One of the biggest challenges for many during this global pandemic and period of lockdown has been parents having to transform themselves into school teachers. For the majority, they’ve also been attempting to work from home or look after younger children simultaneously. Thankfully, there does seem to be an abundance of resources available online; my personal favourites for my five year old being BBC Bitesize and Twinkl, but to supplement these screen-based activities, books and magazines truly are one of the best teaching aids we have, not only during lockdown but for life in general.
I’m unsure if they do this in schools across the board, but one of the things my daughter’s school does is base each half term around a book. Other than simply just reading a book, inspiration and ideas can be sparked from a story, helping to come up with other discussions and activities for children to do. From talking about the characters and predicting the outcome, to craft projects and cooking sessions, to further research on a topic and even music and dancing fun.
Perhaps it is because of my background in design and publishing, I love to discover beautifully illustrated and designed books for my daughter, especially ones that teach her important things about the world around her. Today I’m sharing a few of our favourites and I’ve also thrown in a selection of the best magazines for children, too. I have included links to Amazon for each title, but please do consider seeking these books out from your local bookshops or independent online book stores, where possible.
The Mystery of the Golden Wonderflower
by Benjamin Flouw (Little Gestalten)
This beautifully illustrated story follows a plant-loving fox on the hunt for an elusive flower. As well as the gently flowing narrative of his journey through various terrains, it includes some diagrams of things he comes across, like the parts of a flower and the levels of a mountain. Buy this book.
The World of Whales
Words: Darcy Dobell / Illustrations: Becky Thorns (Little Gestalten)
My daughter already seems to know more about whales than I do through all the episodes of Octonauts she has watched! But, this book helps to take her knowledge of these amazing animals to another level. It is a factual book which they can dip in and out of when curious about certain types of whale or an aspect of their lives or environment. Buy this book.
Alba The Hundred Year Old Fish
by Lara Hawthorne (Big Pictures Press)
Staying with the ‘under the sea’ theme, this beautiful book tells the story of a hundred year old fish who loves to collect pretty things, but her world has changed due to the effects of pollution in the ocean. What’s lovely is that it goes on to demonstrate how humans can make changes and regenerate the environment for our wildlife. Buy this book.
Greta and the Giants
Words: Zoe Tucker / Illustrations: Zoe Persico (Frances Lincoln)
Another environmentally focussed title which explains the tale of Greta Thunberg for young children. As with the previous book here, this ends in an upbeat and hopeful way that change can happen. It also lists a few ways in which children can help Greta in her quest, along with some further resources. Buy this book.
Words: Steve Parker / Illustrations: Andrea de Santis (Little Gestalten)
From land and sea, to solar systems and distant galaxies, this book is similar in format to The World of Whales, with lots of facts and information about all aspects of space. All kids will learn about space at various points during their education, and this is a lovely book to follow up with at home. Buy this book.
Let’s Play Outdoors!
Words: Catherine Ard / Illustrations: Carla McRae (Little Gestalten)
A big part of a child’s education is not done at a desk, it is done through exploration, play and discovery. While we may not be able to get out and visit some of the wonderful places around our countryside right now, we can certainly teach our children to appreciate the small things, either in their own garden or during your daily walk. This book provides lots of ideas for how to explore and learn in the great outdoors. Buy this book.
Ada Twist, Scientist
Words: Andrea Beaty / Illustrations: David Roberts (Abrams)
This book is from a series that celebrates gender equality within the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Ada Twist (inspired by pioneering female mathematician & programmer Ada Lovelace), is a curious little girl who asks lots of questions about the world around her. I much prefer to read my daughter books featuring a female protagonist such as Ada than those which tell of fictional princesses on the hunt for Prince Charming. Buy this book.
Words: Lisbeth Kaiser / Illustrations: Marta Antelo (Frances Lincoln)
You may well already be aware of the Little People, Big Dreams series of books, as they have been exceptionally popular. If not, the books discover the lives of outstanding people from history. Again, these books provide excellent role models to children while teaching them about significant events and moments in time. We have quite a few of these books, but have been reading Rosa Parks lately alongside some relevant video content available on BBC Bitesize. Buy this book.
Welcome to the World
Words: Moira Butterfield / Illustrations: Harriet Lynas (Nosy Crow)
It’s really important to me that my daughter learns about different people, different cultures and different ways of life and the next two books teach this in quite different ways. Welcome to the World is more factual in style, with each spread detailing how people do things around the world, such as what they eat for breakfast, how they celebrate special occasions and what games they play. My daughter loves dipping into this book now and again and finds it fascinating. Buy this book.
Home Sweet Home
Words: Mia Cassany / Illustrations: Paula Blumen
I love the full double page spread illustrations in this book, each one depicting the life of a pet in a certain location around the world. Told from the perspective of said pet, each little story is a snippet from their day in the city or region they reside in with their owner, from a tortoise in Kyoto, Japan, to a cat in Giethoorn in the Netherlands to a dog in Mexico City. Buy this book.
Independent magazines for children
When my daughter was younger, we experienced a phase when every time we entered a shop stocking magazines, she would beg me to buy her one. On the one hand, I liked that she had this interest, but on the other, the magazines she wanted were not the ones I felt were ideal either for my pocket or for her learning and development. Most mainstream kids magazines don’t do much for our environment either as they are plastered with plastic toys (the main draw for most little folk), so I decided to place a ban on purchasing any more of them. She didn’t like this rule at first, but she soon understood, and instead we replaced them with the occasional independent magazine. She now appreciates the magazines for their content rather than being distracted by the tat attached to the front cover. Most of these titles are not any more expensive than the mainstream mags, yet the quality of both the product itself and the content is far superior. I’ve listed links to our favourites below. Do go and check them out, you won’t be disappointed.
Dot and Anorak are produced by the same independent publishing house; Dot being for pre-schoolers and Anorak for kids aged 6-12. Dot has been a long time favourite in our house, but as my daughter is nearly six, she received her first copy of Anorak last Christmas. They are colourful, fun and quirky, and we return to them time and time again.
Toucanbox is actually part of a monthly subscription box my daughter received as a Christmas present. You can’t purchase it separately unfortunately, but it is definitely a great addition to the craft activities within the box, and focusses on the STEM subjects.
Leopard is a brand new title from the publisher of Lionheart magazine, Hels Martin. With three kids of her own, Hels knows her stuff when it comes to feeding the creative minds of little ones. The mag, aimed at 4-9 year olds, is packed with crafts, stories and ideas that you will love just as much as your kids will.
Ompahpah is created by visual artist Sasha DeWitt and is full of beautifully illustrated activities based around a topic. We currently only have the Outer Space issue which I bought in Kobi and Teal in Frome, and I’m unsure if the magazine is still in production, but you can find a few other editions on their website, including Beetles and Monsters.
Bravery is a US magazine and is the most expensive in this selection, but I tend to view them as a series of collectable books. Each one highlights a particular brave woman from history and is a great way for young girls and boys to learn and feel empowered by inspirational females. The only UK stockist I can see that has copies available right now is Ysolda. You can also read our interview with the creators here.
I hope these books and magazines might go some way to help with your child’s home learning and reading enjoyment in general. I’d love to hear what other books you and your kids enjoy together, do leave a comment as I’m always looking for new ones! 🙂