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!

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.

  So, how has it been going? Here’s hoping that your kids are settled back in school and enjoying the new term.  Mine have now reached Yr 4 and Yr 1, and it feels like things have really stepped up.  Fitting in homework, spellings, after-school clubs and reading x 2 can sometimes feel like a bit of squeeze.  Luckily my kids are pretty laid-back and we can get away with doing stuff on the hoof, but the reading bit is something that I am still pretty stern about.

I don’t know about you, but both my kids hit a bit of a stumbling book with their reading in Yr1, so this blog is about the need for (even more) patience.  From experience, and again I could be completely wrong, the reason for it is down to a huge leap in development and understanding, and the stumble is actually a good thing.  Throughout early years and reception it is all about phonetics, breaking down words and sounding them out.  Well, once they get to grips with this, then all that is old school – and they want to move on!!  This period, when it seems as though they are going backwards, is them actually getting to grips with ‘reading.’  Not sounding out words, but having a go at sight reading what is in front on them, just like we do as adults.

The upside is that they are now on their way to becoming super confident readers, the downside is that it takes heaps of patience from you.  They might not want to read anymore, as they are finding it tough.  It’s hard on their little brains to make the words make sense, so the biggest bit of advice I can give you is…go easy.  if you are used to them flying through their school books, but can now only manage a page or two, then as frustrating as it seems don’t worry, it’s OK.  It will come back.  Just do your best not to make reading a stressful time, keep it as something fun to do and then when they are ready it’ll fall into place.  Here’s some other tips that might be useful:

1 – I don’t think there is any harm in you reading the book to them first, so that it doesn’t feel like such a mountain to climb.  Often, their books will have more words then before, so it be a bit overwhelming.  If you go first they will feel more confident to give it a go.

2 – Play a game, make it fun.  You could read alternate words, every other sentence, five words at a go, whatever makes them smile and feel relaxed.  You also pick a letter out and let them only read the word starting with that letter.  Just make it enjoyable.

3 – This is a little technique used by the reading charity Beanstalk.  Let them read, but when they’ve had enough, they can tap on the page a couple of times, as a sign that they want you to take over.  It’s not something I’ve tried but it is designed to give them a bit of control over the reading session.

4- Don’t try and get them to read when they are tired, hungry etc.  Keep it a nice thing to do together.

5 – Shhh…don’t tell anyone, but if their school book is just not interesting them, just talk through it with them and hope the next one is better.  It is not a test, don’t force them if they are really not interested.  They can’t be expected to be enthralled by everything!

  • As a bit of a disclaimer, if you think your child is really struggling, as in you think there is something stopping them from reading, then don’t hesitate to talk to your teacher.  They will be really pleased that you are on it and will try and help.
  • Also, kids learn to read at different speeds!!!  Don’t ever be worried if you child seems to be not getting as fast as others. It is a skill that falls into place at different times.  Just please keep and fun and make it something that our child doesn’t become scared off.

Let me know how it goes!





Nearly there! End of the last week of what is the complete chaos of the Summer holidays.  I’ve been lucky enough to be off with the girls this Summer and it’s been lovely. I really can’t complain and haven’t found it too stressful.  Bloody expensive, but not as hard as I thought, although I’d be first to admit all the adventures I had planned didn’t happened.  A trip to Wales and a few friends houses plus 2 new guinea pigs was as far as we got, but we did it with limited arguments and a smiles on our faces so I’m taking that as a win.    I hope everyone else has had an OK time too, although I know what a headache juggling the kids can be if you’ve had to work.  But you’re almost there, back to school next week!

This coming year I’ll have one in Year 1 and one in Year 4.  Neither of my two are that great with change, so I always start the new term with a bit of trepidation.  My youngest was absolutely distraught at leaving Reception, so I have no idea how she will take to Year 1.  I know my older one struggled, finding the transition to a more work driven environment tough, but fingers crossed she copes.  As for Year 4, I have no idea what it may bring!

I have no tips for the year ahead as yet, (brain gone dead during the holidays) other than to remember that whatever year/s you are facing,  your kids are still only young and work, after school activities, reading (!!) etc should be fun.  Don’t put too much pressure on them to succeed, they’ve got the rest of their lives to cope with that one.  However, and I can’t emphasis this one enough, if you think your child does have an issue with a particular subject, (obviously reading is the one I’m most passionate) then don’t be afraid to kick up a fuss.  Go with your instinct, as unfortunately in our cash-strapped education system we now have to fight for everything.  I can’t urge you enough to fight for what your child needs, as thanks to our target loving Government schools just don’t have the time, facilities, extra departments anymore to do it alone. You need to be there every step of the way if you think there is a problem.  Just remember though, that it’s not the teachers fault, or the schools, they want the best for your child as well, it’s just there are limited resources they can access.  I’ve heard lots of cases of children who may be dyslexic, but can’t get the message across to school, as sadly extra services cost extra money.  Keep going though, as you can get support, you just need to know where to look.  Here’s an unusually useful article from the Daily Mail:

Here’s a few other websites that may be able to help:

Good luck and all the best for the year ahead!!



It’s been really interesting to see lots of articles on social media about the importance of reading 10 minutes every day with your child over the Summer. ( )  I couldn’t agree more, however, in reality I know how difficult it can be to put into practice.  All you’ve got to remember is that it isn’t your job to teach your child to read, just give them time to practice and make it an enjoyable experience.  You don’t have to make it a designated ‘let’s sit down with a book and read’ session, instead you can incorporate it into your day.  Reading has to be fun otherwise your child won’t do it!

Obviously it’s easier if you’re at home with your kids, but if you’re working there are still things you can do.  If you’re in the habit of reading to your child at bedtime, then dig out a book that you know they will understand a few words and let them have a go at those.  Choose a book with rhymes so that they get confident with it, and then will naturally join in once you’ve read it a few times.  If your child loves their i-pad download a book that you can read together.  There are lots of interactive/funny books out there to enjoy (as a Summer treat, books with pages are best!) You could also let them read the whole book but I know how much this elongates bedtime and that is not what you want after a busy day at work!

If you don’t usually read at bedtime, as it’s the Summer and everyone’s a bit more relaxed, could you give it a go?  Let your child choose the book as they will be keener to show off their skills.  Or, can you squeeze anything in in the morning?  I’m not kidding, even reading off the back of a cereal packet gets the thumbs up from me!

If you are at home with the kids, here’s a few ideas to pull off some reading practice without them knowing..

1 – If you’re going out for the day, let them do the planning.  Even if it’s a trip to the cinema, get them to google where you are going and what the film is about.  Deny all knowledge of the day ahead and they will read out what they have discovered.  Job done.

2 – If you’re going a bit further afield, boys especially love anything to do with directions.  Get them on AA route planner and let them work out the journey.  You could print it off and let them ‘direct’ as you go, although I can only imagine how irritating that might get.  Could be a way of keeping them entertained in the car for a bit though!

3-Also on the instruction front, have you ever tried geo-caching? Download the app and off you go.  There is a bit of research to be done, as well as some instructions to follow.  You get fresh air along the way and is a good way of tricking kids into going for a walk without realising.

4- If your staying in, cooking/baking is an easy way to do a bit of reading.  Get your child to choose the recipe and then read out the instructions as you go.  It’s a great way to test their comprehension skills as well.

5- Always remember reading doesn’t always have to involved a book.  On a wet afternoon nip down to your newsagent’s and choose a magazine together.  Children’s ones are packed with things to do with lots of snippets to read.  Boys particularly like graphic comics – remember if they enjoy them then they will read it!

6 – The Summer reading Challenge at the library. They basically need to read 6 books over the holidays.  What’s good is that they can be any books, you just need to be able to tell the librarian what they were about.  It’s probably for younger, and keener readers but there are stickers and challenges to keep the interested.  (And a medal and certificate at the end!)

7 – A visit to your local bookshop.  Independent ones are great as they always have activities on, as well as a café for a bit of TLC when you get there.  As you know I’m a huge fan of them, and is a good way of killing an hour or so on a wet afternoon.  If you have a few pennies to spare let them choose a book each, and this could be the book you dip into for your 10 minutes a day.

8 – Lead by example!  If you read, and your children see you read, then they are much more likely to give it a go.

If you have keen readers then happy days, you can get them to read pretty easily.  You could even do 10 minutes  before you get out of bed, but I know everyone isn’t so lucky.  Just try and keep the interest alive so that they are keen to continue learning at school.  Roll on September!