Today is International Read to Me Day! International Read to Me Day is a campaign aimed at encouraging children to remind adults in their village to read to them often. It was created as another essential cog in the literacy advocacy wheel. It empowers and encourages children to participate in the conversation about their own literacy by reminding the adults around them about the importance of being read to, regularly. To recognize this special day for literacy, our team have reflected on the books that are special to them and what makes them the perfect books to read aloud.
LA Houghton, Chief Operating Officer
Like most men of his generation, my Dad was not overly involved in the daily chores of child rearing. But the one task he was assigned, and genuinely seemed to enjoy, was the reading of the night time story for me and my siblings. We had a thick Readers Digest book of fairytales and each week he would choose a story and read it to us over a series of nights. It was a small moment of quiet and connection in an otherwise busy household of five children. At the end of the week he would put a small, neat dot next to the name of the story, to record that he had read it. On some occasions we got to choose which story to read, and when it was my turn I always chose ‘The Little Match Girl’. Like most fairytales it is gruesome, with the young match girl freezing to death outside on a winter’s night, while a family inside sits by a warm fire, feasting on dinner. I’m not sure why it was my favourite, but I know it sparked a strong sense of social justice in me. I still have this book of fairytales, and opening the pages transports me immediately back to my childhood and that feeling of excitement and anticipation as we waited to hear what happened next.
Amy Hyslop, Marketing Manager
I've never lost my love of being read to. There's something so special and comforting about hearing a great book read aloud. It brings the words alive - I can picture scenes with greater clarity. When I was a kid I discovered books on tape at the local library. The first book I listened to was Howard's End by E.M. Forster and to this day I can't hear the words "only connect" without feeling a thrill of excitement.
Now I love to read to my son. He's obsessed with the Skulduggery Pleasant books by Derek Landy. They're so magical and a little scary, and there's nothing better than feeling safe while someone reads you a scary book. And of course, any of the Roald Dahl books, but especially his autobiography Boy. Some books just lend themselves to be read aloud and Boy is one of them. You can really hear the author, not matter who is reading it.
Ella Peile, Children and Young Adult Programs Coordinator
I’ve always loved books and am very thankful to my parents for encouraging that. Early favourites included Koala Lou by Mem Fox, Imagine by Alison Lester, and There’s A Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake by Hazel Edwards (which I think I mostly loved for the wonderfully absurd title). These became such regulars that I was soon reading them independently (whether I was actually reading or had just memorised the words I’m not sure.)
The book which features in my earliest memory of reading together as a family is Looking For Crabs by Bruce Whatley. There’s all the essential elements of a great picture book: minimal text and large, engaging illustrations; an appealing colour scheme, and a single ‘problem’ driving the story. The particular hook in Looking For Crabs is the narrative irony – the characters never find the crabs which are hidden in each illustration for the reader to find. While Mum or Dad would read the text, my brother and I would be finding the crabs on each page, delighting in how much cleverer we were than the family in the story.
Jacqueline Bawtree, Development Manager
I had two favourite books as a child – both of which still sit on my bookshelf. The first was a beautifully illustrated book called ‘The Donkey Prince’. An adaptation of the Grimm Fairytale ‘The Donkey’, it tells the story of a baby prince, cursed from birth because of something his parents had done, to look like a donkey. The only thing that would revert him back to his human form was someone seeing beyond his exterior and falling in love with his true self. I particularly liked the part when someone finally did fall in love with him, and in that moment, he ‘discovered a button on his belly that he had never noticed before and on pressing it, his donkey suit fell off’. Of course this naturally prompted me to press my own four year old belly button every time my big sisters read it to me to see what would happen!
My other favourite was ‘Papa Panov’s Special Day’ by Leo Tolstoy. Also beautifully illustrated, the story centres around an old Russian Shoemaker who is spending Christmas alone. Without family but wanting to share what he had with others he finds himself on Christmas Day instead taking in needy strangers like beggars, street sweepers, and a single mother who doesn’t have any milk for her baby. He realizes that in doing so he is reflecting the spirit of the Bethlehem Inn Keeper who took in Mary and Joseph, as he provided the humble gift of kindness and hospitality through warm fires, soup and bread and a pair of beautiful shoes for the baby of the single mother.
Stephanie Dennis - Fernandez, Administration Manager
With its beautiful pages full of hand-painted fish and underwater scenes, Hooray for Fish is already a classic in my household. I read this book to my son when he was only 6 months old. He marvelled at the vibrant colours and the unique shapes, always choosing it out from a pile of other books for me to read to him. He has grown up with it, wanting to read it almost every single day. With him now being a toddler, this book is so much fun to read-aloud with him as the story rhymes and has an easy flow to it. It helps him with learning to count, and he also loves choosing which fish he loves the most on that particular day. It shows him that even fish are all different shapes and sizes – just like us.
Rachel Fry, Adults Programs Coordinator
In my house, Oliver Jeffers books have been the huge love of my two boys. Each book read and re-read over and over. Always followed by a huge curiosity with many questions asked. ‘Can I really eat a book mum’? ‘How can I find my own star’? ‘Can we have a pet moose’?
There’s the laughter and the fun of sharing in Oliver’s clever, quirky and adventurous tales. We love them all!