In the UK you can discover this wonderful place for kids called the library. It really was a magical place for my 1-year-old. So magical that we ended up going to the library every week, even two times a week, not only to browse around and borrow books but also for the activities.
When moving to London we discovered the Woolwich Library, another magical place. The first moment we set foot in there we spent one whole hour flipping through books.
The book collection is amazing and they are so ingeniously displayed that my toddler chose all the books by himself, made a huge pile, and sat down on the comfy sofa to enjoy his new discoveries.
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Why Libraries Can Make a Difference
In the UK, libraries encourage children to read and love books. And they do it in a variety of ways. We’ve lived in three cities so far and all of them, no matter how big or small, offered free educational activities for kids, families, and adults. We were hooked from the very beginning with rhymes and song sessions.
The library also offers reading sessions and playgroups. They are a chance for parents to make friends and for children to socialize, learn, and play alongside other children. However, the most important gain was the impact it made on my son’s love for books. Now my son is 3 and whenever I am busy his favourite independent activity is reading books. And I am completely aware that constantly going to the library did this.
Another reason why I think libraries can make a difference is that they encourage shared reading in families. It is a topic which I am currently studying for my masters and it is very close to my heart.
I truly believe there is no greater gift to give a child than a love of books. It encourages not only cognitive development, language, and communication, but it also offers children endless possibilities which in time translate into endless opportunities.
However, when libraries encourage parents to read with children they urge parents to give their little ones something no one else can, no nursery, school, or library can. Parents are the ONLY ONES who can transform reading into a safe time, a cuddling moment, a me and you time.
Reading becomes bonding, enjoyment, time to talk and reflect, expand knowledge in a meaningful way. This is not me talking, but research. My UCL professor’s research and research done over the years, I’ve written about it in the article Parents, read a bedtime story.
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Woolwich Library and BookTrust
Woolwich Library is our library now and we absolutely love it. We love the choice of books, the inviting atmosphere and can’t wait to join the activities as soon as they reopen. There are lots of fun things to do here: rhyme time sessions for little ones, messy mornings- arts and crafts sessions, storytime for 2-5 year-olds, but these are only the ones which we plan to attend.
However, there are many more, including reading clubs, ballet for children, reading and study support, chess club, and scrabble club, amongst the ones offered for children. There are activities for adults as well, you can see all the library has to offer on the official website.
When we joined the library, we received a starter pack put together by Book Trust. Book Trust is a charity dedicated to encouraging all people to engage with books. We received two books, rhymes and songs and a leaflet. We discovered about Book Trust Bear Club and we love it.
We became members, it is completely free, and we welcome the idea of receiving rewards for reading. The website is amazing too, I use it all the time: it offers book recommendations based on age and interest, but it also encourages home time reading with a wide range of online books and videos, games, and quizzes.
I support the Woolwich library and its effort to bring books closer to every family and start reading early. Regularly going to the library, daily engaging with books, reading aloud together are simple, yet essential steps, of offering children a good start, a great chance to avoid the 1 million gap.
5 Minute Bedtime Stories We Love
by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort
We love this book! It is extremely funny for little ones and introduces them to a world of possibilities. Of aliens visiting museums, admiring people’s underpants, of funny underpants competitions, and of aliens lurking in your underwear.
The aliens come to Earth to spot and grab as many underpants as they can find as on their planet there are none. I wonder what they wear instead? My son loved the illustrations as they are very vivid, silly and fun.
Little ones will find the alien competitions amusing, not to mention the ending:
“So when you put your pants on,
Freshly washed and nice and clean,
Just check in case an alien
Still lurks inside, unseen!”
My son is actually checking his underpants every time we put a pair on!
What We’ve Learnt From Aliens Love Underpants
Aliens Love Underpants is a rhyming book, simple to read and entertaining. The vocabulary is accessible to little readers but does offer challenges with words such as “flapping”, “satsumas”, “frilly”, “zinging”, “lurks”.
These words can help readers move towards the next level of abilities. The book can also offer parents a chance to engage children in dialogic discussions, of what-questions, affective commentary and reasoning.
The book also encourages children to use their imagination and extend their knowledge. Where do aliens live? How do they travel to Earth? What do they look like? Can we find any aliens on Earth? Do you think they are real? And extend this discussion to life on other planets, the solar system etc.
2. The Night Before Christmas
by Tony Mitton and Layn Marlow
Christmas is approaching so this was a must on our list! It is a brilliantly written book, and the story leads you through a series of Christmas preparations, sprinkled with laughter, excitement, mischievous deeds, all wrapped in a happy ending.
As the mice family is preparing for Christmas, the children are writing the letter for Santa and prepare the treats. When they finish decorating the tree and the house, the family is ready to go to bed.
But who can sleep with all the excitement? So, naturally, the children wake up and sneak a peek! Good old Santa sees them:
He nibbled some cake,
and then, what do you think?
He turned round to face us
and gave us a wink!
He waggled a finger,
but smiled as he said,
“What cheecky young children!
Be off now! To bed!”
The children go back to bed, but not before they take one last look. Santa and the reindeer were enjoying their treats! So, with presents under the trees, the children can finally go back to bed and sleep peacefully.
What We’ve Learnt From The Night Before Christmas
Oh, we’ve learnt so many things! We’ve learnt a great number of new words, and indeed, the book does contain a great number of difficult words. I would recommend this book for slightly little older readers. But parents, you can read to your little ones and use these new words to provoke curiosity and enhance vocabulary.
There are words such as ” perched”, “folk”, “nibble”, “wriggle”, “faint’, “tingle”, “cargo”, “cantered’, “scuttle’, among many others, that need explanation and context. This is your mission, dear parents! Help children explore the wonderful world of words.
For children who are celebrating their first Christmas this year, use this book and guide them, describe how your Christmas will be together.
Snuggle up with your little ones, small and big, and talk about your wishes, dear parents, cuddle and enjoy your time together! There is nothing like it!
3. Stick Man
by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
Again and again, we come back to Julia Donaldson. Each book of hers that we discover proves to be just as fascinating as the last. Stick Man is the story of a family living a happy life in their family tree. Their life changes however when Stick Man gets lost.
He is constantly mistaken for something else and little by little, he gets further away from home. He is sad and can’t understand why no one sees him as a real man.
“I’m not a mast for a silly old flag,
Or a sword for a knight, or a hook for a bag.
I’m not a pen! I’m not a bow!
I’m not a bat or a boomerang, no! I’m Stick Man!”
But someone helps Stick Man get home, someone very special. As he was lying asleep, a loud noise woke him up. he heard a loud Ho-Ho-Ho. Can you guess who it was?
YES, Santa. He got stuck up the chimney. But don’t you worry, Stick Man helps Santa and they travel together to deliver all the toys “to fast asleep girls and fast asleep boys”.
The last house they visit is the family tree. The family is finally reunited and they enjoy a magical Christmas together. A perfect ending for any family!
What We’ve Learnt From Stick Man
As with all of Julia Donaldson’s books, this too is a rhyming book that helps little learners memorize large chunks of language. The vocabulary is accessible, but there are also new words that your little one can learn. To name just a few, “fetch”, “beware”, “weave”,”deserted”,”drift”.
However, we’ve learnt not only new vocabulary but also the importance of family. Another important lesson was to respect people and not judge and label, as Stick Man was constantly labeled as a hook, bat, bow etc.
by Jonathan Emmett and Elys Dolan
Out of all the books taken from the library, this book was the most fascinating for me as a grown-up. It was exciting to see how simple it is to explain evolution to such little learners. The last two pages even illustrate with child-friendly drawings all the stages of evolution that my son had no problems understanding.
He is now even able to draw prokaryotes. Evolution is exemplified through a species called Borks who lived on “a faraway planet, quite like our own Earth”. They evolved from blue to yellow so that the Ravenous Snarfle, a giant bird, could not spot them on the ground.
Their yellow fur helped them hide in the bright yellow moss. Then, they evolved again and their fur grew long and thick to protect them from the cold. One final change was brought about when the weather was so hot that all the grass shriveled up dead.
Only those Borks with long necks could survive because they were the only ones who could reach the leaves from the top of the trees.
So we’re back where we started, but now you know HOW.
You know how the Borks became what they are now.
And if anyone asks how this mystery is solved,
you can tell them the answer- they simply evolved!”.
What We’ve Learnt From How the Borks Became
I absolutely love this book because it is the first we found to teach children about such a difficult topic: evolution. My 3-year-old had no problems understanding the topic and his questions cascaded.
Help your little one explore, feed his curiosity, let him think about what he wants to ask, allow time and space for him to look at the pictures, and absorb all the information. Don’t expect your little learner to understand everything and don’t feed him more information than he asks for.
We read the book every day and every day my son finds a new question to ask. I recommend this book wholeheartedly and hope all parents use it as a chance to enhance their child’s exploration and understanding of the world.
by Rebecca Lisle and Richard Watson
This book is absolutely hilarious, my son laughed every time we read it. The book focuses on the stone age and our main character, Pod, is freezing. He is advised by his dad to make himself a pair of stone underpants. Were they good, you might wonder?
For a little bit only, until Pod realised he can’t run, can’t float when swimming, can’t even play football. He soon has a better idea, make underpants out of wood. They were too splintery, however.
After several attempts. of making underpants out of feathers, shells, spiderwebs, and mud, he finally finds the best solution. You would never guess it! the warm wooly mammoth gave him the idea.
Can you guess? WOOL, yes, indeed. The warmest, nicest underpants he could ask for. He discovered you can use wool to keep yourself warm so most of the stone house is now covered in wool.
Excellent job, Pod!
“Pod loved his new wooly underpants. Now climbing trees was a doodle. Swimming was super. And best of all…”My bottom is so toasty!” Goodbye Stone Age! I love the Wool Age!”.
What We’ve Learnt From Stone Underpants
This book offers children a chance to learn about the Stone Age. Explore the topic together, dear parents, and answer all those funny little questions your children may have. Don’t forget, dialogic reading is more effective than simply reading!
You can learn more about the benefits of reading with your children and how to read with your little ones in this article. Stone Underpants also gives children great vocabulary practice, with words such as “chiseled”, “chipped”, “plaited”, “squirmed”, “twitched’, “doddle”.
After reading the book, we tried various projects of making underpants: out of strings, paper, fabric, and popcorn. We had great fun, you could also give it a try. Let your little one suggest the ideas!
6. Wolfish Stew
by Suzi Moore and Erica Salcedo
Engaged in a game of cat and mouse, this pair, the wolf and the rabbit, turn the situation around. At first, the wolf is chasing the little rabbit as he was crossing the woods. The wolf’s house is filled with witty traps, hoping that the rabbit might finally be trapped.
But the rabbit is much more clever than the wolf can imagine. It turns out his house too is filled with witty wolf traps. Who do you think gets trapped in the end? The rabbit? The wolf? Weeeell:
“Oh dear me! little Grey said,
looks like you’ve been caught instead.
Into my pot and into my brew.
Now that’s what I call a wolfish stew!”
The rabbit caught the evil wolf and invited all of his friends to dine together.
What We’Ve Learn from Wolfish Stew
The moral of the book is that you should be careful what you do to others as it may turn on you. And it did. The wolf wanted to eat the rabbit but in the end, the rabbit caught the wolf and put him in his wolfish stew.
For my son, this ending was too cruel so I told him they were simply playing and that the wolf was just having a bath in the boiling pot. I told him he will soon go home. You know your child best and luckily we always have the chance to make things right, so don’t be afraid to invent beyond the pages of the book.
The vocabulary is very accessible but also offers children a chance to learn new words: “cunning”, “sneaky”, “brew”,” snout”.
by Kristyna Litten
A beautiful and unique illustration of friendship, this book focuses on two giraffes. one yellow and one blue, who change each other’s lives. Bertie lives a monotonous life with her herd. They eat, drink, sleep, day in, day out. Until one day Bertie overslept and found himself on his own. He got lost, he had never been on his own before.
Buuut, while trying to find his way back home, he found Blue. Blue was a blue giraffe, something Bertie had never seen before. Blue helped Bertie get back home but also showed him a whole new world.
One of beautiful, mesmerizing flowers, of unique plants and charming birds, a world he had no idea existed. For the first time, Bertie felt free! Blue was invited to join Bertie’s herd and he fitted in perfectly. But now all the herd did things a little bit differently:
“From then on, the herd still crunched and sipped and snoozed. But now they did things a little bit differently each day. AND THAT WAS JUST HOW THEY LIKED IT. Best of all, Blue and Bertie remained the best of friends.”
What We’ve Learnt From Blue and Bertie
There is a great lesson to be learned from Blue and Bertie. It is a lesson of being different, of being open to new things, a lesson of acceptance and friendship. Children can explore these ideas with you, dear parents, and engage in all sorts of questions.
Guide them through their discovery and give them time to formulate questions. The vocabulary is also a great gain, as children can learn a few new words, including “nibble”, “trit trot’, “sip”, “slurp”, “hesitate”.We particularly enjoyed the illustrations done by the author herself.
They are child-friendly, unique, and very stimulating for children. We recommend this book without hesitation!
8. Knight Tales
by David Melling
We chose this book because it is written by the author of Huggles Douglas, a book which we loved and wrote about in 9 Bedtime Stories For Kids. We chose to read about knights because my son is fascinated by them. I helped him expand his knowledge by engaging him in discovering about crusaders and Vikings as well.
And recently we chose this book because it is hilarious. The illustrations are goofy, amusing, and entertaining. They also invite loads of commentary which for me is great because that’s what I welcome most when reading, dialog.
Knight Tales is a collection of three individual books, but you could also read them separately. The three books are “The Kissed that Missed’, ” Good night sleep tight” and “The Three Wishes”.
All three books share the characters and develop around a journey, the knight’s quest. The knight and his horse are always on a mission. They are either on a mission to find the goodnight kiss that the king blew for the prince but flew away.
Or they need to fill the royal pillow for the baby princess so she could finally sleep. They are even on a mission to babysit the prince and the princess. On their missions, they meet scary growly creatures, a giant dragon, magic spells, and much more.
We loved all of the stories and laughed with each turn of the page. My son’s favourite part is the following, mostly because he could see the bears’ underpants and because of the expression ‘bear hair lay everywhere’:
“Deep inside the wild wood prickly bears rubbed their grumbly tummies. “Lunch time!” they slurped. But the knight was thinking about his quest. “I wonder if I could borrow some bear hair to put in the royal pillow”, he thought, and decided to take a closer look. Two minutes later the grizzled bears shuffled back into the shadows, rubbing their sore bottoms and mumbling to themselves:
“Well really, it’s hardly fair. We just wanted a quick nibble. No need for that…”
Bear hair lay everywhere!”
What We’ve Learnt From Knight Tales
This book served as a starting point to learn about where knights lived. Following up on the questions my son had while reading Knight Tales, I looked for other books that presented in great detail the lives of knights.
My son learnt about how knights lived, what they did, and all about their suits of armour. While reading, always give your little one the freedom to explore the pages at length, discover elements that interest him, invite commentary. Maybe you can start by expressing your opinion, without asking any direct questions.
Your little one will most probably add her own reactions, if not at first, continue to encourage this. Asking direct what- questions or questions to which you already know the answer has its benefits. It prepares them for school literacy practices.
But apart from this, your reading together offers the child the time and trust necessary to engage in more in-depth processes. Offering reasons, emotional commentary, proposing new ideas, interpreting situations in unique ways are only a few of the larger benefits of your reading together.
Never dismiss these innovative ways of looking at things and the new interpretations that your little one gives. Welcome them, encourage them, praise them for their beautiful way of thinking.
This process in time will help children solve problems in innovative ways. It brings about creativity, innovation, exploration, and critical engagement with things. Everything a child needs to be prepared for the future.
by Kate Leake
You will never guess who ate the cake! First of all, you must know whose cake we are talking about. Freddie is a little boy who likes collecting things. His room is filled with toys, absolutely filled. Freddie’s birthday was approaching so the family baked a wonderful cake for him.
But did he get to eat it? Nooo, he didn’t. Someone else did! Because Freddie bought so many things, he earned a free mystery gift. Boy, what a mystery it was! The gift smelled rather fishy! And Bob, Freddie’s dog, didn’t like it one bit!
When Freddie opened the box, the HUGE present came out. All by itself! It was a…
A pelican, in the house? Smells like trouble.
And it was! Chaos to be more exact! The pelican kept eating and eating. He gulped everything he could find around the house: Freddie’s computer, dad’s daffodils, mum’s knitting etc.
And poor Bob, the dog, got the blame for everything!
‘Poor Bob, cried everyone. All those days of no biscuit! and he’d not been a bad Bob at all! Bob needs a treat, said dad. “What would you like for tea, Bob? “Sausages! barked Bob. And for once, everyone understood him perfectly.
Bob ate a lot of sausages, while mum and dad stuffed the peckish pelican’s beak full of juicy fish, and gran and Freddie baked another cake. After all the fuss, it had turned into Freddie’s best birthday ever-especially when there was a knock at the door”.
Who do you think was at the door? You will never guess, not in a million years. You need to read the book to find out! So please do!
What We’ve Learnt From Who Ate the Cake
The book gave us the opportunity to discuss about wanting too many toys and the impact of this. We ended up talking about the environment and recycling. So there are endless possibilities when reading, simply follow the lead of your child. Answer questions, look up answers, and stir your little one’s curiosity. There also loads of new words that help children extend their vocabulary, words such as: “thrilled”, “flappy”, “gulp”, “posh’, “pesky”, ‘groan”, “howl” and many more.
Every Story Matters
We have written more about the importance of reading and we will continue to do so. Because we believe in the power and importance of books we have a Story Books section on our blog where you can read all about the books we enjoy and we recommend. You can get the complete list of the books we’ve written about by clicking here.
Please continue to read our book club articles! We believe children need to read, and most importantly, children need to read with you, dear parents.
Reading together with your little ones is more valuable than any other reading activity schools might practice or children can do on their own.
It creates a sense of security, bonding, enjoyment, and connection that only you, dear parents, can achieve. Read together, read any book! Simply read! Read, read, read!
Every story matters!
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Hi. I am Monica, an experienced ESL teacher and early years student, mother to a preschooler and passionate reader.