Ask a librarian – “Help, my child has a kindle!”

Ok, so you have made the leap into e-books and decided that it’s time your child had an e-reader – what now? What on earth are you going to put on it?

Chances are your child will have very set ideas about what they want on there, but does it represent value for money, and are you giving them quality? There are thousands and thousands of free books available on Kindle and the temptation is to download a whole bunch of them and just see how it goes. However, in my experience this has a similar effect on children to wheeling in a barrow of dusty volumes and saying “you should be reading these books.” They will simply ignore them and it will clutter up their e-readers with material that they have no intention of ever looking at, let alone reading.

I have comprised a very short list based entirely on the free or under £1.50 books currently available on Kindle.

These are classics that I feel your child will enjoy, and that represent high quality yet approachable and readable material. I won’t review these, as most of them you will know. They may not match your list, and this list will certainly not include every free classic available, but these are the ones that in my experience a modern child should find accessible enough to read and enjoy.

I hope it helps.

Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland – Lewis Carroll (free)

The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett (free)

The Complete Oz Collection – L Frank Baum (currently on at 77p for the complete set!)

Treasure Island – RL Stevenson (free)

Five Children and It – E Nesbit (free)

The Story of the Treasure Seekers – E Nesbit (free)

Enchanted Castle – E Nesbit (free)

Peter Pan – J M Barrie (free)

Wind in the Willows – K Grahame (free)

Pinocchio – Carlo Collodi (free)

Beauty and the Beast – Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont (free)

The Velveteen Rabbit – Margery Williams (49p)

The Wombles – Elizabeth Beresford (£1.50)

e-books, e-readers, e-issues…..

I am a YA writer and school librarian and I run training courses for school librarians. During my courses the one subject that everyone wants to discuss is the e-reader issue.  Here are my thoughts on the matter. I originally posted this last year (so you will notice some of the comments are from then) but have spruced it up with some new thoughts. To be honest not much has changed and I am still being asked the same questions so I felt it was worth posting this again. I’d love your thoughts on the matter, and if you disagree with me!

I am aware that there are many people who do not see the attraction of a Kindle or e-reader, be it for esoteric or logistical reasons – and I must confess that I used to be one of those. I am now, however, a complete convert.  They are undeniably convenient; being able to carry around thousands of books in one simple and lightweight device is an absolute luxury. 

But what does this mean for the industry, and for libraries?

First, we need to consider the use of the e-reader.  I have a large amount of case-history evidence that shows that they provide a great incentive to less keen or able readers.  In the schools where they are already in use it is clear that they can often provide the extra step that less keen and struggling readers require to clear the last hurdle to finishing a book.  The e-reader is defiantly not a book, and for all children who have struggled to read and learnt nothing more than how to hate a book they can be a revelation.  I have personally seen a child who has spent most of their school years fighting every attempt to engage them in reading, not only finish a book using e-readers, but love it too.

So they work.

But do the children who only read e-books ever tackle anything else? Do they learn to love books?  Do they become keen and avid readers in the long term?

Possibly not, time will tell, but they can read and isn’t that the whole point?

There is another argument that the e-book will kill the paper book, but once again only time will tell on that. History has, however, gifted us with many examples of other technological advances that threatened established leisure industries.  Video did not kill the radio star.  DVD did not kill cinema and CDs have not killed the music industry.  Oh yes these industries have all been changed by the rapid move of technology, but the ones who absorbed the change still exist.  Publishers will (and rapidly are) absorbing the changes and will make it their own. Some may not make it successfully; it depends on how quickly they can move with the times and find their own niche.

Kindle owners do still buy books, the Amazon forums show that, and Kindle owners are quite defensive about this fact.  There are many things that an e-reader is still not useful for, revision being a classic example.  Flicking back and forth and jotting down notes? Nope, too fiddly on a kindle and (whilst you can annotate text) it is nowhere near as simple as (book purists look away now) a pencil in the margin.  Course materials and set text books are not readily available in e-book format and, no matter how wonderful the illustrations, indices and layouts become, I have yet to see a method of spreading several connecting texts out in front of you the way you can lay books out.  How many of you have revised by stretching out on the carpet with five books open?  Not on an e-reader you don’t – not unless you have unlimited resources and own several of them!

For study purposes it is doubtful that the e-reader will crush the printed text book completely, but what about fiction?

That is where the e-reader really comes into its own – now you’re talking! Tens of thousands of books available free of charge and out of copyright.  People have free access to the great classics of literature, and they are actually reading them (shock, horror!)  I’ve worked in publishing and libraries for over 25 years and I’ve never seen a rise in interest in classics that matches what we are seeing now.

However the self-publishing e-book industry has flooded the market with dross. I’m sorry if that offends some people but it is true.  There is a lot of great material out there, but it’s drowning in a tsunami of garbage. The buffer is no longer there on dross and it is possible for anyone to throw a book out on the internet for a few quid, and sadly that really does seem to be the case. 
For most of us there is little more guiding us in our purchases than a cheap price and a few reviews from mates with an Amazon account. We, the book buyers, need help from the publishing industry and from high calibre reviewers so that we can keep our heads above the tide of low-grade material. If people are downloading more books than they ever bought in print, then this is a busy marketplace and how do we know if we are wasting our time and money without the label of a trusted publisher?  I know that statement will annoy a lot of people as many find it patronising to suggest that people do not know a good book from a bad one without seeing the name of a trusted publisher – but the majority need to be sure that they can trust what they are purchasing and any help is better than none.  Think about how you buy your clothes and other everyday items? Which do you trust more, a major supermarket and reliable local traders that you trust, or a stranger who pulls up outside with a van that he has loaded up with goods being flogged off on the cheap? You might buy from him, but it’s safe to say you wouldn’t trust the quality. Kindle is the literary equivalent of a fully loaded white van, and readers need help to be able to see if they are being ripped off – not just of money, but of time! I have less and less time to read and I’d like to be sure that I have something good I’m front of me. For younger readers this is even more important as poor quality material can even set them back on their reading progression. We need trustworthy, independent thinking reviewers who can help us find our way through the melee. This is why The Times’ sacking of a reviewer as trustworthy as Amanda Craig is all the more baffling. At a time when we need more reviewers we can trust, they sack one of the best.
So how can we trust the reviews in the newspapers if we suspect that they will only be reviewing the “next big thing”, the sponsored titles, the super-massive authors? How will we find something new and potentially dazzling if there is no one left with integrity to raise it up for us to see?

So it’s back to the publishers, and they are increasingly sending material out in e-galley form to independent reviewers like me, trusting in their books and hoping we will agree. Some of the publishers are moving faster than others with these e changes; Harper Collins is very rapidly absorbing them and it shows. A couple of Christmases ago there was a huge battle of the e-imprints the digital success was theirs. With innovative imprints like The Friday Project they cornered the market in quality e-books. For example, one of their books, (Confessions of a GP) sold less than 9,000 copies in paper that season (admittedly still an impressive number these days) but downloads of the same title were well over 100,000 copies.  Good marketing and creative pricing have shown that it is possible to even knock back The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (which came second in the top download list at that time.)  Other publishers are quick to catch up, and many will be launching new digital imprints before the end of the year and so it is becoming ever more possible to source well edited, quality e-books. These are books that have been through exactly the same editorial process that a print book has – someone other than the author has vetted it! That’s a great start. Mine was out first in e-imprint and I can tell you that it went through exactly the same editorial process as a print book before it was released, and then went through it all again before going to print. So I’ve seen both routes first-hand.

But what about libraries?  An e-reader may be a useful tool to tackle low literacy levels, but how do you lend one?  One school librarian asked me “if I can’t get back a five quid book, how I am going to get back a hundred quid Kindle?”

She has a point.  So if anyone has an idea on how to handle this, let me know because I cannot find anyone who has a truly successful and secure method of handling this.  I know lots of schools who are using them for specific pupils, or for tackling certain issues with literacy, but not lending on or via e-book. Even if you issue the e-reader out via signature on computerised lending systems, you still have no guarantee of getting your expensive e-reader back.  The only system that I can see as being effective is to keep the devices for use in the library only, and that turns them into just another bit of tech in school to teach and improve literacy and not a lending item.

Public libraries have been issuing e-books for some time with varying success and a growing number of systems, and the whole PLR issue is another minefield and one that can’t possibly be done justice here.  Are authors still able to trust that they will get what is due to them when relying on virtual issues?  What about the book sharing problem?  How secure are these systems? I’ll get back to you on that one – anyone care to comment and I’ll add it to a future blog.

It is a fairly simple thing to lend an e-book and to code it so that it virtually “expires” after a set period and cannot be copied beyond the registered device. However the counties I have spoken to have admitted that the expiration does not work for the book that remains on the e-reader. It expires on your computer, but not on your Kindle.  One county I spoke to (and I won’t say which) admitted that they send an email reminder that the item has expired, and this flags up the library ticket and has to be cleared on the next visit – but they “have to trust” the borrower to delete it from their device once they have read it.

Would you delete it?  I wouldn’t!

I’m sure that this loophole will be addressed, and it is as I write, but we are still in very early days of this technology even though it has been around a long time – if that makes sense!  It is as if we were not paying proper attention and lo! it has crept upon us and now we must embrace or tame the beast before it devours us.

Technology, like language, grows, changes and shifts all the time and we can either absorb and manipulate those changes or ignore them and let it all overwhelm us.  The e-reader is here to stay and it is no longer a question of if printed books and traditional publishing can survive, but how they can.  I do firmly believe that there will always be a place for both e-books and printed ones.  One simple fact that no one can ever deny, will supersede any opinions about the importance of e-books over printed ones – you can’t archive them as effectively as you can a printed book.  What happened to all those items archived on micro-fiche?  Or on floppy discs?  Archives have to constantly absorb new technological changes in frantic attempts to save digital or copied material. All the while the printed books sit like quiet sentinels on their shelves and in their stacks for hundreds of years, and can be instantly accessed without any need to rely on rapidly outdating hardware.

One thing that will possibly protect the printed book is love. I may be a sentimental fool who is too attached to them, but the printed word inspires great devotion and affection in us; people love books, but they don’t love their e-readers.  They remain a bit of grey technology that we find hugely useful, but we don’t really have an emotional attachment to it.  We do not stroke its glorious cover, or flip through its fresh pages, and we do not gaze at it whilst we hurry to finish our work thinking “ooo, new book to read.”  We can’t gift books the same way we have done before. The joy of being able to give a book to someone is something we all know, but our e-readers deny us this. What joy is there in giving a voucher? They also deny us the pleasure of sharing outside the devices paired to our accounts.  I like sharing books, and I must admit that I do miss wandering up to a friend and saying “you’ll love this.”  I have dog-eared, much-loved books that have been passed around for years, I’ll still be doing that.

The simple fact that will ensure the survival of the printed book is that it is the best at doing what it does. Nothing else carries the printed word in such a durable and accessible way. But stories began as shared gifts that fell from the lips of storytellers, and not from shelves, and we should remember that. Ultimately it’s not the format, it’s the story that counts.

A perfect library book.

Librarians are not difficult to buy for, let’s face it, we can never have too many books, but this book will make any librarian or library lover extra happy.
You’d expect a lavish book from Thames and Hudson and The Library – A World History by British academic James W P Campbell is certainly that. It took over five years for Campbell to research the book, visiting over eighty of the world’s most beautiful in the process. The book details his findings and explores some truly stunning libraries.
The book is not cheap at £48, but it is an absolute joy to sit and lose yourself in remarkable places. A review won’t do it justice, you really have to see it for yourselves so just put it on your Christmas list and enjoy.

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A magical gift

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November 25th is the start of Book Week Scotland, and the beginning of a week celebrating not only Scottish literature, but Scotland’s important position in the world literary scene. There are hundreds of events going on all over Scotland to celebrate books, reading and libraries, but one in particular caught my eye. Last year I […]

Apps for little ones? Get Nosy!

Now, before you go getting all twitchy about people suggesting you pop your tinies in front of iPads and use them as some kind of robotic babysitter…. That’s not what I’m doing. This is not me telling you to give iPads to your children, this is me making the assumption that a lot of you already have, and would now like some advice on what they should be doing on them. I’ve worked with well over a thousand children and (trust me) I know what I’m doing when it comes to children and their reading.

This Christmas the iPad will undoubtedly be the desirable gift for most people, both adults and children. But what do you do with it? I have a tablet and I’m still finding that I’m largely using it to watch movies and tv shows, and in my travels I see that children are doing this too. The market is flooded with apps that claim to be “beneficial” to your child, or that offer “educational” content. A quick perusal of these and it doesn’t take an IT expert to work out that most of these are garbage with a heavy sales agenda and a heap of expensive “pester- power” add ons.

What parents need is a company that offers quality material produced by talented writers and illustrators. Apps that are created by people who know children, and who want to give children book related material that they will enjoy. Apps that are entertaining, good value and that you can trust to not send your child begging to you for expensive extras.

Ok, well the good news is – it’s out there!! What you have been looking for is Nosy Crow! This wonderful independent publisher started up in 2011 publishing child-focused and parent-friendly apps and books. Since then they have won numerous awards and published outstanding books and apps from brilliant authors and designers. They are constantly adding to their apps and book list, and have some of the very best writers and illustrators in their stable.
If you are concerned about the apps that you are putting in front of your children (and I know I am!) then have a look at Nosy Crow and take the pressure off yourself! Relax, it’s all good here.

I have to stress that I have no connection with this company, and no involvement with them apart from my desire to have quality book-related material in front of children. My interest is purely related to my evangelical zeal for improving the literacy of our children.

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Authors for the Philippines

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I wanted to take this opportunity to share the amazing Authors For The Philippines auction site.

On Friday 8th November, Typhoon Haiyan tore its brutal way across the Philippines killing thousands and leaving more homeless. The devastation is beyond our comprehension and, as time goes on, the massive impact of this catastrophe becomes even more evident. The people of the Philippines desperately need our help, and last week dozens of authors rallied to the cause and donated their time and creative materials to this incredible auction. This auction is by no means just for the super-rich and you can get some amazing things, and know that you are helping people too.

Please have a browse and put your bids in before 8pm GMT Weds 20th November. You can bid from any country but remember postage and all bids must be in GBP. You can bid as an individual, group, or maybe a school or community organisation.

Have a good browse through – but here is a small selection of what’s on offer at the moment!

A signed and doodled in copy of Oliver and the Seawigs by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

Two places at a swanky literary lunch in North London with goodie bags and lots of booky talk.

Signed books and a character name in the next book from top YA author James Dawson Very cool thing to have!

Character names in the next book by Caroline Smailes How amazing to actually have your name in someone’s book!

I also love all the original artwork in this auction – pieces from Axel Scheffler, Adrian Reynolds, Clara Vulliamy and loads more.

If you are bidding for a school, you can bid for an author visit from superb writers like Catherine McPhail, Candy Gourlay, Teri Terry, Mo O’Hara, Tony Bradman, Niel Bushnell, Lucy Coats, Nicky Singer… Oh the list is long and impressive!

So have a good look around, and bid.
You won’t regret it!

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Fantasy In Motion interview.

Recently I was interviewed by Fantasy In Motion and thought I’d share it over here too. It’s a great site, go and have a look at his beautiful fantasy maps! He takes commissions too if you are looking for one.

Dawn, welcome to Fantasy In Motion. Thanks for joining us.
Thank you very much for inviting me, I’ve enjoyed reading your blog a great deal and I’m a huge fan of fantasy maps. I have a designer working on a map of Brotherhood locations at the moment so I’m looking forward to sharing that before the end of the year.

Could you start by telling us a little about your novel, Brotherhood of Shades?
Brotherhood is a contemporary ghost story with roots in the sixteenth century. Adam, a streetwise homeless teenager, dies of cold and starvation on the streets of London and after death is recruited into a clandestine organisation called the Brotherhood of Shades. The Brotherhood is an organisation of ghosts set up after the Dissolution of the Monasteries to oversee the passage of the living through the World Between.
The book details Adam’s transition into the Brotherhood, and their battles with demonic forces as they attempt to retrieve a coded manuscript, and protect the world of the living, from the world of the dead.

How did the idea/inspiration for the story come to you?
One of my first jobs was at the education office of a Cathedral and I used to dress as a monk to take children on guided tours. I was aware that young children worked in monasteries and had a brutal and harsh life there, and I felt that it was an untold story. Brotherhood started off as a short story but I liked the central character and knew that he had more to say and it grew from there. I’ve always loved ghost stories and felt that I wanted to bring classic ghost stories to a modern audience.

I was interested to see that you've previously worked in publishing and in libraries. Do you think that working with books has helped you as a writer?
I have always worked with books, but my first job in publishing was hardly what I’d call “in” publishing. I worked in the post room and one of my jobs was sorting the slush pile and making sure the unsolicited manuscripts reached the right desk – or not! Some of the manuscripts were, well, shall we say, odd! I certainly learned how not to submit a manuscript after wading through manuscripts that were sometimes barely legible. I think my favourite was one written on serviettes that had clearly been written whilst very drunk and made no sense whatsoever but became increasingly angry as the pile of tissue went on. The writer ended up ranting about how the publisher would be insane to reject them, but never actually got the point about the subject matter.
I have worked for over twenty five years in libraries and I am the current vice-chair of the London and South East School Libraries Group. I campaign hard for all schools to have a library and a librarian as I see this as essential to the literacy of our children, and our adults. Working in libraries has taught me so very much about books, and I read constantly. I always say to young people that if you want to write, first you must read!

Who would you say are your favourite authors/books?
That’s an impossible question! My favourite author is always the author of the book that I’m currently hooked on. When I find a book that I really enjoy my immediate response is to buy the entire back catalogue and read everything. I have so many favourites so it wouldn’t be fair to pick one out.

What was your first encounter with fantasy fiction? Have you always wanted to write in the genre?
I’ve always loved fantasy. I grew up in a hard-up area and the future did not seem promising for any of us kids. For me fantasy was the perfect escape and it remained that way and so when I came to write myself it was fantasy that drew me. I was never really interested in reading about the real world, and was far more interested in the world out of the corner of your eye.
I read Ray Bradbury, Susan Cooper, Ursula K LeGuin, Alan Garner, Brian Aldiss, Joan Aiken, the list is very long, shelves full of doorways to different worlds. I wanted to be somewhere else, I wanted to be chased across moorland by ancient spirits, battling my way out of dark houses in whirling snowstorms, fleeing scarlet-eyed wolves across wild moorland, conjuring spells to hold back demons, escaping dark forces hell bent on destroying me… basically anywhere other than a tatty and cold school heading for a job in a factory.
When I came to write myself it was not as if I had a choice. I think that all writers need to find their voice and the story will roll out. I didn’t really choose my genre, it chose me.

What was your route towards publishing your first novel like? Any advice you would give to any of our readers who are looking to publish their first book?
Oh dear, my route was very long and complicated! This book was almost published a number of years ago and then the imprint went under and I was left without a publisher. I was lucky in that I did have an agent and he supported me and encouraged me to keep going. My book still didn’t sell (the public seemed to have moved on to an obsessive desire for sparkly vampires and ghosts were not deemed fashionable) and so I focussed on my other work in school libraries.
Writing is a very isolating business and a friend encouraged me to upload my work to the writer’s site – authonomy. I wanted some feedback and it was nice to have the opinion of other writers. My book was very quickly spotted on there by the man who almost took it to print the previous time! He remembered Brotherhood and recommended it to the rest of the team and they enjoyed it so much that they took it to print. These days it’s not about pleasing one person of course, your work has to be enjoyed by a team of people including the marketing team.

My advice would be to be prepared and get some professional editing if you can afford it. I’d buy the Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook and try to get an agent first. There are a few writer’s conferences throughout the year where you can meet agents and publishers and those are a sensible investment. Work on your pitch though! If you can nail your plot down to a sharp thirty second pitch, and then hand over a card with your details on, that can do it. I know a good number of people who have secured agents on a “could I ask for thirty seconds to pitch my work to you?” Agents are used to this approach, and a good one won’t mind. If they do mind and react badly, you wouldn’t want to be stuck with them anyway!

Where do you stand in the print vs. e-book debate? Do you think paper novels have had their day or is there room for both formats?
Video did not kill the radio star! I think there is more than enough room for both formats, and we need both. I love my e-reader as I travel a lot and can’t possibly carry hundreds of books around with me in any other format, but I also love print books. A recent survey suggested that people often read the book first on e-reader, and then buy the print copy to keep if they enjoy it – I know I’ve done this! There will always be books that simply do not work in e format, academic and study books for example. Students need to be able to annotate several texts and compare them all at once using several indices, that’s just not possible in e-book form. You simply can’t lay six kindles out in front of you and jot down notes on the pages!
I think that print publishers need to start to be more creative and to offer more for the print version to encourage people to buy it. Maps work so well in printed books, and extra material only available in the print version, or beautiful binding and covers, and maybe offering a free e-version if you buy the print version?
There is a good reason that books will last, they are the best at doing what they do – carrying words. The main thing is that they do not become unreadable. Twenty years ago I remember working with floppy discs and microfiche but now these formats are virtually unreadable, whilst books hundreds of years older are still perfectly accessible.
I think there is space in the market for all formats and we need to remember that it’s the story that counts, not the object that carries it.

Do you have any tips for aspiring authors out there?
Don’t give up, and don’t be precious – get advice and share and grow a very thick skin! I know so many people who say they want to write a book and seem to think it is easy, and that’s why people quit. The first time they get a knock-back, or hear something negative, or actually can’t stick at it to get those words on paper, people quit. If you really want to write a book you need to first accept that it is incredibly hard and time consuming work. It is not something to take lightly and dip into now and again, it takes time and dedication to get over a hundred thousand words down! Once you’ve accepted that it is hard work, and that you will have to make sacrifices to achieve it, then you can do it.
Young people ask me all the time how to become a writer and I always say – write down all the things, and then write down some more!

Are you able to share with us what you are working on at the moment?
I am currently working on the sequel to Brotherhood which is set in some stunning locations from nineteenth century Paris, to London and on to a remote Scottish island. The sequel is very Steampunk as I have a bit of an obsession for automata and machines. I’ve had this idea churning away for some time and am hugely enjoying writing my machines, and avoiding all jokes about the ghost in the machine!

Dawn, thank you very much for your time!
Thanks again for inviting me on board, and I very much look forward to reading more!

NOT reading lessons!

Your dear little lad has brought home Him, you know the one, the kid who is smart and funny and who you wish you didn’t like because he seems to be perfect at everything. He has normal and regular parents and a normal and regular vocabulary…so why is he already on Gold books?

LESSON ONE…….

STEP AWAY FROM THE BOOKBAG!

And relax…

Seriously, looking at other children’s books is not helping you or your child, it is only putting more pressure on you both and turning what should be an enjoyable activity into homework.

Human beings are hardwired for reading, that’s the good news. Most children have an epiphany moment with their reading somewhere between the ages of five and ten – yes, I said TEN! The epiphany moment is quite remarkable – a child can just suddenly find the right book or the right motivation and they whoosh off with their reading.

So what does the school expect? They probably won’t tell you, but your child will be expected to comfortably reach Level 2 by the time they enter Year Three. This means that they will be assessed through a series of increasingly dull and worthy texts to ensure that they can do things like blend phonemes, understand what a text is about and answer questions about it and recognise the component parts of a book like an index and a glossary. The bare bones of reading are pretty tedious and the chances are your child will be doing this stuff long before they reach transition to Year Three. So relax.

If, however, your child is not quite there, it doesn’t mean that they won’t get there with a little help. A good number of children have issues that may impact on their reading and hold back their epiphany moment, but that doesn’t mean they can’t achieve the basics that will get them a comfortable Level2/3 at infant-primary transition.

  • Read with your child. When they hit a word that they don’t know, remember, they have never met this word before and will need an introduction. Let them try three times, no more than that because it becomes horribly frustrating.
  • Let your child read alone. No help, no input, just let them sit with words in front of their faces. These need to be their choice and it might be something you loathe. Tough!
  • Read to your child. I can’t begin to tell you how important it is for children to be read to. Not just picture books, longer books with chapters that they are not yet ready to read alone. It is a superb way of expanding their vocabulary, gives them something to aim for, and it’s lovely. Do not assume your child is too old for this, you are never too old for a bedtime story.
  • Acknowledge and draw attention to the fact that there are words everywhere. Give them reading with a purpose so that it does not feel as if you are expecting them to carry out a homework-like task. Ask them what the competition is on the cereal packet, put the subtitles on when they are watching their favourite tv show, stick post-it notes on the objects around the house that have new and exciting words to learn (such as television, radiator, refrigerator) Children have incredible powers of assimilation and suck up new words with ease – provided they see and hear them repeatedly.

The most important thing you can do for your child is to enjoy reading yourself and stop making it a chore. Make it a treat and let them soak up any words that they want (I’m a great fan of the literary qualities of the Beano) and stop putting pressure on them to be the same as others. They all learn at different paces and all come to reading in different ways. You probably don’t need to buy any special books or sign up for some expensive plan or club, just look out for reading opportunities everywhere.

Remember – only one in ten adults regularly read a book, and yet we expect 100% of small children to do it. It just might not be their thing, and there may be educational issues that need addressing, but it doesn’t mean they can’t become independent readers who enjoy diving into a book.

Most of all…RELAX!

 

Originally posted on www.beingamummy.co.uk

Dawn Finch is a YA author and for the last decade she has specialised in reading development in young children. She is vice-chair of the London and South East School Libraries Group and a published author. Her book (Brotherhood of Shades) is a contemporary ghost story and is published by Harper Collins.

You can ask her questions about books and reading at www.dawnfinch.com

 

I do love a good Bath.

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I’m having a little break in Bath and so (obviously) the first thing to do is head out in search of a good bookshop, and I found real gem. Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights lives up to its name completely. This is gorgeous bookshop is three floors of pure literary pleasure. The bookshop has […]

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Firstly, I must confess that any review of Ray Bradbury’s work by me is going to be heavily biased as I have been hopelessly in love with his writing since I was twelve. I first discovered him through his short stories. All Summer In A Day is as perfect as a short story gets in my opinion.
When I heard of his passing I was as bereft as if I had lost a distant but beloved uncle. I wanted to write something, anything, but it all felt too sudden and I genuinely couldn’t think of anything to say. Very unlike me.
I decided instead to read his books again.
Now, there are those who say you shouldn’t go back, shouldn’t retrace the faded steps of the things you loved in your youth in case you find less than you remembered… In case all the wonder and beauty was just a product of the moment, fragments of who you once were, a person you no longer recognise and suddenly grieve a little for.
With this in mind I picked up Something Wicked This Way Comes with no little trepidation.
Oh how very beautiful his work is.
Something Wicked tells the story of two boys, friends, more than brothers, who discover that the Carnival is coming to their small town. It is out of season, late October and the seasons change as the Dark carnival steams into town under violent and stormy skies….
I won’t tell you any more of the story, you should just read it for yourself and drown in the carousel ride of the book. The elegant blade of Bradbury’s pen is deftly wielded and, behind the fearful adventure, the story cuts to the heart of what it is to be a boy. The transient whirl of youth that coils around the boys as they become caught up in the macabre carnival is at times dizzying, but always rewarding.
Bradbury is never an easy read, and I’ve read many times accusations that linguistic tangles are the master in his work over character, but sometimes beautiful things are worth the extra patience just for the glorious pleasure of it all.
Happy Halloween – treat yourself to a stroll in the maze of mirrors, but don’t be surprised if it changes you.

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