Friday, April 19, 2013

Activities for Children's Book Week, 2013

by Susan Stephenson,

We're getting close to that time of year in Australia when all who love reading and children's books have a huge celebration known as Children's Book Week. School and public libraries will be offering all sorts of activities and fun according to this year's theme: Read across the Universe. The dates for Children's Book Week Australia 2013 are: Saturday 17 – Friday 23 August.

To help in your celebrations, I offer a googol of goodies! I won't be giving suggestions on using the short-listed texts with kids. Others do a far better job with that than I would (e.g. Mrs Mac's Library, Planning with Kids, Book Week for Beginners Wiki.) Instead, I hope to provide a list of more general suggestions that fit this year's CBCA Book Week theme, Read across the Universe, and that encourage kids to play with ideas, collaborate, create, think critically and communicate. You'll find more ideas in last year's post, Children's Book Week Activities, 2012. And still more ideas in TL, Kerry Gittins' Book Week 2013 wiki. Be sure to check out Kerry's specially written song for this year, One Book.

1. This year I was asked by the Children's Book Council's Anticipate Appreciate Applaud Sub Committee (NSW) to create a presentation for librarians. To accompany the presentation, I made a booklet which you can download for free at my website. Inside the booklet, you'll find ideas from me about celebrating Children's Book Week with not just books, but lots of web resources too.

2. I put my thinking cap on and came up with an activity booklet that involves kids in thinking creatively and responding to the theme of Read across the Universe. Download it free from my website. 

3. You'll also find many more ideas in the post below. I've scoured the internet to find resources and ideas that might help you and your kids interpret the theme.


In keeping with the Read across the Universe theme, this week might make a great time to nudge your kids towards wider reading. Does your four-year-old only choose truck books from the library? Borrow a different book for yourself that you think he might like, and curl up in a corner chuckling and exclaiming over the "good bits". Chances are, he'll want to join in the fun. With older kids, help them find books in a different genre that might appeal, or choose a completely different subject matter or genre for a family read-aloud.

If you're looking for one fantastic creative thing to do with your kids this year, co-create a book with a Universe/Space theme at Storybird. Here's one you can read that I made called The Pobblepong Hero.
I used artwork from Aleksei Bitskoff. This is the wonderful thing about Storybird, it encourages writing from fantastic picture prompts. If you haven't tried it with your kids/students, I urge you to give it a go.

Photographs can make amazing prompts for storytelling. Check out these digital microscope shots with your kids for a close up clash with nature. Follow that up with  trip to your local library to browse books about creatures.


These are extra to the free PDF activity booklet I described in 2 (above.)

* Use Brainy Box to collect the CBCA's short-listed books that YOU would like to see win awards.

* Choose key words from a book by a favourite author. Put those words into Wordle or ABCya Word Cloud and see if your friend can discover the author and book. What well-known children's picture book is represented by the words in the cloud below?

* Find a science project to turn trash into a toy on Arvind Gupta's site. Many of the projects have a space theme. Or design your own project that recycles junk into something fun. Record directions so others can follow your brilliant ideas!

* Think you know lots about comets and meteors? Take this quiz at National Geographic to find out!

* Think you know a lot about the moon? Quiz yourself!

* Create a story: The Secret Life of Our Librarian, The Secret Life of Our Principal, or The Secret Life of My Teacher. Make sure the setting of your story, be it narrative, comic book, or documentary movie, is Somewhere in the Universe.

* Create a trading card at Read Write Think for your favourite fictional character or characters. If you have an iPad, try the Trading Cards app.

* Make a quiz for other kids at ImageQuiz to test their knowledge of some aspect of the Universe. Here's a sample one on our Solar System to give you an idea.

* Test your typing skills with ABCya's simple typing game, Type Rocket, where you make firework rockets explode by typing the letter that appears on each.


Estimate how many books in the library. How many pages?

Choose a library book that you've read. Create (with pencil or digitally) a minimalist graphic that works as a clue for someone else to discover the book you're representing. (Adults, here are some fairy tale posters as examples. Use your discretion as to whether all are suitable to share with kids.)

Ask someone to photograph you while you're reading. Consider setting, whether you want to wear costume or use props etc.

I have more ideas for Photo Competitions in my booklet, Ideas for Children's Book Week Australia 2013. And check out my article, Literacy-based and Other Guessing Games for stacks more ideas.


Use party lights to add a sparkle to your library display. Or try putting a glow stick inside a balloon, then inflating the balloon and tying it off. If you thread cotton through several of the balloon "lights", you have another interesting effect. How about a black light bulb or glow paint? Check out Creative Library Displays for some wonderful ideas you could adapt to Read across the Universe.

Use kids' own creations. Have them create a cartoon/comic with an online comic editor or software. If you want more information, check out my free PDF booklet, Using Comic Editors with Kids. LEGO DC Superheroes, Creaza Cartoonist and Toon Doo all have elements and backgrounds that can be used to suit the theme. Kids could simply think of one caption to suit a one frame picture or use the cartoon as a prompt for further storytelling.

Use Pulp-o-mizer to generate some covers unique to your school with a sci-fi theme - see example above.

Another display idea, Shoot for the Moon on Flickr.

Have good-natured staff members alienize their own photos with photo editing software or a Photo Booth app and see if kids can recognise them. I used online editor, Ribbet, to distort my own gorgeous features (below) and colour change them. (5:00 am starts are rarely kind to me.)

NASA SpacePlace invites you to print out some great images including posters, brochures, board game downloads and activity books. This is also an excellent site for budding astronomers and scientists to explore.

Download a Word doc of editable speech bubbles for your displays.

Download some great steampunk airships from Girl genius.

Download free printable, Whole Alphabet Banner. Great for composing your own signs for displays.

Download free printable steampunk collage sheets. And be sure to scroll down for ideas involving Google Patents and Wikimedia Commons.

Book Week costume ideas from Kidspot.


App, NASA Lunar Electric Rover Simulator - A glimpse of what it might be like to support the activities of a functioning Lunar Outpost. (iTunes)

Find out more about our Solar System at National Geographic.

Amazing Space offer free downloadable Solar System trading cards.

Play Space Janitor at National Geographic.

The Scale of the Universe 2. Explore the scale of different objects in the Universe and find out more about them. (I love some of the not-very-scientific language used in this Flash-based activity e.g. "Shrews are great little thingies." Well, yeah!)

Early Learning HQ downloadable space-themed resources.


Can you see the rocket fins on the library, above? Australian author and librarian, Peter Macinnis, took this photo of the Goddard Library, named after rocketeer, Robert H. Goddard. Peter says,"...if you want a library that is truly ready for reading across the universe, the Goddard Library is it!" Peter is happy to send folk a higher res image if you contact him via his website.


Or is it? Whatever your plans for Children's Book Week 2013, be they low-key or elaborate, I hope you'll enjoy sharing lots of wonderful books and book-related activities with your kids and students. The Universe is a big place, but if we start reading right now, we might just possibly read all the way across!

UPDATE: Last Minute Ideas for Children's Book Week 2013.

If you've enjoyed this post, or any others at The Book Chook, I'd love you to help me spread my literacy, learning and literature ideas for parents, librarians and teachers by promoting it via Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, StumbleUpon, G+ or any other way you decide. 


  1. Oooh, I love those fairy tale posters you linked to! These are some terrific ideas, esp. the ones about exploring your library. Thanks for sharing at The Children's Bookshelf.

  2. Hi Book Chook!

    Good to hear about Space as your theme. My Project Earth-mend Series, published by IP ( fits very well, and it's already on most of the State Reading Challenges. Here are links for anyone interested: The Green House Effect:; Global Cooling:; Tiger Tamer the Min Min:

    Please pass the word!



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