Wombat Books Blog

Wombat Books blog is the place to keep up to date with all the goings-on in the world of Aussie kid's books.

Reading aloud to your child

When I (Lynne Stringer) was about seven years old the teacher in my class started to read aloud from Charlotte’s Web by EB White. It was my first encounter with this classic, and I fell in love with it instantly. I’m not sure if that was just because of White’s brilliant prose, either. I think my teacher also played a part in it.

When she read the book, she really read it. It was clear she was familiar with it. The ‘voice’ of each character in the story had a different sound. She would change the way she spoke when reading the dialogue of different characters and was expressive in the way she read it. It felt like we were seeing the story unfold in front of us, rather than hearing someone read aloud.

Unfortunately, before she finished the book, this teacher left the school. A substitute teacher took her place. She read aloud the next chapter of Charlotte’s Web. I remember it as well as if it was yesterday. It was an appalling change! It was clear this new woman wasn’t much of a reader. The book went from being something magical to being something dull simply because of the lack of expression and interest she put into reading it. I could tell that she took no joy in what she was doing and that feeling was passed onto the class.

If you are reading to children I commiserate with you if reading is not something that you are fond of doing. That makes it difficult for you. I’m fortunate that I enjoy it and am enthusiastic about it. But I know it can be a chore for some, but the more effort you put into it, the more your child will get out of it.

Try reading the book before you sit down with your child so you know what happens and where it goes. Then try and think about how you would say the lines of dialogue if you were in that conversation yourself. We all speak differently depending on what we are saying and who we are talking to, and it will help keep your child engaged if you try and put that in your voice.

Does a character in the book seem old and crotchety? Try and make them sound that way. Does one seem prim and proper? Is there some way you can express that? Try and imagine it as a movie and how it might play out. This may help you as you try to express it to your child.

As many children’s books are now being made into movies you may wonder if it serves any purpose to do this, but nothing will beat the pleasure your child gets from experiencing the book with you, especially if you try and bring the characters to life for them. It may be something that stays with them forever.

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The YA reading revolution

Reading seems to be an ‘in’ thing for young adults at the moment. It’s easy to see even when I look in a department store. YA books are usually clearly displayed. Many of them are being made into movies. That’s another thing that tells you how big reading is at the moment. Movie moguls don’t waste money on products that don’t sell.

We should rejoice that young adults are enjoying the reading experience so much. It’s great to see that it’s ‘cool’ and I hope it continues.

However, I have noticed a tone of concern with some parents who have approached me about the YA books that we publish. A couple of times lately parents have said, ‘What’s in this book? Is there bad language? Is there any sex?’

I have heard this concern expressed by a number of people in the industry as well. When it comes to YA books, restraint in these areas seems to have gone out the window. There doesn’t seem to be any hesitation in loading these books with all kinds of explicit content and putting them into the eager hands of teenagers.

Some may say that teens already familiar with all these things, so we shouldn’t hesitate to put it in to keep it ‘real’, but does that mean it should be this way? Were teens so educated in these things before we provided them in books? I don’t know, but my conversations with parents have made it clear that some of them, at least, want some restraint shown.

For the record, the books we publish keep a firm moral compass when it comes to these things. Any content that is included in our books will not be explicit. If you would like more information on the content of any of our titles, especially those for young adults, please don’t hesitate to ask.

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