Reading Pictures – Drawing Words: Database of Picture Books for Older Readers

The National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature Inc (NCACL) is an incredible collection of resources about Australian authors, illustrators, publishers and their creative works. The collection holds books, artwork, ephemera, authors’ papers and manuscripts, and author and illustrator research files. It forms a unique and special resource that is the keeper of Australian children’s stories.

The collection includes over 57,000 books. Some 5,700 of these books are in overseas translations in 68 languages, preserving a unique part of Australia’s cultural and literary heritage.

Lu Rees began the NCACL collection in 1974. Initially the collection was called the Lu Rees Archives. In 2012 the Lu Rees Archives became an incorporated body. Its focus turned to a more strategic role in the field of Australian Children’s Literature. It is now known as the National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature or NCACL.

This video symposium gives some great insight into the work of the NCACL.

Reading Pictures – Drawing Words the new Picture Books for Older Readers database.

NCACL has launched a picture books for older readers database, which it believes will be a useful tool in both teaching and learning. This project attracted strong interest and support from the public, and from the team of children’s literature experts who contributed to its development.

As you might have noticed by my book reviews, picture books form a special part of my own library as an adult, and this connection traces all the way back to my childhood, my reading relationship with my parents, the special memories of reading night after night with my own children, and the new picture books I discover as an adult through the incredible Australian KidLit community. Picture books offer a multi-layered reading experience with the connection between illustration and text creating a deeper understanding of story. I love the flip of ‘Reading Pictures-Drawing Words’ as the tagline for this database because it gets to the heart of the power of picture books.

The titles selected for inclusion in this new database have been taken from a variety of sources, which include the extensive collection of the National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature, suggestions from children’s literature experts and professional journals and bookshops.

The Australian children’s authors and illustrators listed in the database use an array of literary and artistic styles and show great sensitivity and depth of understanding in dealing with often difficult topics. There are 241 titles in the Picture Books for Older Readers database. There are another 18 titles almost ready to be included! I can only see it growing and flourishing from here.

The database is easy to search and refine by author, illustrator, publisher and date. You can view in list or cover detail and follow through to find comprehensive information related to individual books, including Curriculum Codes. There are lists of subject matters covered in each book, annotations which give an outline of each story, but also go deeper into how themes may be explored with children and young people, how they may respond to issues, and how to harness the power of these picture books. There are also guides on using the books in schools, teacher notes and resources.

This is a brilliant database, that is not only incredibly useful for educators, but can be accessed by parents and other individuals interested in picture books that cover a wide spectrum of issues, ranging from wars, to First Nations Peoples’ stories, the experience of refugees, navigating death and loss, finding courage and facing fear, finding friendship and holding hope, understanding mental health and wellbeing, exploring issues pertaining to the environment, seeking the joy in life, and so much more.

You can check out the database here

Congratulations to all involved!



  1. Ashleigh on July 10, 2023 at 9:55 am

    I’m working on a post for this too! I need to finish it as well as writing a separate testimonial for the database. I’ve loved exploring it and finding out about all the books – and there’s more to come as well!

    • Helen Edwards on August 7, 2023 at 9:14 am

      Amazing! It is a fantastic resource

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