One of the best things you can do with your kids.

ImageIf you’re looking to spend some quality time with your kids, one of the best things you can do is cuddle up with them and read a book.

In an increasingly digital world, where ebooks are now downloadable instantly, it’s worth noting that one of the few types of printed books that are still selling well are children’s picture books.


I believe it’s because they give children (and the adults too) experiences that are very hard to get from TV, the internet, games consoles and iPads.

This is because print still does things that digital can’t do. Here are just some of the reasons:

1. Picture books are real 3D objects a child can experience with all their senses.

As well as seeing the pictures and hearing the words when you read to them, kids can handle a book, smell the paper and even, in the case of very young kids, bite and taste it!

2. Stories enable a child to experience emotions in a way that is completely safe.

Human beings have always loved stories. They’ve been an essential part of what makes us human for thousands of years.

We use stories for all sorts of reasons.

Think how fables like The Boy Who Cried Wolf or The Hare and the Tortoise are used to teach children valuable life lessons.

But also think of scary stories like Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel (no, not the vampire hunters—the other ones!). Apart from teaching kids not to stray too far from home, they also expose kids to new emotions—ones they can try out for size in complete safety.

If you’ve spent any time with a two- or three-year-old, you’ll appreciate they are still very much learning to control their emotions. We are emotional animals.

Learning how our emotions work, how to control, express or understand them is something that takes a lifetime and it starts very early in childhood.

Books can help. Stories can make kids feel happy, sad, anxious, scared, in measured doses. And when the book is over and everything back where it should be, the memory of that emotion remains.

3. Stories enable kids to take a journey beyond their own work.

This can be a physical journey to another country. This is one passion of mine—many of the books I publish are set in other countries. Waiting for Mummy, a simple but moving tale of a little boy waiting for his mum to come home is set in Korea, for instance, while Lat’s delightful Kampung Boy is set in a Malaysian village. Serge Bloch’s Sam and His Dad is set in France.

Learning that there are other places beyond teaches children valuable lessons. One of the most important is that, while people may live in different places and look different to us, we have a lot in common with them. We all love our families, enjoy playing with friends, or miss Mum or Dad when they’re away.

4. Books can carry real knowledge and help kids discover passions and interests they otherwise wouldn’t be aware of.

While I was writing this, I asked my six year-old what he liked about books. His reply was slightly unexpected:

‘The best thing about books is that in science books you learn things about being a scientist when you grow up. I want to be a scientist. Most factual books have facts about science. Everything in this room is science—even that computer. And you, you’re science, Dad.’

I wasn’t expecting that. Kids are little sponges, absorbing so much. What lifelong interest might be awakened by ten minutes with the right book?

5. Lastly, reading picture books together give us all an excuse to do something few kids get enough of—cuddling up.

Sometimes, that’s all the reason you need.

‘Who You Are is What You Do’ on ABC Radio

‘Who You Are is What You Do’ is out now

Heather McAllister, author of Who You Are is What You Do, has been interviewed on ABC Radio by Richard Stubbs about her book, released this month.

Heather’s book is designed to help teenagers plan for life after school.

‘One important thing is to get teenagers moving away from panic,’ says McAllister. ‘Once you’re away from panicking, you can realise: “Hey, I’ve actually got a decision to make here and that’s cool. And I’m not going to blow my life by making a wrong decision now.” It’s a step-by-step process. It’s not one decision: it’s many decisions.’

‘It really works,’ says Stubbs of the book. ‘There are lots of conversation starters here …’

You can hear the excellent conversation between Stubbs and McAllister here.

Sign up for our special e-news here.

‘Working with somebody is cool’: blog tour day 10

The Enemy

Davide Cali’s and Serge Bloch’s The Enemy

DAY TEN. Today, we’re talking with Davide Cali about kids picture book illustration, thanks to Australian illustrator Ann James. She chats with Davide on her Books Illustrated blog about how he works with illustrators, his celebrated collaborations with French illustrator Serge Bloch and which other writers and illustrators inspire him. Says Cali:

The first time they asked me to give one of my texts to illustrate to someone else, I felt a little confused. I was used to working all alone, not sharing with anybody. Then I discovered that working with somebody is cool, I can write even more stories than before, sometimes just inspiring me towards another illustrator’s personal universe.

It’s a great example of two experienced creators talking about the craft of picture book making.

Books Illustrated is a centre for children’s literature in Melbourne, Australia. It specialises in exhibitions and sales of original book illustrations, limited edition prints and signed picture books. Its showroom is open by appointment and for advertised events.

The Davide Cali blog tour is taking place from 1 to 15 May, as a countdown to Davide’s first visit to Australia from 16 to 28 May. Every day, some of Australia’s most interesting book bloggers will be posting interviews with him, reviewing his books, offering giveaways and maybe giving a sneak peak of his award-winning new book, 10 Little Insects.

You can check out the full blog tour here.

Davide Cali’s 2012 Australian tour is an initiative of the National Year of Reading

Reading for peace and the storyteller’s craft: blog tour day 8

DAY EIGHT. Halfway through the Davide Cali blog tour and we have exciting news of a new reading project for kids, Reading for Social Peace, which Davide Cali will be launching in Melbourne on 24 May during his visit to Australia. Also, popular children’s author and blogger Dee White examines Davide Cali’s approach to creating picture books on her DeeScribe Writing blog.

Reading for Social Peace is a National Year of Reading project devised by Yarra Plenty Regional Library in partnership with book publisher Wilkins Farago.

Inspired by a similar program by the National Library of the Maldives, it aims to use stories to encourage conversation in young people about issues that cause conflict, such as war, cultural differences, and bullying. Two of the texts being used in the program are Davide Cali’s The Enemy (illustrated by Serge Bloch) and The Bear with the Sword (illustrated by Gianluca Foli). As Davide himself puts it:

In both these story there is an enemy. In The Bear with the Sword, the enemy never comes, in The Enemy he’s just there, but in both cases we don’t know him, he’s somebody unknown in some way. The two stories have a similar moral: in the end, the worst enemy is often in us.

For details of the launch on 24 May, which is open to the public, visit the Yarra Plenty Regional Library blog.

Also today, children’s writer Dee White looks at Davide Cali’s craft as a writer on her DeeScribe Writing blog. She pays particularly attention to The Enemy and What is this thing called love?, concluding

I highly recommend Davide Cali’s books as great examples of original, thought-provoking, moving, simple picture books with a complete story arc and strong endings.

The Davide Cali blog tour is taking place from 1 to 15 May, as a countdown to Davide’s first visit to Australia from 16 to 28 May. Every day, some of Australia’s most interesting book bloggers will be posting interviews with him, reviewing his books, offering giveaways and maybe giving a sneak peak of his award-winning new book, 10 Little Insects.

You can check out the full blog tour here.

Davide Cali’s 2012 Australian tour is an initiative of the National Year of Reading

Guest Post: Your old books can make a difference

Our latest guest post comes from Angela Esnouf, founder and Principal of Creating Order from Chaos.

Many of my clients like to know their discarded items have found a good home elsewhere. That’s why I offer to donate appropriate items to the RSPCA and Fitted for Work. Here’s another worthwhile donation point, and this time for books.

It’s called the Benjamin Andrew Footpath Library.

Benjamin Andrew Footpath Library

Benjamin Andrew Footpath Library

Their vision is to empower homeless and disadvantaged people through books. They achieve this by delivering a regular supply of books to homeless and disadvantaged people living in hostels and on the streets, and through community organizations. Currently they operate in Sydney and Melbourne.

I’m sure you can understand that with limited space for storage, and the nature of their work, they have some guidelines for suitable book donations. Here’s what they said:

We have great respect for our customers. In support of their self esteem and pride, please consider our clientele and use commonsense when donating books.

Please do not send damaged or poor quality books especially those that may have been sitting in a garage for years!

Books over 10 years old are not suitable. It costs us valuable time going to the tip to recycle them!

Yes please!

* Autobiographies/ Biographies
* Paperback Novels – thrillers, crime, historical, romance, science fiction, fantasy, teen etc
* Dictionaries
* Thesaurus
* Atlas
* Music theory
* Art history
* Cookbooks – very basic, no gourmet, desserts, cordon bleu etc
* Parenting
* Health
* Self-help
* War history
* Science
* Geography
* University texts
* Photography
* Philosophy
* Psychology
* Childrens books
* National Geographics/ Australian Geographic
* Car or motorbike magazines

No thank you!

* Encyclopaedias
* Hardback novels
* Religious material
* Coffee table style books on any subject
* True crime
* Wine/ restaurant guides
* Street directories
* Travel guides eg Lonely Planet
* Sport – golf, tennis, rugby, motor racing
* Anything with suicide or drug themes or extreme violence
* Magazines except those above
* How to get rich quick guides/ Investment guides/ how to run a small business

For Melbournites, if you have books which are suitable you’re welcome to deliver directly to their storage unit at:

The Benjamin Andrew Footpath Library

c/- Kennards Self Storage, 159 Racecourse Road, Flemington (entrance via Stubbs Street)

Just ask at reception and they’ll show you were to leave the books.

Kennards’ opening hours are: Mon to Fri 8:30-6, Sat 9-5, Sun 10-4