I’m writing this in response to a tweet by the legend that is Michael Rosen.  In just a few words he summed up what this blog is all about…

‘For your babies and pre-schoolers,surround them with books and print, read to them every day, let them play with books, choose books, talk books, play with magnet letters, read signs and food packaging, make labels for things, draw, paint, sing songs.’

If he says it then I must be doing something right!  I want this blog to be a source of ideas and inspiration to make reading with little ones enjoyable and fun.  Keep books in places around the house so that the kids can play with them.  Yes, play with them!  They don’t have to be read, or your child to be at a reading age, just let them see books as something fun to do.  Let them look at the colours, spot pictures, feel the texture, anything to ensure they are not scared and put off when asked to read a book.  Make up games, see how many ‘b’ letters you can find for example, or how many rhyming words.  When out and about, take a book with you, not i-pads or kindles, a book.  With pages.  Let them choose words and see if you can spot any of them.  Let them see if they can read signs, menus, house names, anything to keep you talking.

Use my book box idea in your house, so that your child can choose which books they want to look at.  Let them explore and don’t worry if they make a mess, books should be accessible and fun.  They can also be a great bonding tool too.  When they feel sleepy and in need of a cuddle, grab a book and look at it together.  There are so many ways that books can become a source of fun/relaxation/learning; all of which will only help their understanding by the time they get to school.  The evidence is overwhelming to show an early love of books helps not only reading skills, but also communication, imagination and concentration.

Don’t forget books can also be free.  Where, nowadays can you really get something for free?  Sign your little ones up at the library and you get 10 books, for free, for pretty much as long as you want.  A never-ending supply of free stuff.  It’s also an afternoon out if you get bored in the house easily, as there are often events on that can be of interest.  Story-telling, craft activities etc.  Check out your local library for more details.

There’s lots more information on this blog too , as well as ways to keep reluctant readers interested.  Starting young is the key, so do your best even if you aren’t the greatest reader yourself.  As I said, if Michael Rosen gives the same advice, it’s well worth taking it.

 

Who’d have thought it.  Last night my oldest (yep, the one that features in my last post about how much she hates dressing up, therefore dreads World Book Day) actually said to me, ‘I’m really worried school’s going to be closed because of the snow.  That means World Book Day will be cancelled.’  I mean, what?? After all those year’s of pain I’ve actually got it right?

This year she chose Matilda from the Worst Witch, having read the books before the CBBC series, and then again after.  Perfect choice as the costume is basically a school uniform, therefore she won’t stand out and ‘look stupid.’  Her words, not mine.  So apparently we nailed it this year. She liked the pinafore dress, and has apparently always wanted to wear a tie.

All systems go until we wake up this morning, and like in most areas across the country the announcement is made ‘SCHOOL IS CLOSED.’  Much whooping from the kids, much sighing from the parents.  With temperatures not due to rise above -3 there wasn’t really much of a decision to be made. There are certainly not many mornings you see a group of snowboarders walk past the end of your drive anyway!  Costume shelved for next year then?

Good luck to everyone at home today,  I can’t help thinking this is the perfect day to snuggle up with a good book (if the kids allow.)  If not, focus on that gin later.  Maybe World Book Day isn’t so bad after all.

 

 

#worldbookday

Ok, so World Book Day is fast approaching.  I know, as a total book geek this is something that I should embrace, as it really does get children talking about books, buying books and gets people in independent bookshops which as you know is something I’m a bit obsessed with.  However, it is the one day of the year I dread.  Why?  Because my book-worm of a daughter absolutely hates dressing up.  It’s not even a diva type hatred, she just hates it full stop.  It makes her feel insecure and a bit stupid, two things that children don’t like to feel.

For the first year, I just about convinced her that it was going to be OK.  Luckily, the event was on her birthday so aged 5, the thought of the whole school dressing up for her was enough of a distraction to actually get her through the doors.  The next year, not quite so lucky.  It didn’t fall on her birthday, she was a year older and wiser, and could quite eloquently explain why she thought the whole thing was ridiculous.  I swear the nail marks are still on the door frame of her classroom.  I think she lasted about an hour, so as she had her school uniform underneath she spent the rest of the time surreptitiously shedding her outfit until she was once again ‘normal.’

I’ve bought outfits, made them, borrowed them but nothing has worked.  It isn’t just World Book Day I have to say.  ‘Pirate Day’ at school is still etched on my Mum’s memory as one of the worst of her life.  She had the task of trying to get her to school dressed as yes, a pirate.  The problem? A pirate is a man, and she didn’t want to go to school dressed as a boy.  Exactly, oh boy.  Not helped that her best pal tipped up in some kind of girl’s pirate attire, rather than a borrowed costume from yes, a boy.  Not good.  I don’t even think she lasted an hour that time.

For the past two years we’ve managed to pull of a Matilda/wearing normal clothes look, but I think a third year is getting a bit much, so she’s plumped for Mildred Hubble, from the Worst Witch.  She loves the books, backed up by the new series on CBBC.  This is got to be a winner, I mean, she basically wears school uniform doesn’t she? Ah yes, but it has to be the right school uniform.  I could actually feel my chest tightening as we drove to the shops yesterday, how can this be littered with so many issues? My middle one was sorted in about three minutes, wanting to go as Wanda from Where’s Wally.  That involved a stripey top and some glasses. Job done.  Unsurprisingly, we didn’t find anything for the older one.

For a girl whose favourite past-time is reading, it does seem a real shame that the day is so hideous for her.  Obviously as a Mum I blame myself, as I too hate the thought of dressing up. Usually I would tell her to ‘just get on with it,’ ‘stop being so daft’ etc etc, but, as she is in general one of the loveliest, calmest people I know, I’ll let her have this one.

I am now nervously awaiting the arrival of the ‘Mildred’ pinafore dress, bought online on return from the shops.  It is likely to be the wrong colour, shape, size, length but at least we’ve tried.  The tie has also been ordered.  Just got to create some type of sash and we might be safe.  That’s until the morning of the actual day, and who knows what might happen.  Roll on March the 2nd.

 

 

 

Audio books, the current saviour of bedtime. Three tired kids and one worn out Mum (whose husband is hiding somewhere at work) undeniably equals one tough part of the day.

We are currently half way through a CD of traditional bedtime stories, and as I’m trying to get the 8 week old to settle, my 5 year old curls up in bed and has a listen. It takes any tension out of the situation (i.e. that 3 kids needing you in 3 separate places all at the same time thing.) She thinks she is getting a real treat so it gives me an extra few guilt-free minutes with the (extra) little one and all and all makes that crazy hour a little easier.  I have to say I have always been a bit sniffy about audio books, as I just thought they were a way of avoiding reading books, but having done a bit of research I have completely changed my mind.

Apparently, according to much cleverer people than me, audio books give the child more freedom to use their imagination as they are not directed by pictures on the page.  It also helps practice their listening skills, which is a great one if your child is a bit wriggly when you try and read.  If they move and miss something then they will soon learn that they will lose the thread of the story.  Audio books also allow your child to enjoy books that are a bit harder than the ones they might try and read.  Children who are put off books with lots of pages, or ones with lots of words have a different way in to a story they may otherwise not manage.  And there are some really good ones out there at the minute.   All of David Walliams books are on CD, Roald Dahl (read by himself!) Paddington and so on,  all the classics that otherwise maybe too much to handle.

I’m not entirely sure what will happen when we get to the end of the CD, or how long I will get away with this as in my heart of heart I know it is only a short term solution. I am also keen that it doesn’t happen every night, as I do obviously want to still read to my daughter, especially as she has just started to want to read out loud too. However, I’m not going to beat myself up about it when things are so busy. She is certainly enjoying them, so I’m not going to stop something that works. There’s also the added bonus of using the same stories when out and about in the car, or when you simply need some down time.  I suppose that this is the key to this whole blog, just do what works best for you and your family and make sure it is always enjoyable.

So, finally got round to registering the little one’s birth, and super delighted to be handed the Book Trust book pack.  I honestly thought this was something that had been squeezed thanks to the recession/austerity/govn cuts etc etc but no! Two free books and a leaflet giving advice on how to share books with your little one.  There’s nothing ground-breaking within the advice as such, it’s mainly stuff that will come naturally to you I’m sure, but the bit I really like is the part that says ‘you don’t have to be a good reader yourself to read to your child.’  This is because it is the soothing sound of your voice that is more important than the actual words.  You could read them the football results and it wouldn’t matter.  What your child will really enjoy is the act of sitting on your knee, cuddling up on the sofa, whatever you fancy that makes the experience fun for both of you.  Therefore, even if you feel a bit nervous about it, do give it a go.  The younger the better too.  Starting really young (and I’m talking weeks old) might feel a bit ridiculous at first, as clearly they won’t understand a word, but if you can make the act of reading enjoyable, then I promise it will stay with your child for the rest of their life.  Just a quick look together when they are in that tiny window of calm, or part of your routine before naps.  If, however, you’ve got older ones of which books don’t seem to hold their attention, then choose books with interesting, bright pictures and spend your time looking at them instead.  You don’t even need to read the story, you could play a spotting game, or you could ask your child to show you the colours they know, names of objects they can point out etc, anything that boosts your child’s confidence around books.  This is all about making your child feel good about themselves and their skills. Asking your child to choose the book will also boost their enthusiasm.  They’ll soon let you know their favourite one – of which you will get to know very well!

Pick your moment though.  Obviously if they are totally wriggly and getting annoyed then don’t force them into trying to read, do it at a more peaceful time, perhaps before their nap-time or when they are still sleepy in the mornings (apparently that actually happens and not all kids fly our of bed like it’s on fire!)  I am also a huge advocate or the bath, book, bed routine at night.  You can see earlier posts on that one, as I think a book before bed is a given.  The reading I’m talking about here is when they are fully alert and keen to learn.

I truly believe if you show a love of books and are enthusiastic to share them with your child, they will also fall in love with them. Keep it up, and thanks again to Booktrust.  If you want more tips then do check out the Booktrust website  www.booktrust.org.uk.  You can of course also raid earlier posts on this blog for more ideas!

Happy reading x

 

 

 

So after a brief pause, to have a baby (my third…I know!) celebrate my birthday as well as Christmas and New Year, I’m back on it.  It’s been a busy few months, but we still managed to squeeze in a few book-related highs.  For a start, I was totally bowled over during a visit to the big man when my girls were asked what they wanted as presents.  And do you know what they both said?  ‘Books!’ I have to admit there was a tablet in the mix for my youngest one, so clearly I’m not totally anti-tec but books still played a big part in the (huge) hoard under the tree. For both girls, (from Father Christmas…)there was a big box of books alongside their stocking.  Particularly for the older one, they were the next in the series of ones we have read together, or classics that she is now old enough to enjoy.  It was really good fun to put together, I imagine, and I think she appreciated it.  There’s a few that I’m really excited about her starting, such as Harry Potter. What an adventure lies ahead!!

Back to babies, and I have been super surprised about the importance of books to little babies, and we’re talking really young ones.  Mine is now 5 weeks old, so I had a quick look at one of those ‘What to expect from your 5 week old’ websites, and I’m totally delighted that books are mentioned, described as a really important part in their development.  I know, I was surprised too, but the thinking behind it is that as their eyesight starts to improve they enjoy starting to recognise different shades, such as black and white.  So, books with black and white pages are a winner.  This not only establishes an early connection of fun with Mum, but must make your baby see books as a good, positive thing.  I can’t image mine will get it straight away, but I can only see this is as a good idea, setting the foundations for a good relationship with books in the future, and I know how hard that can be for a boy!

There are loads on the market, all specially designed for those first few months.  I have a few from the Amazing Baby range which have been enjoyed by all my kids. Remember, a trip to your local independent bookshop is the best place to get tailor- made advice, as well as a hot cup of tea and cake.  Just what is called for when you have a little baby in tow!

Not that I needed an excuse but definitely going to be waving a few pages in front of my little one from now on.  Not too much, about 10 minutes of play time before he gets too tired is the advice, but can’t wait for him to get up to give it a try.  Let’s hope he enjoys them as the rest of us, I’ll keep you posted!

 

Just thought I’d highlight some lovely charity book-related projects you could get involved with this Christmas.  I know there is already lots to get organised, but each one only takes 5 minutes or so to sort, and could make a huge difference to someone’s life.  Just imagine you could be responsible for kick-starting a love of reading for somebody who never thought it was for them.  Total joy!

1 – BookTrust Christmas Campaign

How lovely is this!  For just £10 you could gift a book to a child living in care.  The chosen book would come as a surprise, could be the first book they have ever owned, and will be enjoyed for years to come.  You can’t ask for more than that!  Love the idea and have already donated on behalf of some of my relatives.  This is a great way to think about other people, at a time when it can get all a bit much.  Why not get your children to help you donate?  Find more details here:

https://www.booktrust.org.uk/support-us/give-a-book-gift-and-light-up-a-child-in-cares-christmas/ 

2 – My local independent bookshop is involved in a fantastic campaign this year.  Why don’t you find out if yours is up to anything similar?  Basically, Simply Books will help you choose a book for a child, which will then be sent to either of two charities – Salford Women’s Aid and the Wood Street Mission.  Find more details here:

http://us5.campaign-archive.com/?u=dd9c40e292f7aebec2cecc0eb&id=834a924d75

3 – Book Aid International

This isn’t a Christmas one, this is a much needed all year round one but what a fabulous gift for someone who doesn’t really need anything this year.  From £6 to £25 a month you could make a huge difference to someone who’s life is simply not as lucky as ours.  Find out more and how to donate below:

Donate

If you have any other ideas then do let me know – not long now until the big day!

 

 

 

My daughter has reached that gorgeous age where she believes she has the power to read everything and anything.  She shouts out letters she recognises on street signs, in newspapers, in books that I’m reading.   Over and over again it makes me wonder what it must be like to experience the big wide world opening up, finding out you can finally understand things that you never thought you could. Seeing her pick up a book and have the confidence to give it a go is one of the loveliest things to witness.

On the flip side, this also makes me sad for the children that this doesn’t happen to.  I’ve been so fortunate to have 2 children that enjoy reading, hugely helped by a school that teaches the basics so well.  Books are celebrated at home and at school so they don’t really have much excuse!  But at the same time there is a big proportion of children who just don’t get the same opportunities.  I had a brief insight into how big a problem it is when I volunteered for the reading charity Beanstalk.  https://www.beanstalkcharity.org.uk/  I just thought I’d mention it in case anyone was looking for some volunteer work, that is easily accessible.  Basically, after a little bit of training, you will be given the opportunity to go into a local school and read, twice a week, with 3 children that need that little bit of extra help.  Alongside the reading, you can play games, spend a bit of time chatting, do puzzles, word-searches, anything to give them a bit of time out of the classroom and a real confidence boost.

When I was involved, I worked with 3 year 5 boys, which was daunting at first as my previous experiences were only with the really little ones.  However, it ended up being a really gratifying time (hopefully for all of us and not just me!)  The boys really got stuck in, and I just about managed to change their opinion that ‘books are boring.’  I’m not saying they became avid readers, but I definitely helped remove the fear factor, and together we found some books they enjoyed.  Most importantly, or I believe anyway, the experience gave the boys some chill out time, in what is now a pretty fast and frenetic life. You can’t get past the fact that children see books as old-school when compared to computers. ipads, PS4’s and so on.  But that isn’t a bad thing.  Books slow children down, make them look at subjects in more detail, and most importantly can be shared with an adult who really cares.  It really is the most rewarding experience when a child asks to read the book you found for them the week before because they were enjoying it so much.  Now that’s not something they would admit to in class, in front of their friends, maybe even their family, but because of the time you’ve invested in them they trust you not to make them look silly.  It’s a real bond, made over books, that will stay with them forever.  Priceless.

So, if you have a few hours a week free, then I would seriously recommend having a look at Beanstalk.  You get lots of support and they will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.  If you haven’t got any spare time, as your hands are full with your own children then do what you can to carve out those precious few minutes to sit down and read with them.  10 minutes a day has been repeatedly proven to work wonders for not only their reading skills, but also concentration, writing, communication and an overall feeling of security.  I know myself how difficult it can be, but I believe the long-term gain has to outweigh any short-term disruption.  And it won’t be forever!  Once they are confident readers you too will be able to get back to that novel that you have always been meaning to finish.

 

I’m all for the half-term holiday being exactly that, a holiday.  School can be tough and I truly believe a week off shouldn’t be about homework, projects, even reading. I know!! However, a Dad I met a couple of days ago asked me what to do with their child, who at reception age will kick and scream rather than open a book.  Not at school, only at home.  I didn’t really offer much help at the time, but since then I’ve had a think, and wanted to share a few ideas.  So here goes…

1 – As you know, I’m all about making reading a fun experience.  But it isn’t easy!! If the sight of a school book sends your child West, then leave it.  It’s tough as I know you can feel pressurised to get through as many books as you can by the teacher, but having a word and explaining you read lots of other books with him/her is not a problem.  So instead, choose a book that your child is interested in and work through it together.  This doesn’t even mean reading the words, just look at the pictures to start off with, talk about what’s on the page and most important of all stay relaxed.  If he/she can only sit still for 5 minutes at a time, that’s fine!

2 – The book you choose doesn’t have to be a reading book!  The market is saturated with some really clever alternatives.  You could go for a spotting book, a spot-the-difference book, a counting book, Lego book, a book connected to his favourite TV programme.  Even a kids magazine.  (The BBC ones are great.) Anything bright and cheerful and that you can do together.

3 – Pick your time.  Don’t attempt to get them interested if they are tired, hungry, or busy doing something else that they are really into.  Sitting down with a snack whilst looking at the book is not a bad idea, as a bit of distraction helps.  I wouldn’t try it at bedtime either.  That is your time to read to them instead.

4 – Use loads and loads of praise.  Every time they show interest pile it on.  You can’t be enthusiastic enough!!  It will get less of an effort with more practice.  You may even get to the point where they want to try and show you what they have learnt at school.  If they do, drop everything and listen.

5 – Read yourself, in front of them.  Have books around the house.  Show them that books are something not to be scared off, and can be enjoyable!  Have a look at my book box ideas at the top of this blog if you are unsure which books to have in the house.

Don’t forget, little ones learn to read at different ages, and at different stages.  Just be supportive and keep calm. It will come, so don’t let any anxieties you might have affect them. Reading is such a lovely activity to enjoy together.  If they see you getting something out of it, they will too.

I have lots of other tips, these are just simple ones you can try whilst trying to juggle everything else. Let me know if you want to hear anymore, or have any others you can share!

 

 

It was #bookshopday this week, where book shops, thankfully mainly independent ones, were celebrated and shared.  As you’ve probably gathered I have a weakness for bookshops,  and so this got me thinking. Imagine if you have never been to one, never experienced the magic inside?  Unthinkable.

So, this week I want to share a tip to start them young.  To make visiting a bookshop something to look forward to, where they will be able to make their own decisions about what type of reader they will become.  For the last couple of years my oldest daughter and her Grandma (two obsessive readers) have had a little deal.  On my daughter’s birthday her Grandma buys her a book token, for every month of the year.  (I know, extravagant, it started with 3 months worth, then 6, and now a whole year.)  What a gift!

This means my daughter has some money to spend on books each month, and she looks forward to (and constantly nags) about going to spend the vouchers.  Yes, she loves books, she loves collecting, and she also loves buying things for herself.  You can’t lose!  We’ve had some lovely times searching the shelves for what she wants, and she now has a long list of her favourite authors.  Stand up Holly Webb, David Walliams, Liz Pichon etc and keep writing as we are fast running out of books!

It’s a fabulous gift and one you may not have thought of before.  It could work as a Christmas present too, as an alternative to all that plastic fantastic you’ll get.  Stick the vouchers on the tree, turn it into a real event, a treasure hunt, anything to get them excited at the prospect of new books. I promise you, even the most reluctant of readers will enjoy spending money on themselves…

As a side issue, Independent bookshops really need your support at the beginning of the year when we usually stop spending, so this is a win win situation.  And they’ll be something for you too.  Most have a lovely café, where you can settle in with a brew and slice of cake whilst your kids go spending.  They are usually dripping with recommendations, lovely writing accessories and crafty stuff.  If nothing else it’s a few hours of joy in the dark depths of January.

So, if you want some advice about where to go, have a look here. This was written for #bookshopday and is full of reasons to support your local shop.  Enjoy!  https://inews.co.uk/essentials/culture/books/best-british-bookshops-according-authors