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Swap screen time for story time

The ultimate reading list for kids: Part 1

Alice Nguyen & Kaila Keen

Screen time is all the rage these days, especially with the kids. Between the TV, the computer, tablets and gaming consoles, there’s no shortage of material to keep your little ones on their little toes. Every now and then, those keen eyes might need a break from all that blue light.

Swap screen time for story time with this ultimate reading list for tiny tots to teens, as picked by our Children, Families and Creative Learning team. Many of these characters (and their authors) have even appeared on the Opera House stages.

For little ones

There's a Sea in My Bedroom

Margaret Wild, illustrated by Jane Tanner

David is afraid of the sea...until magical things start to happen when he takes a conch shell into his bedroom.

Capturing the magic of a child’s fantasy world, this beloved picture book teams up the best words with the best pictures to create a wonderful message about the power of imagination and conquering your fears. 

For: Little listeners 3+ and readers 6+

After more? From the production set of There’s a Sea in My Bedroom, join Karen Pang and musicians from the Australian Chamber Orchestra to learn about the string family and how musical techniques can be used to create mood, character and setting.

The Gruffalo

Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler

Embark on a daring adventure through the forest and discover what happens when a clever mouse comes face to face with a hungry fox, owl, snake and an imaginary monster (but is he?). 

From the bestselling duo Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (also known for Room on the Broom, The Snail and the Whale, Stick Man), the strong rhythm, catchy rhymes and familiar repetition begs for it to be read out loud, again and again. No wonder it’s become a modern children’s classic. 

For: Little monsters aged 3+

After more? Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the deep dark wood, delve into the sequel, The Gruffalo's Child.

For not-so-little ones

Funny Kid series

Matt Stanton

Matt Stanton is another homegrown talent, and a big believer in how books can spark creativity and imagination in children.

In Stanton’s Funny Kid series, Max isn’t the smartest kid, the fastest kid, or the handsomest, but he might just be the funniest kid you’ll ever meet. Humour is injected into every page, so even hesitant young readers can join in the fun.sic. 

For: Young jokesters 8+

After more? Matt Stanton celebrated Australian Reading Hour at the Opera House in 2019 and talked about his creative process, what his favourite books were as a child, and why he thinks reading and stories are important. Listen to him in Episode 4 of Arty Farty: A Podcast for Kids.

Billionaire Boy

David Walliams

You might be more familiar with his appearances on Britain’s Got Talent or Little Britain, but since making his foray into children’s writing 12 years ago, David Walliams has become a best selling children’s author and his books have been translated to over 50 languages. 

If you have fond memories of devouring Roald Dahl’s books when you were young, Walliams is the modern day ticket to a whimsical world where kids reign and adventures abound.

For: Little imaginations 7+

After more? Walliams visited the Opera House in 2017 for an author talk about his hilarious and touching fable Billionaire Boy.

If your little reader loves the Walliams-way, try adding Mr Stink or The Midnight Gang to their bookshelf. Or keep them busy with activity sheets available here.

For big kids

Moby Dick

Herman Melville

Adventure. Obsession. Friendship. On a huge boat in an empty, open ocean.

For the kids who might be after a new challenge, Melville’s 1851 classic novel is a great place to start.

When Ishmael embarks on a new voyage on a whaling ship, he soon discovers there’s a big world out there full of people who all come from different places. 

Captain Ahab has been scorned once already by the legendary great white whale Moby Dick, and will stop at nothing to gain vengeance. But with revenge comes danger, and the thrill of a chase can quickly disappear.

For: Aspiring adventurers 14+

After more? Queensland’s famed Dead Puppet Society are reimagining Ishmael’s tale for a new millennium and bringing this to the Opera House’s stages for a Sydney premiere in December 2020.

I believe books inspire the imagination, imagination births creativity and creativity changes the world..

Matt Stanton

Bringing our stages to your sofa, our new digital program comes to you weekly from our House to yours. See the program.

Find more about Kids & Families at the Opera House