* by Jackie French
The ‘magic book’ is the one that turns non-readers into readers. You know you’ve found it when the kid holds it close to them and doesn’t want to let it go.
When you find the magic book – and it isn’t easy – it will so entrance a kid that they’ll persist to follow the story even if they can’t understand all the words. It will be the book that leads them to another book… and another… and another…
What’s its name? I don’t know. One member of our family’s magic book was The Lord of the Rings (long before the movie). Another’s was the Pearlie in the Park series, which led to two years straight of reading about fairies. One small person’s magic book was an (adult’s) Guide to Amphibians of Australia (for his seventh birthday). Mostly I know about ‘magic books’ because parents and teachers write to me because one of my books has been the magic for their kids. But I suspect many authors get the same kind of letters. There’s no one ‘magic’ book that suits us all.
How to find the magic book
Look at the winners and short listed books of ‘Kid’s Choice’ and Children’s Book Council of Australia awards. There may be no ‘one’ magic book, but some books are much more popular than others. Your kid probably won’t like every book on the short list, but they’ll probably LOVE one of them.
The book kids grab first may not be the ‘magic book.’ If you tell a kid he HAS to choose a book, they’ll probably go for a short funny one. They’ll enjoy it, but it’s not the ‘magic book’ unless it leads them to read more and more and more.
Magic books have substance. You get lost in a magic book, and never want to leave. A short funny book is like an ice cream – delicious, but soon gone. The magic book is one that stays with you all your life.
How to find Good Books
1. Teach your child to ASK!
Ask the librarian: tell them what books they already liked and ask for something similar. Ask other kids with similar interests, dinosaurs, horses, football, ask at friendly bookshops.
2. Let kids know they can stop reading!
Forcing a kid to read a book that bores them is one of the best ways I know to make kids hate reading. If they don’t like any of them after a chapter and a half, encourage them to STOP READING and try another… and another and another. And take them back to the library pronto if none of them are worth the effort of ploughing through.
3. Teach kids to ‘taste’ books.
This is possibly the most valuable literacy skill of all!
No, you can’t judge a book by its cover – but covers can still be a help in working out if you are likely to like it or not.
Leaf through the book and look at the style of writing: does the writer use a voice – boring, blokey, twee, jokey, romantic etc that turns you off?
Read the blurb on the back. Read a paragraph from three separate pages. This will probably be enough to let you know if the book has an even chance of keeping you turning the pages.
Most adults have already learnt this technique – but it’s a great help if someone else teaches it to you early.
4. Teach kids hunt out more by an author they love.
All libraries and bookstores can look up on their computer systems to tell you what other books an author has written and if they are available. All libraries can order books in from other libraries – it’s called an inter-library loan and all bookshops can order a book in for you if the publisher is still selling it. If not, contact a good second-hand bookstore and they’ll hunt round and find it for you – usually for less money than it would cost new, unless it is a very old or rare edition.
Just Few Books that Might be magic
Books for 0-3 year olds
Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox and Judy Horocek
I’m a Dirty Dinosaur by Janeen Brian and Anne James
Looking for Crabs by Bruce and Rosie Whatley
Books for 2-6 year olds
Rudie Nudie by Emma Quay
Are we There Yet? by Alison Lester
The Pros and Cons of Being a Frog by Sue deGennaro
Greetings from Sandy Beach Bob Graham
Picture Books for any age (including Great Aunt Agnes and Uncle Bill)
My Place by Nadia Wheatley and Donna Rawlins
The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan
Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan
The Arrival by Shaun Tan
Window by Jeannie Baker
Animalia Graeme Base
The Tram To Bondi Beach by Libby Hathorn
Jandamarra by Mark Greenwood and Terry Denton
Irresistible Books for Younger Readers
Tashi (Tashi, #1) by Anna Fienberg
The Selby Series by Duncan Ball
Unbearable by Paul Jennings (and all the other ‘uns’ in the series)
Lighthouse Girl by Dianne Wolfer
The Specky Magee series by Felice Arena
‘Be quiet and giggle in the back seat while I work out where we’re going’ books for younger readers
The Treehouse series by Andy Griffith and Terry Denton
The Terrible Underpants by Kaz Cooke
Toad Heaven by Morris Gleitzman
‘There’s a heck of a good universe next door- let’s go’ books for older readers. Books to get lost in, and then read another, and another….
Tomorrow When the War Began series by John Marsden
Anything else by John Marsden
Anything else by Morris Gletizman
Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park
Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta
The Ruins of Gorlan (Ranger’s Apprentice, #1)
by John Flanagan
Rowan of Rin (Rowan of Rin, #1)
by Emily Rodda
The Deltor Quest series by Emily Rodda
The Silver Brumby by Elyne Mitchell
The Shadow Thief by Alexandra Adorneto
Doomsday by James Maloney
*Jackie French AM is an Australian author, historian, ecologist and honourary wombat (part time), 2014-2015 Australian Children’ Laureate and 2015 Senior Australian of the Year.
In our free monthly newsletter you will receive, articles on children’s learning, success stories, hints & tips, latest services & programs, news, events and volunteer opportunities.