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Looking for books about ANZAC Day for your preschooler?

As you may have discovered, most picture books about ANZAC Day are written for older children. As a teacher, I’ve found many great books for 6-12-year-olds which tell the story of ANZAC Day and I use these in the classroom every year.

But what about the 4-5-year-olds? If you have a child in this age group you’ll have noticed how observant they are and how aware they are of what’s going on around them. From a developmental point of view, children at this age are looking to make sense of their world. They’re interested in what the adults around them are paying attention to and are constantly observing what the people they see every day are doing. So, when ANZAC Day is mentioned and discussed – or when your 4- or 5-year-old sees ANZAC Day services on TV – they’ll often start asking questions.

Why share books about ANZAC Day with your preschooler?

The topics of war, ANZAC Day, the Gallipoli campaign and World War I are, of course, huge and very complex. They’re difficult to explain to children in age-appropriate ways and it can be tricky to find a way to discuss them so that younger children can relate to them.

Reading picture books about ANZAC Day together can help you start the conversation. It also provides opportunities for your child to ask questions and to show you how she is thinking about this new information and the concepts you’ve opened up for discussion.

There are five picture books about ANZAC Day which I’ve found to be great for sharing with preschoolers. These books are a wonderful and gentle way to introduce your child to the First World War and the Gallipoli campaign and to what life was like at that time in Australia and England.

These five books are simple, fictional texts based on events that happened during the war. They tell stories about different aspects of the First World War and explore how and why we remember the people who fought in all the wars in which Australia has been involved.

Sharing books about ANZAC Day with your child

While the five books on this page are best suited to reading to 4-year-olds and 5-year-olds (and to older children too), do keep in mind that all children are different. If your child isn’t interested, even though he falls into this age group, that’s perfectly okay. Put the book away and bring it out again in November in preparation for Remembrance Day on 11 November. Six months is a long time in terms of a child’s emotional and cognitive development. Or keep the books for ANZAC Day next year.

On the other hand, you may find your 3-year-old is interested in ANZAC Day so you could see if she enjoys these books. Again: no pressure. Give it a go but try not to be disappointed if your little one doesn’t seem to enjoy the book or even doesn’t want you to finish reading it.

If your preschooler is interested, reading one or all of these picture books together will plant the seeds of understanding these big concepts. It will also enrich their vocabulary and help build their background – or general – knowledge about the traditions of ANZAC Day and about some of the symbols of ANZAC Day.

Other tips for exploring ANZAC Day with your preschooler:

  • keep it simple. For example, don’t try to explain the big numbers involved – how many people died and so on. These numbers are meaningless to young children and can overwhelm them;
  • focus on the helpers and the positives. Tell them that people worked together and helped one another, at home and on the battlefields, and that people relied on their friends for comfort, support and for help;
  • allow your child to take the lead and ask questions. Only give them as much information as they ask for;
  • think about incorporating a simple craft activity, if your child seems keen on it. Making paper poppies, attaching them to paddle-pop sticks and ‘planting’ them in a field is fun and easy to set up. You can Google poppy templates or draw your own;

I hope you enjoy sharing these books about ANZAC Day with your preschooler.

My 5 favourite books about ANZAC Day to share with preschoolers

ANZAC TED

Anzac Ted is a rhyming picture book which tells the story of a little boy’s very old teddy which once belonged to his grandfather. The little boy takes his teddy to school for Show and Tell but the children see only an old, ragged teddy. They don’t understand how special the teddy is until the little boy goes on to tell the story of how ANZAC Ted went to war with his grandpa.

The story shows ANZAC Ted providing comfort to the soldiers, which is, of course, something young children can easily relate to. The ANZAC soldiers are shown as being brave but also as being young and in need of comfort, which is really lovely. I also think that’s an important thing for children to understand: that we can – and often do – feel brave and scared at the same time and that it’s OK to be scared and to need the comfort of familiar things like teddies.

At the end of ANZAC Ted there’s a summary of the Gallipoli story and of the ANZAC legend.

Lest We Forget

Lest We Forget is a simple story about remembering. It’s told by a little boy of about 5 years old and begins:

My granddad says there are two types of days: those you want to remember and those you want to forget.

The writing then alternates between pages where the boy remembers important events in his own life (and also days he’d like to forget) and images of his grandfather’s experiences during the war. Through simple text and illustrations the book focuses on helping young children understand what it means to remember and why remembering is important. This can be a difficult idea for young children to grasp and I think Lest We Forget does a good job of planting the seeds of understanding by relating it to events and experiences in their own lives.

I also like the fact that the book introduces the phrase Lest We Forget. These are words that children inevitably hear around ANZAC Day but which they often don’t understand.

The book ends with the grandfather telling the boy that there are two important days when we must stop and remember: 25 April (ANZAC Day) and 11 November (Remembrance Day).

My Grandad Marches on ANZAC Day

This is an Australian story, told by a little girl whose grandfather marches in the ANZAC Day march. It begins with the family waking early to attend the dawn service, having hot chocolate to warm up afterwards and getting ready for the march. The fighting at Gallipoli is described in really simple terms which are perfectly suited to preschoolers’ level of understanding and cognitive development. The fact that the little girl’s grandfather fought in a later war and that he marches to remember the soldiers who fought in earlier wars in mentioned.

There is an emphasis on remembering in this book which I really like. The Grandad is shown and described as remembering and the little girl says at the end of the book that one day she will do the remembering.

I once had a five-year-old boy in a Kindy class ask me “what does remember mean?” and ever since then I’ve taken care not to assume that children understand abstract concepts like remembering. Sharing this book, along with Lest We Forget, with your preschooler is a great way to open up a discussion about what it means to remember.

The ANZAC Puppy

The ANZAC Puppy is based on a true story. It’s the story of Freda, a Dalmatian puppy who was adopted by the New Zealand Rifle Brigade regiment at their training camp in England during World War I. Freda became the regiment’s mascot and provided warmth and comfort to the New Zealand soldiers who were so far away from home and living through the horror of trench warfare.

In this story, Freda is born to a family who cannot keep her and is adopted by a young soldier called Sam after he meets Lucy, the daughter of the family. Sam takes Freda with him to the battlefields of northern France, promising Lucy he will bring Freda back to her after the war. As the fighting gets worse and Sam becomes more upset by what he sees and experiences, Freda comforts him. When the war ends, Sam and Freda return to England and Sam and Lucy are married.

The gentle illustrations and simple text make this a lovely story to read aloud to younger children. The fighting is briefly described but not in detail and the focus in the story remains firmly on the relationship between Freda and Sam. There is a two-page explanation of the true story of Freda at the back of the book.

ANZAC Biscuits

ANZAC Biscuits is a book about the importance of ANZAC Day traditions. The story moves between scenes of Rachel and her mother making biscuits for the Rachel’s father, a soldier, and the experiences of the father on the battlefields.

The illustrations show Rachel safe and warm at home in Australia with her mum and her cat, with Rachel mixing the batter and licking the spoon. Then we see her father shivering in the snow in the trenches and lying face-down in a field. At the end of the book, Rachel’s dad receives the ANZAC biscuits Rachel and her mum have made.

This book takes something to which many children can relate – ANZAC biscuits – and weaves a story around them. The book is a gentle introduction to the idea of war and how it separates families, as well as being a lovely way of explaining how ANZAC biscuits came to be made and why they’re associated with ANZAC Day.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my favourite books about ANZAC Day for preschoolers. If you’re on Instagram, please do come and share your favourite books and tag me @thebookbasketco so I can see!

Felicity is a mum of three young adults and a primary school teacher in Sydney, Australia. Passionate about children’s literacy and the potential of books and reading for enriching young lives, she also creates and sells cute, clever book-ish gifts and gift baskets for little ones. Check out her Book Gift Baskets and Little Book Gifts

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