What difference a year makes! Last year the list was full of picture books and junior non-fiction. This year we’ve made a sudden change to a) chapter books that we read before bed over a number of weeks, sometimes months, or b) books my son reads himself. And it’s a whole new and exciting world!
It’s amazing what 6 months of school can do. Our boy who wasn’t interested in reading anything other than his own name is now reads absolutely everything. And I mean everything. From sign-posts and cereal boxes to TV captions and toothpaste tubes… if it has a word on it, my 5 year old will be right there sounding out each of the l-l-l-e-e-t-t-t-er-er-er-s… letters!
1. The 26-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton
Number one on the list is clearly the Treehouse series. We started with the 26-Storey Treehouse and instantly fell in love with the hilarious cartoon drawings and ridiculous storylines. These books include everything a 5 year old could ever want: sharks, dinosaurs, robots, fart jokes, pirates, time travel, sea monsters, more fart jokes, and two main characters – Andy and Terry – who try to come across as adults but clearly still have the minds of 5 year olds themselves.
The Treehouse series was our introduction to chapter books. We’d read a chapter each night before bed and both laugh out loud at the silliness of it all. My Nan bought my son every book in the series and he was delighted… the 117-Storey Treehouse is due to be released tomorrow and we simply can’t wait!
2. Goldilocks & the 3 Bears by Ladybird Read it Yourself
This is a book I’ve kept from my own childhood, and mainly because of what my mum wrote in the inside cover 32 years ago in 1987:
I remember sitting on the lounge when I was 5, sounding out each of the words in this book, with both of my parents eagerly listening to every page. I was made to feel so special when I finally made it to the end!
This year, I got the book from the shelf and asked our son if he wanted to read it to us. He amazed us both with how easily he made it through all the pages, and with only 8 weeks of school under his belt. It was one of my proudest mum moments when I got out the pen, and wrote on the opposite page of the inside cover that my son also ‘first read this book to us on 31.3.2019’.
3. Scaredy Squirrel goes Camping by Melanie Watt
I’m glad there’s still a couple of picture books in this list, and Scaredy Squirrel is one of them. It was a random book we borrowed from the local library, and it turned out to be quite a hit with both the 5 year old and 2 year old.
At the beginning of the book, Scaredy Squirrel can’t stand the thought of camping, but his desire to plug in his TV means he needs to make a trek to the nearest electrical outlet. The moral to the story is loud and clear: whilst on the journey of trying to get your TV to work, you may actually find something better than TV. An important lesson for us all.
4. The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton
Enid Blyton wrote this book in 1939 and incredibly she has managed to captivate my son throughout the entire story 80 years later. At first, I found the chapters agonisingly slow and constantly questioned my son whether he wanted to keep reading… the answer was always yes. From page 1 he was drawn in to the magical world of the Enchanted Wood, with pixies and fairies and bizarre lands at the top of the tree.
In some chapters, Blyton takes three pages to describe something that modern books cover off in one sentence. This is more than just a reflection on literary styles, it’s a reflection on how different life is today when compared to 1939. I’m pretty sure my son thinks that Dame Washalot washing her clothes by hand is just as mystical as the Faraway Tree itself.
5. The Three Little Bush Pigs by Paul Dallimore
This book is an hilarious Aussie take on the classic tale of the Three Little Pigs tale. Rather than a wolf, the pigs are being chased by a ‘dingrel’, but just like the pigs in the original – spoiler alert – they manage to outsmart him when he falls asleep in the wheelie bin.
Our favourite line in the entire book is at the end, when the poor old dingrel is taken away in the garbage truck. The pigs shout: ‘We hope you like your new home, Stinky!’ which manages to get laughs all round.
6. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss
I’ve been reading this book to my son since he was a tiny baby. I’d swaddle him, put him in his cot, then sit down on the floor and read this book over and over until his little eyes fluttered in to a deep sleep. We’ve loved the repetitive rhyming, the pictures, the various animals and vehicles throughout – ‘would you could you with a goat, could you would you on a boat?’ – and the length of the book is perfect for that quick read when everyone in the house is exhausted and just need to get to sleep.
I must have read this book 500 times in the past 6 years. However, it was still a surprise to me when the other day my son picked it up and read the whole thing, out loud, without any help from us.
7. Australian Kids Through the Years by Tania McCartney and Andrew Joyner
This is a sweet book that perfectly captures what it was like to grow up through each of the ages, including the 1960s and 70s (with all the things my parents raved about) and the 1980s and 90s (with everything all so familiar to my husband and me).
Both our kids liked this book, taking in turns pointing to the various items on each page and getting me to read the corresponding captions. The kids books through the ages were our favourites, as my son and daughter excitedly recognised the books they still read today. I wonder what a future edition of this book will have to say about the 2020s…
8. Fox in Socks by Dr Seuss
This year I re-decorated the kids’ rooms, turning the 2 year old’s room into a bright coral llama haven and the 5 year old’s room into a calming blue fox’s den. His bedspread has orange foxes all over it, so it was only fitting that I buy him a copy of my favourite Dr Seuss book: Fox in Socks.
I loved this book as a child, and I knew my son would too. The challenging tongue-twisters kept me trying over and over to get it right. In saying that, 30-odd years on and I still have no idea what a ‘Knox’ is…
9. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Another quirky story from my childhood, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was a bedtime favourite of the 5 year old. The version we got from the library was fully illustrated and so brilliantly entertaining, I looked forward to reading it each night.
My son hung off every word… and I suspect Roald Dahl is going to become a regular in our house over the next few years.
10. Naughty Patch by Foundations Home Readers
The start of kindergarten this year has meant the start of home readers, a whole new world I hadn’t realised existed. Full of terribly boring stroylines, the repetition of words and sounds help our little ones learn to read.
When we first had the home readers sent home, our son would sit on the lounge and sound out each and every word ever, ever so slowly. Naughty Patch was the first of those books, a story of a dog that digs up Grandma’s yard and then Grandma says ‘Naughty Patch’ (seriously, that’s the extent of it). Still, despite the lack of engaging plot, this book will always remain close to my heart. In just a few weeks our 5 year old was whizzing through all the words, in this home reader and in many others, because somehow our little boy now knows how to read. And how wonderfully exciting is that!?