki, Open the Door' by Lynley Dodd

"Slinky Malinki and Stickybeak Syd were a troublesome pair; do you know what they did? Alone in the house one mischievous day, they opened a door and they started to play." Room by room, the terrible twosome wreak havoc...until they decide to see what's behind that last door. Slinky Malinki's curiosity finally gets the best of him. Collect all the Slinky Malinki books!
This is a funny book that children love from a great New Zealand author.

10. 'Owl Babies' by Martin Waddell and illustrated by Patrick Benson
The bay owls came out of their house,
and they sat on the tree and waited.
A big branch for Sarah, a small branch for Percy,
and an old piece of ivy for Bill.
A gorgeous book. Wonderful illustrations and delightful text.


11. 'Puffling' by Margaret Wild

Puffling is a baby—small, white, and very hungry. Every day he waits in the burrow while his parents, Big Stripy Beak and Long Black Feather hunt for food. As he grows, Puffling dreams of the day when he will leave his nest and fly away—but he isn’t ready yet, not until he’s tall and brave enough to fend for himself. Every day Puffling asks his parents, but every day they say he must wait until he has grown bigger. Will he ever be ready to head out into the world on his own?

12. 'How to Heal a Broken Wing' by Bob Graham

'How to Heal a Broken Wing' is a delightful story about a little boy who finds a bird with an injured wing. He takes the bird home and with his parents help, and some rest, time and a dash of hope will the bird will fly again? The book has all the usual Bob Graham trademarks, simple and engaging illustrations and an economy of words that are well crafted. It was the winner of the Australian Children's Book Council award in 2009 for best book in the Early Childhood category.



13. 'Cat and Canary' by Michael Foreman

I just love English author illustrator Michael Foreman. This is a favourite around our place.

Cat’s best friend is the canary in his apartment. Once their owner has gone out, Cat lets Canary out of his cage and they go up onto the roof together. Cat wishes he could fly, like all the birds around him, and when he finds a kite tangled in an aerial, it is too much of a temptation. But the kite carries him much too high and much too far, and Canary needs to marshall a crowd of feathered friends to tow the kite home. But Cat isn’t the least bit deterred: “Tomorrow, we can go to the land beyond the river, and still be back for tea!”


14. 'Olga the Brolga' by Rod Clement

Olga is in a terrible mood. She desperately wants to dance, but know one will dance with her. Her parents have other things to do. So, Olga decides to dance by herself, and something wonderful happens.

This great book about the famous Australian Brolga bird is ideal for kids aged 3-7 years.

15. 'There's a Bird on Your Head' by Mo Willems

If your children loved 'Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus' they will also love 'There's a Bird on Your Head'. It is one of a series of very funny tales for beginner readers from this award-winning writer and illustrator.

16. 'The Last Egret: The Adventures of Charlie Pierce' by Harvey E. Oyer III

This is the second book in the series 'The Adventures of Charlie Pierce' and was inspired by the teenaged adventures of his great grand-uncle. It is an illustrated novel for grade schoolers

The experiences of his uncle were of the late 19th century Florida Everglades, when the vast South Florida wilderness was twice the size of today. In those days it was alive with snowy egrets green herons,  roseate spoonbills and many wading birds. But the birds were the target of plume hunters, shooting them simply for their feathers to use in ladies’ hats.  A great read for children aged 6-10 years.


17. 'The Bush Concert' by Helga Visser

There has been a terrible drought and the birds put on a gala concert to cheer themselves up. There is singing and dancing and magic tricks, but the final performance is the perfect end to a wonderful bush concert.





Independent readers (8-12)

18. 'Storm Boy' by Colin Thiele

Storm Boy likes to wander alone along the fierce deserted coast among the dunes that face out into the Southern Ocean off the coast of South Australia near the Coorong. A pelican mother is shot and Storm Boy rescues the three chicks, and brings them back to health. He names them Mr Proud, Mr Ponder and Mr Percival. He finally lets them go, but Mr Percival returns. The story follows the struggle to let Mr Percival go and has a memorable ending. A classic story from one of Australia's great writers.

19. 'The Landing: A Night of Birds' by Katherine Scholes and illustrated by David Wong

One stormy night at her grandfather's place on the windswept coast, Annie enters a boathouse occupied by injured sea birds and finds herself able to understand their speech.

This is a wonderful book that isn't known very well by children today. Check it out.



20. 'Mr Popper's Penguins'  by Richard Atwater and illustrated by Florence Atwater (Newberry Medal winner 1939).

A classic of American humour, the adventures of a house painter and his brood of high-stepping penguins have delighted children for generations. "Here is a book to read aloud in groups of all ages. There is not an extra or misplaced word in the whole story."--The Horn Book. Newbery Honour Book.

21. 'Sticky Beak' by Morris Gleitzman.

Rowena Batts has enough problems in her life without adopting a crazy cockatoo. She's just splattered two hundred grown-ups with jelly and custard, and her dad's getting married to her teacher. But Sticky the cockatoo turns out to be just the friend she needs . . .

22. 'A Kestrel for a Knave' by Barry Hines

Barry Hines's acclaimed novel continues to reach new generations of teenagers and adults with its powerful story of survival in a tough, joyless world. Billy Casper is a troubled teenager growing up in a Yorkshire mining town. Treated as a failure at school and unhappy at home, Billy discovers a new passion in life when he finds Kes, a kestrel hawk. Billy identifies with her silent strength and she inspires in him the trust and love that nothing else can. Ken Loach's well-known film adaptation, Kes, has achieved cult status and in his new afterword Barry Hines discusses working on the screen version (he adapted the novel) and reappraises a book that has become a popular classic.

This is a classic book for older readers.



23. 'Coot Club' by Arthur Ransome

It all started with a coot's nest. Dorothy and Dick meet Tom Dodgeon, Port and Starboard, and three pirate salvagers all members of the Coot Club Bird Protection Society. When one of the coot's nests is disturbed by a shipful of Hullabaloos-rude holiday boaters - trouble begins. Frantic chases, calamitous boat collisions, and near drownings fill the pages of this exciting fifth addition to Ransome's classic children's series.

You don't have to like birds to enjoy this wonderful book from one of England's most famous and awarded children's authors.

24. 'Wheel on the School' by Meindert DeJong

This 1955 Newbery Medal winner is one of my favourite books. Suitable for childrens aged 10-12. A story about how the children at a small Dutch school set out to get storks back to their village.

"Six school children bring the storks (harbingers of good luck) back to their little Dutch village. (A story) written with dramatic power and a deep insight into the minds and hearts of children".--Booklist. Newbery Medal; ALA Notable Children's Book.

25. 'The Phoenix and the Carpet' by E. Nesbitt


This wonderful novel for older readers deals with the Phoenix bird from Greek mythology that has the ability to come back to life after death. It does this by rising from the ashes after the burning of the egg from its predecessor.

The Phoenix and the Carpet is E. Nesbit's second fantasy novel and is the sequel to Five Children and It. From Robert, Anthea, Jane and Cyril's new nursery carpet there falls a mysterious egg which is hatched in the fire to reveal a benevolent, resourceful and ingenious Phoenix who explains that the carpet is possessed of magic qualities. And so begins a series of fantastic and bizarre adventures as the carpet transports the children and the Phoenix to places as diverse as a chilling French castle, a desert island and even the Phoenix Fire Insurance Company's offices, which the Phoenix believes to be a shrine for his followers.

26. 'Silly Birds' by Gregg Dreise (Magabala Books)


This is a charming and humorous morality tale published by an independent Aboriginal Company that aims to restore, preserve and maintain Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. In this story, Maliyan, a proud eagle meets a turkey, Wagun, who is a silly bird. Together these two begin to do silly-bird things. The Elders and Maliyan’s parents are very disappointed, warning Maliyan that it’s hard to soar like an eagle when you are surrounded by turkeys. Maliyan sees the error of his ways and together with the other animals, works to clean up the mess wrought by too many silly birds. But some birds will always be silly.

27. 'Guardians of Ga'Hoole' by Kathryn Lasky (Scholastic)

These wonderful fantasy books have been written by Kathryn Lasky the Newbery Honour author of over one hundred fiction and nonfiction books. The series has a total of 18 books. It was intended to end in 2008 with the publication of The War of the Ember until a prequel The Rise of a Legend was published in 2013. There have now been a total of sixteen books. The first three books of the series were adapted into the animated 3D film Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole, directed by Zack Snyder.





28. 'Cockatoos' by Quentin Blake  (Red Fox Picture Books)

Ten very cleaver cockatoos take an absent minded Professor through a crazy adventure, through every room of the house. Readers will have fun looking for birds hiding in unlikely and unusual places. They will also count the elusive cockatoos. As always, Blake's illustrations are brilliant!

29. 'One Cool Friend' by Toni Buzzeo & illustrated by David Small (Penguin)

When well-mannered Elliot reluctantly visits the aquarium with his distractible father, he politely asks whether he can have a penguin, and then removes one from the penguin pool and places it in his backpack. The fun of caring for a penguin in a New England Victorian house is followed by a surprise revelation by Elliot's father. This is a Caldecott Honour Book


Summing up

I would love to hear from you about some of your favourite 'bird' books. Send me a comment with your ideas.

If you're interested in some non-fiction books on birds for children check out this great post from the 'Delightful Children's Books' blog (here).


Updated 12th April 2015