I’ve shared ‘first day of school’ posts in the past, but this year it’s different. This year it will be ME handing over my baby boy, the last of my three, to start his big Prep adventure. You can catch me at the school gate for a hug and a high five!
If, like me, you’ll be spending the next week or two figuring out how to label oversized uniform components and breaking in shiny new shoes, you might like some book suggestions for your nervous, excited little readers.
Books teach us more than ABCs
Research shows that reading to children from an early age does wonders for their ongoing language and cognitive development, as well as their enthusiasm for learning and literacy more generally.
Great books for young readers help them make sense of their worlds by tackling life lessons via the experiences of book characters. With exposure to books, children learn and grow, academically and emotionally, long before they can actually read.
Pre-schoolers have much to gain from enjoying books about starting school in the lead up to the Big Day. Starting School by Jane Godwin and Anna Walker is a must; as is Peter Carnavas and Kate Chadwick’s What’s In My Lunchbox – both of which deal with trepidation, curiosity and expectations of school life. Graeme Base’s My First Animalia is a great option for practicing the alphabet and early reading skills.
There’s no need to pressure your child to read if they’re not interested or ready. Helping them grasp the basic ABCs, though, and some gentle word recognition may make school less intimidating when Teacher breaks out the first spelling list.
New release books for pre-school prep
My First Day At School by Rosie Smith and Bruce Whatley (Scholastic Australia, RRP:$16.99AUD) offers minimal text, straightforward language and large type – ideal for youngsters practicing their early reading skills. The illustrations show a gaggle of farmyard animals working through a standard school day; having breakfast, dressing themselves, meeting new friends, finger painting and counting to ten. It emphasises the fact that school is fun, learning is exciting and that someone will be back to pick you up in no time!
For a bit of fun (and emotional reassurance) try Aaron Blabey’s latest I Need A Hug (Scholastic Australia, RRP: $16.99AUD). The author/illustrator who brought us Pig the Pug and the very awesome (Charming HQ favourite) Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas now brings us the sorry tale of a hedgehog who wants a cuddle, and the friends who are not so sure about his spikes. In the end, our hero finds a willing hugger whose thick skin protects him. The message? The right friend for you is out there somewhere; and EVERYONE – even the tough guys – needs a hug from time to time.
Mem Fox and Mike Austin team up for Nellie Belle (Scholastic Australia, RRP:19.99AUD), a lively romp following a little dog’s neighbourhood adventures. Mem Fox is one of Australia’s most celebrated children’s authors, so you have to trust that she knows a thing or two about what kids like. Unfortunately, my kids have voted this the most irritating book of the year (calling it early) for its repetitious language. Awkward. For early readers, however, repetition is a strategy that helps reinforce sound patterns and help with word recognition. Try before you buy!
Finally, Michael Wagner and Adam Nickel’s Pig Dude: He Can Do Anything (Billy Goat Books, RRP:$11.99AUD) is a quirky little paperback about confidence (which everyone needs on the first day of school!). Pig Dude will work as a story to be read by parents, or as a reader for pre-schoolers who are on their way to independent reading. The main character – part pig, part dude, for no particular reason – has a loving mama who tells him he can do anything. But what he really wants to do is fly, and it’s not really working out as planned. With a little help from some kindly passers-by and buoyed by his mum’s confidence in his abilities, Pig Dude eventually gets airborne! This is a fun, cheeky little tale with enough depth to entice your little ‘thinkers’ and enough bums and farts to entertain everyone else.
Whether it’s language development or emotional assurance you’re after, books are a terrific way to help prepare your child for the first day of school.