An award-winning book to share with the children in your service

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  Published on Tuesday, 02 February 2021

An award-winning book to share with the children in your service

Library Home  >  Arts, Crafts and Activity Ideas
  Published on Tuesday, 02 February 2021

My Friend Fred is the most recent winner of the CBCA Early Childhood Book of the Year Award, and it's a wonderful picture book for ages three to five.

Written by Frances Watts and illustrated by Anne Yi, My Friend Fred focuses on two furry friends – an exuberant, but loveable dachshund and his neater, more circumspect housemate.

This book is paw-fect (or should that be purr-fect?) for storytime in early education services, so let's see how educators and preschoolers can share its meaningful themes and develop early reading and language skills.

What are the key themes in My Friend Fred?

As its title suggests, friendship is a big part of this book. There's repetition of the words, My friend Fred...' throughout, and suspense builds as readers get closer and closer to finding out who Fred's narrator friend is.

This funny, animal-themed story also includes serious messages about tolerance, family and different personalities. The CBCA judges say this book contains a,"Strong message of positive reinforcement that we can be very different in how we act, what we eat, how we behave, how we look and yet still be best friends," and this is a powerful lesson for preschoolers and all ages.

How is language and imagery used to great effect in My Friend Fred?

Frances Watts uses repetition to help under fives anticipate what will come next in the tale, and there's a rhythm to the language that supports early readers word recognition as they explore the short, engaging sentences.

Anne Yi's illustrations add humour to the story, and her energetic pictures are a delight for dog people, pet people and everyone! There's also the opportunity for children to visually read the book, as they look for its mystery narrator hidden in the pages.

What are some ways to extend the My Friend Fred reading experience?

This Early Childhood Book of the Year really lends itself to be being read-aloud, and there are lots of ways for educators and under fives to connect with the story and learn from it:

  • Educators can start by showing children the title and cover design before opening the book, then ask everyone what they think the story might be about and why the cover gives them that idea.

    Questions like, Do you think this is going to be a funny or sad story? What sort of dog do you think Fred is? Do you think he might be a bit naughty and silly sometimes? What makes you think that? and What other animals can you see on the cover? are all great conversation-starters.
  • Educators can then read the book twice out loud, in different ways. On the first reading, the idea is that educators share the words without showing children the pictures, and then ask everyone if they thought My Friend Fred was funny.

The second time around, educators do show the illustrations as they read, and finish by asking their children if the story was funnier with the images included.

This approach creates an opportunity to talk about why pictures make the story more humorous (e.g. because we can see Fred's excited face and it gives children a chance to point out their favourite Fred images and explain why it's funny that the story was told by a cat.

  • On the third reading, educators are encouraged to turn the pages slowly. This gives children time to find the feline narrator, who's hidden on most pages, and to visually read other things (e.g. when they spot some toys lying around, this is a clue that Fred has a small person in his family).
  • Educators can then turn everyone's attention to the endpapers of My Friend Fred and ask what things the cat likes to do, based on the images at the back of the book.
  • To develop children's imagination and storytelling skills, it's fun for everyone to invent a name for the narrator and make up a story about the cat called My Friend [Cat's Name], told from Fred's perspective.
  • To expand on the oral narrative and the book’s meaningful themes, educators can then ask their children how it might be if their best friend ate exactly the same kind of food, did exactly the same things and had exactly the same thoughts as them.

    Educators can ask how this would feel and why (e.g. Do you think this would be exciting or boring after a while?), then finish by encouraging their preschoolers to discuss the things they like about their friends that are different to them.

    Questions like, What makes a good friend?, What is personality or character and What's the good thing about there being differences between us? Can be discussed as well.
  • Once everyone knows the story, My Friend Fred can also be read as a call and response between the educator and children, and this means that each time the teacher reads out, My friend Fred, the children will reply with the 'I...' or 'He...' continuation of the text.

    My Friend Fred has a lot to offer during storytime, and the good news is that the techniques described above can be translated to other picture books for story time reading.

    An interactive and in-depth approach to reading is beneficial for childrens early reading and language skills, and we hope the children in your service have a chance to meet Fred and his feline housemate!

WIN a copy of My Friend Fred!

Thanks to Allen and Unwin, we are giving away five copies of this preschooler-friendly book.

To enter, just tell us in 25 words or less, why you would LOVE to win a copy of My Friend Fred.

Email your answer to by Friday 12 February 2021.

This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Tuesday, 02 February 2021