Ask a Bookseller: What books can I read to my reluctant swimmer?

With summer in full swing, the Children’s Buyer at our Carlton store recommends books that deal with swimming fears and water safety.


‘I need some extra resources for my reluctant swimmer. Are there any good picture books that deal with this topic?’

My son was well-known for his terrified yelling at our local pool until very recently, so I sympathise. It can be tricky to get the right balance between instilling a necessary fear of being near water but encouraging children to learn how to swim. Here are some recent books that may be of use:

granny-grommet-and-me***Granny Grommet and Me* by Dianne Wolfer and Karen Blair**

A young child, afraid of what might be lurking in the ocean, spends the day at the beach with his granny and her friends who are keen surfers. Gradually the child begins to trust these older ladies and some of the mysteries of the water turn positive. It’s a smart move to show a grandparent in this nurturing role, with none of the angst of a helicopter parent. Just the right amount of text - nothing too heavy - complements the gentle illustrations of shapely grannies who are able to treat this issue with wisdom and kindness.

rubyswim***Ruby Learns to Swim* by Phillip Gwynne and Tamsin Ainslie**

The simple, chanting feel to the text in this book would suit a child who is just starting out with swimming lessons but probably wouldn’t do much for a child who is already very fearful. Nonetheless, Ruby’s enthusiasm and the simple steps she follows are a sweet confidence-boost and I’d imagine that after several read-throughs a child would be chanting along in her head as she tackles each new water skill.

heather-fell-in-the-water***Heather Fell In The Water* by Doug MacLeod and Craig Smith**

At the more light-hearted end is this story by Australian comedy writer Doug MacLeod, who based it on his own sister. Accident-prone Heather, whose anxious parents make her wear waterwings everywhere she goes (including in bed), turns her resentment of water into a passion for swimming one summer and never looks back.

All of these books are in stock now.