Bowerbird builds a love of reading for preschoolers

Preschoolers joined two million people across the country relishing reading, as part of National Simultaneous Storytime. Helen Gregory reports.

Preschool students and their teacher with a bowerbird nest. Preschool students and their teacher with a bowerbird nest.
Image: Teacher Tracey Lovat with Alfred Kannampuzha, Jad Al Wahaib and Gemma Graham and their bowerbird nest at Waratah Public School Preschool.

Public school preschoolers built nests and learned all about friendship as they took part today in National Simultaneous Storytime.

The annual Australian Library and Information Association free event is in its 24th year and aims to promote the value of literacy and reading.

Held on 22 May, it involved people in places including early childhood education and care services, schools and libraries simultaneously reading a children’s book written and illustrated by an Australian author and illustrator.

This year’s book was Aura Parker’s ‘Bowerbird Blues’.

At Waratah Public School Preschool, children from two classes wore blue, read the book with teacher Tracey Lovat, tuned into a national livestream and fossicked for treasures.

Assistant Principal Preschool, Rebecca Dodds, said the event proved the power of reading to bring people together.

“We can learn so much from this book and can follow up on interests and questions the children may have,” Ms Dodds said.

“There are no wrong questions, and they can all contribute and be a part of it.”

Ms Dodds said the children at the Newcastle preschool had been learning about birds’ life cycles and the book had started conversations about its themes, including the importance of friends and family.

“The bowerbird wanted all of these beautiful bright material things but what was most important was friendship,” she said.

“There’s a lot of good messages we won’t only tap into for National Simultaneous Storytime but can refer back to throughout the year.”

The children brought blue items from home to contribute to collages, participated in a treasure hunt for blue items that they added to a group bower, painted, used blue Play-Doh, and built individual bowers to take home.

A teacher reads a book to students. A teacher reads a book to students.
Image: Teacher Tracey Lovat reading to students at Waratah Public School Preschool for National Simultaneous Storytime.

Reading is a shared language

At Kemblawarra Public School Preschool, preschoolers from two classes joined their Kindergarten to Year 2 peers to read together in the library.

Assistant Principal, Curriculum and Instruction, Cody Breasley, said there had been a “real sense of fun and excitement” across the school in the lead-up to the event.

“We’ve been on a really big learning journey here to make reading a priority, and achievement in reading a focus for all our students,” Ms Breasley said.

“It doesn’t take a huge amount of time to sit down and share a story, but if you do you’ve also got a shared language – you can talk to someone else about what they loved about a story.”

Ms Breasley said ‘Bowerbird Blues’ and its themes were suitable for all ages.

“The illustrations are beautiful, the animal is captivating and we see them in the Illawarra, so what a great story for our kids to be able to read because they can actually see these animals in the wild,” she said.

“The story is wonderful because it lends itself to having further conversations, like what did bowerbirds collect before man-made blue items like pegs existed?

“The language is rich and the concepts are wonderfully deep and can be extended to lots of different levels.”

Students sitting listening to a story being read by a teacher. Students sitting listening to a story being read by a teacher.
Image: At Kemblawarra Public School Preschool, students joined their peers in Kindergarten, Year 1 and Year 2 to read together in the library.

Building a sense of connection

The children wore blue accessories and went on a scavenger hunt to find hidden blue objects to build bowerbird nests with natural and man-made materials.

Ms Breasley said it was important for preschoolers to become familiar with the school environment, know how to navigate the site and connect with students and teachers.

“Really quickly our preschoolers feel comfortable in their space and with their people and like they belong to something bigger than themselves,” she said.

“It starts to build that sense of community for our kids.”

At Whalan Public School Preschool, children spent Monday and Tuesday making blue headbands using feathers and crepe paper and wore the colour head to toe on the big day.

Teacher Cathy Habib said the preschool wanted to make the event fun and interactive.

“By dramatising it and dressing like the character from the story it gains their attention more than just reading the book to them, so they engage with the story on a number of levels,” Ms Habib said.

“We bring play into it because that’s how they learn best at that preschool age.

“The book has lots of elements we can use and say, ‘Look at all the things he’s collected; it’s rubbish, should that be in the bush?’ and it lends itself to colour recognition – there's lots of things you can tie into it.”

Ms Habib said the children were asked questions as their teacher read the book, before “flying away” to hunt for blue items in their playground and make their own nests.

On-site public preschools ensure schools are ready for children when they start Kindergarten and make the transition to public schools as seamless as possible for children, families and teachers. 

The NSW Government announced earlier this year that a further 100 public preschools will be built on public primary school sites by 2027. 

Students sitting in a circle in dress up. Students sitting in a circle in dress up.
Image: Students at Whalan Public School Preschool enjoyed dressing up for National Simultaneous Storytime.
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