Wednesday 26 July 2017

Books Aren't Vegetables.

Reading is not just vegetables, it's also dessert

Waging a war to get your child to read can never be won; the only true victory happens when you lay down your arms and befriend the fact that for some children, reading is like having to eat their vegetables...they only do it because a parent said it was good for them or a teacher makes them do it before they can move on to something 'fun'.

The more we treat reading like a chore or homework, the more children are going to become disengaged from the true purpose of books; to give the gift of another world, a new friend or a mirror to celebrate what makes us all truly unique.

Here are my top 3 ways that you can make reading less like vegetables, and more like dessert.

Reading is independent

Even though an emerging reader will need help in the beginning, the goal of teaching a child to read is so they can become independent and do it on their own. Have books available for your child at their current reading level, not the reading level they are 'meant' to be. This may mean starting with picture books and building on literacy and language from their, but in their own pace. They should always be able to read the text comfortably and it doesn't always have to be out loud. Don't interrupt or correct unless they look for help. Asking questions after each book is a great way to promote reading comprehension and determining whether to increase the complexity of the stories. The more you encourage your children to take their own initiative the more confidence they will build. They won’t be afraid to give books a go and you will find they will naturally choose reading over other alternatives.

Reading is about choice

School children are seldom given the choice for what, when and where to read. By giving your child a choice outside of school, it will allow them to understand that there is a time and place for texts that serve a purpose in an educational setting, as well as books that are read purely for enjoyment. Take them to your local library and let them choose books that interest them. Don't judge or deny because you think it is above or below their capacity; you would be surprised how much value can be obtained from the most obscure book, all because it engaged a child in some way.

Reading is fun

Going back to the purpose of books, reading is meant to be a way of connecting, not only to the world around us, but to world's that only exist in our imagination. If you child prefers to read graphic novels, comic books or on a tablet, that has to be totally ok. For all its intrinsic educational value, reading is entertainment. Fun online reading games, reading apps and read along YouTube videos all have their place in modern literacy.  How can we expect children to grow up to be life long readers if we place restrictions on the mode that engages them the most, whether it be paper or screen? There is room for both. Books have always come in all shapes and sizes, so reading is reading, no matter the medium. Focus on your child developing a passion for reading and everything else is just icing on the cake.

Do you have any other suggestions for why you agree that books are definitely dessert? I would love to hear from you.

Tuesday 18 July 2017

3 Reasons Why Picture Books Are More Than Just Words and Pictures

Picture Books depart magic and wisdom to children all over the world every day, but they are so much more than a literacy tool. They are a gift to all of us; those who read them as well as those who write them.

1. When you read a picture book, you are seen.

Reading a book is sharing a story with a stranger. You might be in the arms of someone you love, but from another town or even another country, a storyteller is opening up your eyes and in turn, looking to you for your response. It happens without fanfare. It sees past the face you put on over your real one. There might me hints at secrets that you hide but understand. There might be a look in the characters eyes that mirrors your own. It could be something as simple as a truth you had always considered but never been brave enough to say out loud.

This storyteller sees you. There is somebody out there who gets it—it being you.

2. When you read a picture book, you learn.

The degree to which readers feel comfortable expressing their views is never more evident than when reading a picture book. Children are able not only to put their ideas out for public inspection on the cognitive worktable, but they also respond to and challenge their peers ideas. These interactions with one another suggest a high level of cognitive engagement in that children are listening to and responding to not only the story, but to another and making thoughtful contributions. Additionally, the evidence suggests that the comprehension process stimulated by predicting, relating and questioning that occurs provides guidelines about how to talk about issues children feel strongly about and what to say in order to participate and share their own views.

3.When you read a picture book, you are loved.

As a picture book author, this innate love seems to be a given for me, but it is overlooked by so many readers. It is no just the words or pictures we are sharing, it is the hours of creative angst, self doubt, compromise and negotiation. It is the tears between the pages, the laughter trapped between the blank spaces and the overwhelming need to share and share again with perfect strangers those parts of us that sometimes we don't let even those you know us best see.  A picture book is love in one of it's more basic forms. It is a gift we give freely and with the hopes that the reader will feel the love we poured into it just for them.

If you would like to share what gift picture books have given you and your family, please feel free to comment or contact me, I would love to hear your stories.

Wednesday 12 July 2017

Top Tips for How to Read to Kids Who Don't Like Books

We have all heard the age old mantra that children should be read to from birth and this is true, in an ideal world. There is such a thing as a child who simply doesn't want to be read to, who can't sit still long enough or has trouble processing words and pictures at the same time. These children need to be introduced differently to the world of books and progressively to reading, in their own time and on their own terms. Just because they don't have a natural affinity with books, doesn't mean they should miss out on the benefits of Sensory Storytelling.

My youngest son, Tom, was born at 28 weeks. He has recently been diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder. He doesn't play with other children, he doesn't watch TV and most of all, he doesn't read books. As a picture book author, not being able to share books with him just about breaks my heart. So, I have been working with him to find some age appropriate, sensory friendly ways to help him discover and embrace the magic of books.

Children who are not interested in books can be put off by many things, some seemingly more significant than others but all of them need to be acknowledged and addressed. Every child is different, but let’s take Tom for example. Firstly, the size of the book bothers him. Bigger is not always better. He will open the book to a page but won't allow or initiate page turning. Even at 18 months old, everything still goes in the mouth. He doesn't like being read to with the book in front of him, but will listen if I am behind and eventually come to me when he is ready. We have never had a successful bedtime storytelling session whereas with my older two boys, we read a book or ten together every night.

My best tip would be don’t attempt to try and read books to a disinterested child at bedtime. They are tired and cranky, and you might be too. Find a bedtime routine that works for them and run with it. Don’t feel guilty if you are not reading to them at night. The second tip is to keep it simple. Choose three books about subjects your child is familiar with and let them choose which one they would like you to read them. 

• Let them touch the book before you start reading.

• Establish a comfortable personal space 

• Be slow and deliberate in your movements, especially when turning the page and pointing to words

• Keep your voice low and calm, limiting expression to what is needed for understanding to begin with and then adding facial expressions and repetitive head movements.

• Look at the pictures in the book first before going back and reading the words if they are still interested. The pictures themselves will foster discussion and interaction.

• Allow fidgety behaviour and if the child is unable to sit still, stand up and walk around while reading.

This is a process and may have to be repeated many times before they become responsive to what you are trying to achieve. Don’t give up. The reward of parent-child bonding over a picture book story is more than worth the effort.

What ways do you have of engaging reluctant readers? I'd love to hear your tips.

Wednesday 5 July 2017

Why You Should Read Classic Children's Books to Modern Kids

A parent recently told me that her kids would never be interested in reading the books she read as a child because they were too old fashioned. It struck me that in my experience, this was definitely not the case.

I read the books I treasured as a little girl to my boys and not withstanding the gender difference, they loved them. Some were considered classics, but most just held beautiful childhood memories for me. The reason I read them to my children is because I believed in the deep resonance they had with me that must have stuck with me for some reason.  They held a truth that my heart recognised and I wanted to share with and teach that truth to my family.  If history has taught us anything, it is that stories always endure.

Here are my top 5 reasons to read your favourite books to your kids.

1. It connects you.

One of the most beautiful things in life is sharing books you read as a child. I loved the old books my mother and grandmother had from their childhood and read to me. They connected me to their lives and history.
2. Today’s kids will still understand.

If it is a good story, children with enjoy it, no matter if the writing style is not what they are used to. In fact, it is an excellent vocabulary building tool and reading extension for creative thinking to expose them to different sentence structure. Children’s books celebrate universal themes that are timeless.


3. You have fun reading them out loud.

Share your excitement and enjoyment by reading the books aloud. The children will respond to your joy and it is a great way to initiate open conversation about why you loved the book and what about it has stayed with you over the years.

 4. Explore other perspectives

Kids can understand whose point of view a story is coming from if you take the time to explain the social context it was written in. Balance it out, talk about it. Being able to see things from a variety of perspectives is a big step in tolerance and moral development. It can also give kids a historical context…depending on how old they think you are.


5. Extend the learning

Use the reading as a starting point to fire you children’s imagination and extend their learning to a trip to the museum or another place of interest that can expand on the concepts and historical context discussed in the story. Seeing how far we have come has its place. Books can be portals through time and space and the more children are exposed to the organic value of reading and the meaning it has for them in their day to day lives.


My favourite childhood books are too many to list here, but I will give you my top 5 series and authors.

Anne of Green Gables series

Little House on the Prairie series

Enid Blyton Books

Beatrix Potter Books

Mem Fox Books


I would love to know what books framed your childhood. Please let me know in the comments.