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My love affair with books started the very moment I learnt to read. Snuggled up under the arms of my dad, the dim glow of a bedside lamp lighting the pages, I sounded out the words of Spot Goes to School. It was if, as my eyes flicked across letters, deciphering words, a whole universe worth of stories and adventures and possibilities were suddenly revealed. They were there for the taking, all I need do was pick up a book.

In primary school I would have incredibly nerdy competitions with friends over who could finish a book first. As a slow reader, I nearly always lost but those competitions saw us devour classics from The Swiss Family Robinsons to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Then there was the discovery of the genius of Roald Dahl, his fantastical characters and fanciful stories. Each book opened was a new favourite and thinking back even now I am at a loss to choose between them.

While my childhood library brimmed with fantasy and larger-than-life stories, my teenage reading list became more sombre. It reflected the angst of growing and changing and trying to figure out who I would become. I read to relate. The stories I was drawn to were often riddled with sadness, with the challenges of navigating the gap between childhood and adult life and all the anxiety and confusion it involved. I read Guitar Highway Rose and dreamed of running away with a dread-locked boy. I read Peeling the Onion and thought on the process of healing, of the beauty in courage. I read Jessica and cried and cried and cried. Reading as a teenager was cathartic. It stole me moments of peace from an unsettled mind. And helped me survive.

University years meant novels were swapped for marketing texts and biographies for reading lists. Required reading left little time or energy for reading for enjoyment. So for 4 years I mostly read to learn. And learn I did. About quantitative analysis and creative commons, copywriting and media history. The content may not have brought joy, but it did impart knowledge. And in the long summer breaks, novels crept back into my life. I read to dream, to adventure, to escape. I found the beguiling words of Haruki Murakami and was bewitched by The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. I read The God of Small Things and Shantaram and dreamt of pungent, vibrant India.

As university finished, motherhood began and my book shelf found itself inundated with guides to pregnancy and parenting how-to’s. I was again reading to learn. As I came to realise parenting by heart, rather than by rote was by far a better approach there has again been space for stories. My bookshelves aren’t too dissimilar to university days but I’ve found becoming a mother means the stories of life, and loss are so much more intensely felt. No longer is the tale of losing a child an abstract sadness but one that is, even in fiction, full of heart-wrenching grief.

And of course, now, with Lachlan I am able to revisit my childhood enthusiasm for stories: the love affair with reading is coming full circle. His bookshelf is already brimming with wonderful tales, some, the very same I read as a child. So together we read Sail Away: The Ballad of Skip and Nell and pour over the intricacies of Animalia and of course, enjoy the wisdom of Dr Seuss. I hope it is the beginning of his very own lifelong love of books. And that they may keep him company, as they have me, throughout his life.

I’m always searching for new stories, so tell me, what’s your favourite at the moment? Of all time? Why?

*image by Love Twenty.

I have a confession. I can recite these five books from memory but I can’t remember my home phone number. There are so many wonderful children’s books out there, imagination-exploding stories told with beautiful illustrations and well-crafted words. But our favourites, the ones that are picked for bedtime without fail, are those tales that are carried with rhythm and rhyme.

These are five of my favourite rhyming books for toddlers. Hope they bring as much joy to your home as they have to ours!

1. Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett takes you on a sweet little journey as the main character, a little girl, visits animals, big and small, with her toy monkey in tow. A great book for littlies to learn names of animals and its simple rhyming words would make it equally suitable for an older child learning to read.

2. Smelly Peter, The Great Pea Eater written by Steve Smallman and illustrated by Joelle Dreidemy. It seems you are never too young to understand the humor in flatulence. Smelly Peter tells the tale of a young boy whose love of peas (and the wind it causes) takes him on an adventure into outer Space to the planet of Krell, where the inhabitants are green and don’t mind that Pete is “incredibly farty”. Sure to fill your house with giggles!

3. There’s an Ouch in my Pouch written by Jeanne Willis and illustrated by Gary Parsons tells the story of a little wallaby who no longer needs the security of his mummy’s pouch but doesn’t yet know it. On his journey to independence Willaby Wallaby meets a number of other ‘mummies’ willing to lend him a pouch, even a dingo, who as Willaby discovers, “has no pouch”! A wonderful tale about growing up, perfect for toddlers exploring their own independence.

4. Edwina the Emu by Sheena Knowles and Rod Clement. Edwina and her partner Edward find themselves new parents to TEN baby emus. Like all new parents, they are faced with the prospect of supporting their growing family and so Edwina embarks on a hilarious search for a job. From ballerina to chimney sweep, Edwina epitomizes the notion of ‘giving it a go’. Perhaps my personal favourite, the illustrations are fantastic and the story never fails to make me smile.

5. Time for Bed written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Jane Dyer. Mem Fox is a genius in my eyes. Her stories are timeless: captivating child and adult imaginations over generations. Time for Bed is the perfect bedtime story. Carried along by a calming rhythm, we say good night to baby animals, from mice and fish, to calves and foals until all have gone to sleep. Combined with a warm bath and a squeezy cuddle this story is a sure way to lull an active toddler to sleep.

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