I’m a Mancunian but I haven’t visited the floral tributes.

I haven’t fully explained what happened to my daughter, 8 years old and a huge Ariana Grande fan.  She knows the briefest details, but that that is all. Not that people were killed.  Only hurt.

I watched the concert, donated money but that is all I have done.

In all honesty, Manchester, I feel a bit of a coward.

I’ve worked as a journalist here in the city, brought up two children here and still haven’t felt validated to add my voice to all those already on social media.  But then I went abroad and got sad, really sad.   Gone were the ‘You’re from Manchester?  Manchester United – the best football team in the world!’ And instead we got, ‘Oh.  Manchester, you say.  Terror attacks.’  Now that hurt.  Really hurt.  How dare our amazing, creative, multi-cultural, busy, fun city be tarnished by such cruelty?  I remember looking out of the taxi window with tears in my eyes, not knowing how to explain how wrong they were.

On arrival back home, I thought long and hard about what to do.  I thought about my children and what their future holds.  I’ve always worried that my daughter’s school cares more about attitude than academia, but have they got it right after all? This term they have celebrated friendship, team work and tenacity.  They’ve both come home with certificates for ‘ always doing the right thing’ and the teachers have held celebration assemblies to ensure all the children know what is expected of them. Could this be exactly what I need too?

If there is anything I have taken away from this terrible, turbulent time is joy in the space we’ve created where it is OK to express love and support.   In the past, I have been terrible at this.  Insular and a little under-confident I haven’t ever really made much effort with the people around me.  New neighbours moved in six weeks ago and I have barely said hello.  An elderly lady lives two doors down and I have never checked on her to see how she is doing.  This has got to change.  I have got to change, and I want to follow my daughter’s example and not be afraid to celebrate what’s good in the world.

I’m not brave enough do any big gestures to help those directly affected, but I can do lots of small things to help those that weren’t.

I want to be a better person.

Thanks Manchester. You’ve shown me the way.




It’s a biggy.  Books and the bedtime routine.

This one is again about removing any fear of books/reading off the agenda, and making kids see reading as a lovely, shared activity.  It is now actually full-on, proper advice that the NHS give to get your little one to bed. Known as the 3 b’s (bath, book, bed), find details here : http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/Pages/getting-baby-to-sleep.aspx

I can’t stress enough how a bedtime routine keeps everyone sane. Having kids up with you in the evenings when you’ve already had a long day with, or without, them is no fun. What’s great, is that if your routine happens the same way from day one, then the child never knows any different and it won’t complain. It will never become a battle as they just presume the rest of the world lives like this! Also if you’ve had a really busy day at work, then that child knows this sliver of time is all theirs and no one else’s. It often means you can trick them into looking forward to getting into bed…and ultimately giving you that precious evening of peace!

In my house, and I’m not saying that I’ve nailed it every time, the reading part of the routine is the bit we all look forward to. My little one has to be limited to three, as otherwise we’d be there all night. (She knows more books mean less time asleep so I have to be tough.) After her bath/shower she picks them off her bookshelf, she then decides the order and then we are off. (Inside, this can be the point you are thinking ‘we are nearly there!’) Actually, when I say she chooses them, I don’t let her pick pop-up, noisy, lift-the-flap ones as I want her to stay as still as possible, and basically give her the best chance to nod off. Story-books are the way forward.   It’s more than likely that the books that are chosen are ones you’ve read a zillion times before but that doesn’t matter. Grin and bear it as often they are the books that make your child get to sleep faster. It’s all about security, knowing what’s coming next, the familiar routine which is so important at bed-time. (As a tip ‘the favourites’ are the ones to read if you are trying to get them down early if you’re going out as they are the ones that will relax them more.  Take a look at my book box ideas for a list of our all time favourites if that helps!)

When they are super small, you might feel like it’s a bit pointless to read a story to them as they clearly can’t understand it, but it is so important for them to hear your voice, changes in intonation, and have that bonding time when everything is a bit quieter and calmer. It can take a while to get there, and I remember saying to my Mum when my first one was born that bedtime seemed to take ages, but it’s been well worth it. Both children sleep really well and have always been fine about going to bed.

(The other great tip my Mum taught me was to get the baby to know the difference between light and dark, ie when it’s time to go to sleep! This means setting up the bedrooms BEFORE they go in it. Curtains closed, blinds down etc and nightlights on so that everything looks lovely and cosy. I promise, it makes all the difference. In Summer they then also question less why they are going to to bed in the light…)

As for older children, I still read to my 8 year old and it has only recently crossed my mind that one day, probably pretty soon, that is going to stop. However, at the minute, we are on a magical journey together, sharing books that I loved as a child. It’s been brilliant to re-read them and bless her, there’s a big list I want to get through! These reading sessions are less about getting the child to sleep, and more about chilling out at the end of the day. This is the time that any worries or anxieties can surface, so sometimes the reading time is replaced by just talking, which is just as important.

To sum up, my tips for a straight-forward bed time:

1 – bath etc before your child is too tired and can still enjoy it

2- pj’s on in already darkened but cosy room

3 – choose books

4- read books together, ideally with the child already tucked up in bed

5- Goodnight hugs and SLEEP!

6 – the happy sleep jig and a cold glass of wine…

If anyone has any other tips to add/share then I would love to hear from you!

OK, so here is my box book idea for ages 1-4.  Book boxes are something that I have thought of to encourage families to have books in the house.  We all have toy boxes, so why not book boxes?  You don’t have to be a reader yourself, this is an easy way to let your little ones explore books and never have to fear them.  1-4 years is my all time favourite age as reading is still just a massive adventure for them.  It might be a bit time consuming as they want to try and read stuff themselves but stick with it, as this is when you can really fire up their enthusiasm for books.  The list below doesn’t contain anything particularly new, instead just stories that have captured both my girls imaginations.  Some are classics so if you want to copy head to your library, charity shop or local independent bookshop to see what you can find.


1 -Mr Men series – Roger Hargreaves

I’ve gone all retro again, and I can’t say I agree with all the books in the series as they can be a bit out-dated, but what I do like it that they give kids exposure to words that don’t usually appear in their books. I swear these have helped give my daughters a wider range of vocabulary than normal.  If you read them enough (if you are anything like me it will be every night for about two years….zzzz.)  Anyway, they allow your kids to get to know standard emotions such as  happy, funny, mean etc and action words like sneezy, rush and so on and they get to learn what they mean through osmosis.  They are also small, so fit perfectly in your suitcase or bag whenever you go anywhere. The set is pricey (much better at The Book People) but you can buy individual ones for a couple of pounds. Our all time favourites are Mr Nonsense and Mr Funny.


2 – Literally Anything by Julia Donaldson

Here she is again (she also appeared in my 0-12 months list) , but this time it’s for The Gruffalo, The Smartest Giant in Town, Highway Rat, The Snail and the Whale, Zog etc. All wonderful stories that will be enjoyed over and over again. The way she rhymes is so simple yet so accessible to kids.  They are the perfect length to read at bedtime and use language that children can understand. The woman is a genius so I will say no more.  They also make great birthday presents.

3 – You Choose – Nick Sharratt

Image result for You Choose nick sharratt book copyright free

I think this is my all time favourite children’s book. There are very few words but the possibilities are endless. Put simply, you and your little one choose what ever they like from the pictures on the page, they then can be the inspiration for stories, characters, role-play etc. I use this book at work on kids right up to Year 5 and they love it. Simply brilliant, especially as it doesn’t matter if you can read or not as you still can get the same pleasure from it.  (Nick Sharratt also appears in my 0-12 month list.  The man is simply a god.)


4 – Oi Frog/Oi Dog – Kes Gray, Jim Field

These are such funny, clever, engaging rhyming books that will make you both laugh. They are great for word-play and such fun to read out loud. The kids love the characters as well, as they are really beautifully drawn. They really encourages kids to try out their own rhyming skills and I never seem to get bored of reading them, as you find something new every time you do. I love books that have something for the adults as well as the child.

5 -Dogs Don’t Do Ballet – Anna Kemp

Now I don’t actually own this one, but we must have got it out of the library about a hundred times! It really captured my older one’s imagination when she was little, as she loved spotting the cheeky dog on all the pages. It’s a lovely story to read at night as it teaches them all about getting stuck into something if you really love it. Again, humour is the key here.


6 – I love You, Blue Kangaroo – Emma Chichester-Brown

We love all Emma’s books, but Blue Kangaroo is the most popular in our house. My older one has a taggie that she adores, so I think she could relate to Blue Kangaroo in this story. There are other stories about Blue Kangaroo, and a lovely one for Christmas too.


7 – Totally Wonderful Mrs Plumberry/ Our House– Michael Rosen

He’s back!   My ultimate hero in kid’s books. These books also appear in my 0-12 month list as they are suitable for all ages.  He just seems to find a way of bringing alive something that is so important to children, but of which they might not be able to articulate. The child in Mrs Plumberry is just like both my daughters. So desperate to show something at school, but then someone else comes in with something bigger and better. Everyone should have a Mrs Plumberry in their classroom. As for Our House, if you have ever watched a group of children play you will understand this book.

8 – The Princes Bedtime – Joanne Oppenheim

Another beautiful rhyming one, that I did spend a full year reading as my daughter’s ‘last’ book at bedtime. It works wonders on kids that have a habit of nipping in and out of bed as it basically tells them to curl up and go to sleep. (It also makes you feel pretty smug and it says you are doing the right thing by reading them to sleep.) Lovely illustrations too.

9 – The Queen’s Knickers – Nicholas Allen

The title says it all really! It’s about a Queen and her choice of knickers. Now I don’t know about you but pants/knickers etc get talked about a lot in our family so this is just great to make you child laugh. It’s also got a bit choice for the child (she can choose her own favourite ones) and the ending makes them think that it’s possible you Queen might tip up at their school one day.

10 – Mrs Wobble the Waitress – Janet & Allan Ahlberg

Stepping back in time again, but I can’t really put into words how important these writers are to the world of children’s books. Their rhymes are so skilful yet so simple, and they can teach them so much. This one is part of a huge series, Mrs Plug the Plumber, Miss Jump the jockey etc and although a bit out-dated in parts the use of language is so important. Investigate all their work as you will find some real classics that you might even remember from being small.

* I use The Man Who Wore All this Clothes (just by Allan this one) to help reluctant readers as the repetition and routine within it is very good for making children feel secure with their reading. This is part of a series that they really enjoy.

As you can see humour, repetition and rhyming wins out in my family.  Have you got any other tips?  If so, I would love to hear from you. I’ve really enjoyed putting these lists together, I really hope you get the chance to have the same amount of fun!!






I showed my previous blog to my husband about my book box idea and his response was ‘ if you’re telling people to get a book box, then why don’t you tell them what to put in it?’  I hated the idea at first as I’m not here to instruct anyone what to do.  It didn’t take me long to realise, however, that this was an ace excuse to immerse myself in a load of books and wallow in some lovely memories.  So, when I finally got started…I couldn’t stop!

I’ve since spent hours looking through all my girls books, ( I know, I can’t part with any of them yet. Or least not the best loved ones. ) There are no really out there ones, crazy choices to show you how booky I am.  In fact the list is very conservative, but each book has a very special memory and a reason for being chosen. So here is a hugely abridged version of my book box, as well as a little  trip back through those first years of being a Mum.  I’ll do a few as I’ve done them in age order, so older kids will be catered for in my next blog.  I hope you enjoy it as much as me.

So starting with books suitable for 0-12 months…in no particular order as I love them all!!

1 – ‘That’s not my’….(bunny,dinosaur,monster,snowman etc the list is endless)

A really funny, lovely touchy feeling series of books that can be enjoyed over and over again. My (just) 5 year still loves them, and likes to make stories up around the pictures. As I’ve still got them, what’s great is that now she is learning to read she is beginning to understand the short sentences on each page. They’re hard back, so can be chewed, dribbled on but will last the test of time. They are also a great size to stick in your bag when you are out and about.  Ours actually came in a box of boxes donated by my niece so they already had a very special, well used feel to them when we got them.

2-‘Dear Zoo’ by Rod Campbell 


It’s  a classic (35 years old!) that children just love.  They will read it repeatedly, learning something new every time. I’ve got Dear Zoo as a book, a sound book and a pop-up book and each one is great and offers something different. I’ll never forget my older one being scared of the lion. We always had to miss that page out which was part of the fun.  I’ve just stumbled across the official website that has lots of games and fun stuff to do connected with the book.  See the link above if you fancy having a look.


3,4 – Anything by the God that is… Nick Sharratt


Seriously, the list is endless.  His illustrations are really fun, and very attractive to little ones. Top of the list is Pants, followed by Socks, then a really special one is What’s in the Witch’s Kitchen? I actually got it when my older daughter was in Year One so you can see how it endures. She loved it at school and I ended up having to get a copy from America (it wasn’t cheap.)It’s so clever, with the reader able to choose whether they are going to get something nasty or nice by lifting or pulling certain parts of the book.  The element of ‘surprise’ never wears off, not even on it’s a hundredth read! It’s a book I often use when I first meet children I’m going to work with, as it’s a real ice-breaker. (Unless you are working with a child who’s been told not to read about witches and you get in trouble for suggesting it. Yep, that happened to me.)  I think I read this one every night for about a year and we laughed out loud each time.  Great memories.


5 – ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ by  Michael Rosen

It’s a classic and I’m sure pretty much every household already has a copy. I think we’ve got three, the real treasure being the huge pop-up version that is super interactive. This is great as your child can get really involved and they love the gentle rhymes and simple story.  Michael Rosen is SO talented at telling a story in just a few words.  Because of this, as your children grows this is a great one for them to tackle as they start recognising words.  The rhymes make them feel very comfortable and, therefore, confident in their ability to read as the words can be easily memorised.  This is another one I use for children struggling with reading.  A book that can be completed in one session is ideal as it gives the kid such a sense of accomplishment.


6,7,8 – To be honest,  anything by the wonderful Michael Rosen

The list is endless.  Vying for the top spot in our house is The Bear in the Cave. It’s probably my all time favourite book to read at bed time, (beating the Sleeping Rabbit one hands down) as it can make you child wonderfully sleepy ( yep, so that bed time is shorter and you can get downstairs faster. I’m not gonna lie. On nights I’m going out, this book gets wheeled out.) The sentiment and rhymes within it are truly special though and it’s a great way to introduce new sounds.   ‘My House,’ and ‘Totally Wonderful Mrs Plumberry’ are also, well, just wonderful.  When I read them I always wonder if Rosen spent days in a nursery, just sitting and observing children.  He again brings to life a really simple story that tunes into how your child thinks.


9– The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Image result for The Very Hungry Caterpillar book images free

Again, another classic. The board book version has cut outs and bright pages and so just lovely to look at. Again the words can be memorised pretty quickly, and it’s also great for recognising food, as well as a little bit of counting. It’s just such a simple concept and I think that’s why children love it. My little one loves a good meal, so wen reading this one to her we can chat about her favourite food as well!  She also loves me turning the last page into an actual butterfly, using the pages to make it fly away.


10 – Julia Donaldson – Fox’s Socks (Any of the Acorn Wood Series)


Image result for fox in socks julia donaldson

I LOVE this woman.  I mean, in today’s word you can’t have a list of children’s books that doesn’t include Julia Donaldson.  I reckon if you’ve got a child, then you will have a Julia Donaldson book somewhere. Now, I’ll get onto her best known books soon, but for little ones, the life-the-flap tales from Acorn Wood series are just wonderful. I could write a whole blog, (in fact I probably will) on the joys of Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, but for 0-12 these books are great. Fox’s Socks is a popular one in our house, closely followed by Postman Bear. Lift the flap books give a child real independent thinking that makes then feel in charge.  You will also be surprised how they don’t get bored at finding out what is behind the flaps!


10* – Amazing baby – Quack, Quack!


This one had to go in, as this was one of the first baby related things I ever bought. It was on a trip to Mamas & Papas when I was about 5 months pregnant and had NO idea what I was doing. We bought that, and a little blankie thing which remains untouched in a drawer. The book, however, is all tatty and worn having been read over and over again. We’ve also got the Animal Babies one which feels lovely with a soft front and is great for counting when they get a bit older.

10** Ladybird mini range

Ok, I’m going out on a bit of a curve here. I have no idea why, but the 1,2,3 counting book was an absolute favourite with my older one when she was this age. Each number has it’s own page, and therefore each page had it’s own possibility of a made-up story and I must have read it at bedtime about a thousand times. There are some little spotting games at the back too. Again these are great as they get older and want to learn more about the world.  There’s a huge range of the them, colours, A,b.c, Home, Farm etc so plenty to choose from.


So, I have to admit this list was probably more for you to get to know me a little bit, rather than to make you go out and buy every book on the list.  In the fast moving world of books there are no new ones on here as this was me looking back to when my girls were small.  But classics are classics for a reason.  It’s also not a definitive list, and as books are relatively cheap, the joy is that it can and will keep changing. I’ve really enjoyed doing this, and I know I’ll think of lots of other favourites once this is published.

Not to labour the point but I will do a few more for different age groups, so do let me know if you find any of it useful. Or if you want to do the same – please share your ideas.










This is all a bit left-field I know I as bang on about books all the time, but I also just want to underline the importance of reading other stuff as well, not just books. It’s inspired by my last ranty post about social media.   I hate the fact that to feel like ‘ a reader’ you have to have read the most recent Booker Prize list, and know what’s in this weeks top ten. You don’t. You don’t even need to read books; magazines, recipes books, instruction manuals anything as long as it interests you and fires off your imagination.

If you are visually happy, comfortable or whatever it is with whatever you are reading, then you are going to give off super positive vibes around the house. To be interested in what you’re reading is the key, whatever the age. It drives me potty when school books are slid into my daughter’s book bag of which she has absolutely no interest in. What is the point of that? I know it’s part of a drive to teach her comprehension skills, but to me it gives out the wrong signals about what reading should be.  It shouldn’t be a forced activity, it should be something completely absorbing and interesting. There is a vast range of subject matter out there and  thankfully, we don’t all like the same thing.

What I am most desperate to get rid of, is the label that reading is some kind of punishment, or forced activity. ‘Sit in the corner and read a book!’ ‘Go upstairs and read a book!’ Two phrases that I really hope aren’t used any more. Reading should be a pleasurable, leisurely activity, one that has good connotations for all. If exposed to books, a child who likes reading will pick one up and get started. A child that doesn’t, must be shown that books shouldn’t be sneered at. There will be something out there that they like!

1 Magazines – for younger children the BBC ones are all great as they teach early phonics too

2 – Jaqueline Wilson magazine

3 – Footballing magazines full of facts

4 – Comics (Beano – yes, it’s still going!)

5 – Joke books

6 – Graphic novels (Anthony Horowitz series is amazing, especially for reluctant boys)

7 – Stories on the ipad  (I know, I know, but see, I’m not completely adverse!)

8- Cook books (think of the fun you can have cooking together)

9 – Annuals

10- Guiness book of World Records




The headline ‘Pupils as young as four having panic attacks.‘ Wow, that makes me sad.  Seriously, what kind of a world are we living in?  Teachers reporting stressed out kids is nothing new, but at 4?? This has got to be addressed.  And you know what one of the causes is?  Social media.  I tell you, social media is turning us into stressed out, unhappy individuals.  Are the panicked ones the kids that are plastered all over social media to show everyone else how great their lives are? Are they the kids that go to every extra-curricular activity so a selfie of the kid with a certificate can be shared to the world?   As teenagers, are the stressed ones the ones that just can’t complete with the fake world of social media?

Obviously it’s not all as clear cut as that as factors at home, relationships, friendships etc cause anxiety, and some kids have such chaotic lives they are simply out of anyone’s control.  I also totally note the irony of me writing this on here, but social media is something that we can control.  Carve out some quiet time.  Do something retro like read a book.  Switch your phone off for a short time every day and just feel the stress ebb away.  It’s a gift you could pass on to your kids as well.  Remember, when they are little, they want to do everything that you do.  If you’re on your phone all day, they’ll think that’s the norm.  If you read a book, that instead will become the everyday. I’m not saying switch off all together, but just let it have less impact in our lives.  You never know, reading could be something your kids turn into a lifelong passion.  Not something that you can say about the fleeting, ever changing world of social media.




I can imagine in every household with pre-school aged children there will be a toy box. I reckon much less, however, have a book box. And for today, that is all I’m proposing. You might not be a reader yourself so you wouldn’t naturally have a bookshelf, but a book box, with only say 10 books in it, is a great way to introduce little ones to books. Babies see books as toys as they are so colourful, can be handled (and chewed) without breaking, and by turning the pages themselves they feel they are doing something truly grown-up. Now these books don’t have to be brand new, in fact the more loved the better. If you fancy the idea, then a quick trip to your local charity shop can sort you out in minutes, and what’s really handy is that once read they can be swapped back. You could use library books, or if you did fancy investing in a few then head out to an independent bookshop where the owner will be a mine of information on what’s out there. It’s also a fab few hours out of the house, as most have a café where you can also stop for a coffee and a chat. In those long first few months with a baby I can’t tell you how lovely it is to talk to another adult! For toddlers there are often pens and paper out to doodle on, and they often host their own story telling events, all great ways to encourage a love of stories.

Now, once the book box is open for business, make sure it’s on the floor so that your little one can have a play around themselves. Let them get them out, feel the pages and look at the pictures. It really is a treat to see a child fascinated by a story. Once this is enjoyed then the fear of books is already lost! They become an every day object, which is seen as a plaything rather than a chore. You of course can also share the activity by reading together. And the best bit? Books have an ending so if you are a busy Mum, you can set a natural time limit even before you start. (Always useful, especially at bedtime when you’ve got your sights set on Corrie and a cold glass of wine. Don’t worry; I am a huge advocate of missing a few pages out if you’ve been on your feet since 6am!)

(I’ve had loads of fun routing through all our books, have a look at the menu above for some ideas!)