A blog post by Kelly Torrens

"It is not enough to simply teach children to read; we have to give them something worth reading. Something that will stretch their imaginations—something that will help them make sense of their own lives and encourage them to reach out toward people whose lives are quite different from their own."

Katherine Patterson, author of Bridge to Terabithia

Let nostalgia take over for a second and have a think back to some of the books you grew up with. I’m sure some of them would have had a lasting impression on you. Was it because you connected to the characters? Did they make you laugh, or wonder, or think? Or perhaps it was the way they impacted your understanding of the people and cultures around you? Books have the power to do all of this and more. And who needs this inspiration, delight and education more than children?

Here at the National Library, we hold a vast collection of literature for all age groups written by Australian and overseas authors. Our Children’s Reference Collection, located in the Main Reading Room, showcases some of the best works from Australia’s children’s literature authors. We hold classics as well as new titles, with a range of genres and content to choose from, including picture books for young children as well as more developed stories for older kids.

What’s great about the NLA’s Reference Collection is that you don’t have to request the items and wait for them to be delivered! Similarly, our Children’s Reference Collection shelves are freely accessible so kids can pick out and read whatever catches their eye.

Many of the books in our Children’s Reference Collection now come with a groovy new interactive feature – a QR Code!

Each code is unique and is linked to different websites that have further content about topics in the book or information about the author. Using a QR code scanner app on your phone or tablet (there are plenty of free ones), simply scan the code to add an interactive element to your child’s reading.

Highlights of the Children's Reference Collection

Listed here are some of my favourites from the Collection, and as you will see we hold a variety of genres on all sorts of topics.


Can You Find Me? by Gordon Winch & Patrick Shirvington

Can You Find Me provides a look at native Australian wildlife within their perfectly suited and very colourful natural environments.

Want more Australiana? Try: My Country by Dorothea Mackellar & Andrew McLean and The Monster That Ate Canberra by Michael Salmon.


Why I Love Australia byBronwyn Bancroft

Why I Love Australia is beautifully illustrated with Indigenous artwork and explores various elements of Australian life in our natural landscape.

Love this book and want more? Try: How the Turtle Got His Shell and other stories by James Vance Marshall & Francis Firebrace and Malu Kangaroo byJudith Morecroft & Bronwyn Bancroft.


Mirror by Jeannie Baker

Mirror is a unique take on the picture book format, with the reader ‘reading’ two stories simultaneously. The left hand side illustrates aspects of the Australian life, while the right-hand side details the Moroccan equivalents.

Looking for more multicultural children’s books? Try: The Peasant Prince by Li Cunxin & Anne Spudvilas and Room on Our Rock by Kate and Jol Temple & Terri Rose Baynton.


Mopoke by Philip Bunting

Mopoke uses the simple technique of puns to create a humorous and fun book that young children will be very amused by.

Love comedic kids books? Try: Rodney Loses It by Michael Gerard Bauer and The Wrong Book by Nick Bland.


Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French

This much loved classic details the funny yet realistic day to day life of a lazy but persistent wombat.

Searching for more children’s classics? Try: Possum Magic by Mem Fox & Julie Vivas and Where The Forest Meets The Sea by Jeannie Baker.

For advanced readers

Mechanica by Lance Balchin

An awesome story for a slightly older audience, this book is set in a dystopia caused by human-induced climate change, where all organic animals are replaced by dangerous robotic versions that are at war with humans. These creatures are incredibly well illustrated in a steam-punk style and set out in an encyclopaedic format.

More books for bigger kids (and the young at heart): Tintinnabula by Margo Lanagan and The Arrival by Shaun Tan.

Among the reference resources in the Main Reading Room, there is a little corner just for our Children’s Reference Collection where kids and adults alike are free to browse at will. This is located between the Front Desk and Newspapers Desk. If you’re not sure where to find it, our friendly Reading Room staff can help you.

Afterwards, be sure to check out our latest exhibition Story Time’ and take a walk down memory lane. The exhibition will run from August 2019 until February 2020 with free entry.