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

I just thought I’d do a really quick post about some lovely books that my daughter (aged 8) and I have really enjoyed recently. I’ve seen a fair bit on social media about this age being a bit of struggle, when you’ve polished off the ‘classics,’ (Roald Dahl, David Walliams etc)  You may think 8 is a bit old to still be read to at bedtime, but we genuinely love finding books together and it is a great way for both of us to wind down.  It’s not every night, I admit.  Some nights it’s just not going to happen and she happily reads to herself, but when we do sit down together it’s still a lovely time.  So if you’re short of a few ideas, we’ve been on a really good run recently and found some brill reads that I thought would be good to share:

 

Madame Doubtfire

Totally have to admit that I didn’t know this was written by Anne Fine! I loved her when I was young (especially The Indian in my Cupboard) I’ve only ever seen the film so it was a joy to read the original story.  She is a fair bit different to the Robin Williams character, but still really loveable.  The premise is the same.  Divorced Dad, wants to see his kids, using Madame Doubtfire as a way to do that.  Some parts I had to gloss over a little bit, and obviously we watched the film afterwards, forgetting about some of the more fruity language! Anyway, we loved it and it is well worth a read.  (Also, I can’t recommend Anne Fine enough, pretty much all her books are spot on.  YA readers will enjoy them too.)

 

 

Return to the Secret Garden

We loved, loved, loved this book! (Oh, and we are HUGE Holly Webb fans too.  Really talented writer that makes reading really fun and accessible.)  Now, we’ve read the Secret Garden, and you kind of have to, to make this one make sense.  The original is very wordy, and I think it could be a bit much for some, but with a bit of explanation we got through it and my daughter loved it, just like millions of us before her.  This update by Holly Webb, however, is just perfectly written and a real joy to re-visit all the old characters.  It was so lovely to see my daughter work out who was who 30 years on, and to hear about what had happened to the garden.  I have to say there are some sad parts in it, one in particular that you have to go a bit carefully with, but it is a truly stunning book.  Lots of questions asked about WW2 too, so if you child happens to be doing it at school it would be a good one to read.

 

 

 

 

The World According to Humphery

This is a book and author that I had never heard of until my daughter brought it home from school.  It’s written by Betty G. Birney, and having googled it I’ve discovered it’s the first in one massive series!  It’s all about Humphery, a school hamster, and how he sees the staff and children in his class.  There are some really funny bits in it, and he gets up to all sorts of adventures.  It’s quite American but it does translate pretty well.  By the looks of it there are some shorter, easier to read ones too for younger readers that might be good fun.  For a family that have recently acquired 2 guinea pigs this is a good one to read.  Overall it’s a real innocent plot with a cheeky, furry pet as the main character – what more do you want!

 

Any other recommendations would be greatly appreciated, please do get in touch with ideas.