Sunday, January 25, 2015

How to get the best out of reading with children

How to get the best out of reading with children

As winter nights draw in , Mark O’Donnell, the new headmaster of St Martin’s Ampleforth, the prep school at Ampleforth College has provided some top tips on reading with young children.
Mark says, “Unlocking a child’s imagination through reading enriches their vocabulary and gives them the opportunity to form opinions and articulate their thoughts.
“Recent research undertaken at Harvard has highlighted the significance of reading to and with children before asking them about what they have read and discussing the ideas, context and relationships that stories provide. 
“By encouraging children to articulate their ideas you are providing them with opportunities to gain new insights and develop their ability to form opinions and to think ever more effectively.”

Mark’s tips based on nearly 20 years’ experience teaching ages 3-12:
  1. Make reading a part of your family life – Always encourage reading, whether it is on the back of a cereal box at breakfast, or road signs on the way to school.
  2. Indulge their interests – Children are more likely to stay engaged if the book is on a topic they are interested in, it also helps to see what topic they are most enjoying at school and find a book to match it. 
  3. Get comfortable! – A quiet, cosy environment is perfect for some independent reading so your child can concentrate, as well as reading together.
  4. Be sure to ask questions – To keep them interested in the story and encourage them to reflect on what they’re reading, ask your child what they think will happen next or where you got to the previous night to make sure they’re engaged.
  5. Read again and again – It’s important that you encourage your child to re-read favourite books and poems to help build up fluidity and confidence.
  6. Rhyme and repetition – Books and poems which include rhyme and repetition are great for encouraging your child or children to join in and remember the words.
Mark adds: “There are also marked benefits for the parents when they read with their child. It reminds them of how they enjoyed being read to and sharing this time together further strengthens the bond between a child and a parent. It also allows parents to become very aware of their child’s social, emotional, and intellectual development.”

Just In Case by Meg Rosoff

Every minute of every day, a million things happen...
The day David Case saves his brother's life, his whole world changes. Suddenly, every moment is fizzing with what ifs, and it's up to David to outwit fate. Or try to.
He changes his name and the way he looks. He leaves home and finds himself caught up in a series of strange and extraordinary misadventures. He even falls in love. 
But is David really in control of his life? And if he isn't - who is?

Star Rating

Having read and loved 'How I live Now' by Meg Rosoff I thought I would pick up another of her YA titles at my local charity bookstore. It is unlike me to leave a bad review, mainly because if I dislike a book I won't read it through to the end. This book I did persevere with however, unfortunately, I wish I hadn't.

In short, this book was just plain weird! At the beginning of the story, David saves his baby brother from falling out a window. Following this incident, David is overcome with anxiety and begins worrying about every tiny aspect of his life. 

'There were dark corners he didn't dare enter, creaking catacombs lined with the corpses of doubt.'

Filled with anxiety, David decides to change his name and, consequently, life itself. It is from this point on that the story became very strange for me, and not in a good way. 
For example, David, now known as Justin Case (awful pun), meets an older woman at a charity store who clothes him in a bizarre vintage outfit and takes numerous photographs of him. Next we learn that David, (Justin) has an imaginary greyhound that follows him everywhere. Riiiight! If this wasn't weird enough, David  then leaves home to try and avoid fate (who has been leaving the reader cryptic messages throughout). Randomly hanging out at the airport, David avoids fate once more when he manages to survive a plane crash. No he wasn't actually on board a plane, just chilling in the terminal when a plane crashes through the roof. Yep, you heard right. A plane crashes through the roof and David avoids death by merely stepping out the way. 

I could carry on but I won't. I kind of understand what Meg Rosoff was trying to do with this book and it does give some kind of insight into mental health. Although anxiety is more prevalent in girls than boys it was interesting to read it from a boy's perspective and the bizarre plot makes you realise that the mind is a powerful thing that can take control of your entire being. 

Meg Rosoff quotes, 'Peter couldn't imagine life with a brain so peculiarly wired, but it made compulsive viewing.' and this sums up my feelings towards this book. Peculiarly wired but, unfortunately, not compulsive reading! 

Scholastic Blogger Event plus Exciting 90s Kid News

This weekend I had the privilege of being invited to not one but two of Scholastic's Blogger Book Feasts. I had an amazing time, met some lovely people and was introduced to some brilliant new titles coming out next year. I was very lucky to come away with proofs of many of these titles and my problem now lies in what to read first.

I also had the opportunity to meet some of the authors and listen to their first hand experiences of how they got into writing and what sparked their ideas. Both Liz Pichon (the author of Tom Gates) and Cerrie Burnell (from CBeebies) were charismatic and informative and have almost inspired me to write my own book! 

The rest of this post will take you back to the old school.


First up is Phillip Pullman's Dark Materials series. I was shocked to hear that Northern Lights, was first published in July 1995. (Wow that makes me feel old). To celebrate 20 years of these incredible books, Scholastic are re-releasing these beautiful paperback editions in March 2015. 

My next piece of 90's nostalgia news is hugely exciting and almost made me wee a little bit when I found out. GOOSEBUMPS IS BACK! Not only is there a film coming out in 2016, starring Jack Black, but Scholastic in the UK and USA are teaming up to promote a re-release of the books. With five titles out in March, and many more to follow, I couldn't be more excited. The covers have been given a fresh new look set to scare a whole new generation of kids. I was lucky enough to be given a copy of 'Stay Out of the Basement' which I will be devouring in due course. There will also be a biography detailing the life and works of R.L Stine and some film tie-in editions out in March 2016.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

When your TBR list becomes OUT OF CONTROL (blog update)

After an amazing (but busy) Christmas, New Year and birthday weekend I finally had some spare time this weekend to read and update my blog.

With a love of reading I decided to start a blog in 2013 as a way of sharing my love of books with others. Soon this became more than just a hobby and authors/publishers very kindly started sending me shit tons of free books in the post. Believe me, for a reading lover, receiving free books in the post is like Christmas coming round time and time again.

However, I am now finding myself with a TBR list that is becoming OUT OF CONTROL. 

Being a full time primary teacher (and head of year), it is difficult to find time to do anything other than work. The life of a teacher is HARD and, in the Winter months, I find myself becoming more and more exhausted to the point where I can literally go to bed at 8pm and sleep through till my alarm goes off at 6am the next morning. Don't get me wrong, I love teaching, but the work/life balance controversy that is so often debated in the media is becoming a real issue for many of us teachers out there. 

For this reason, I have neglected my blog recently but my New Years resolution is to make time for things I enjoy doing and one of those things is reading and sharing this passion with you guys. This year, I have set myself the goal of reading 70 books and I hope to upload reviews of as many of these as I can.

Exciting Book Related Stuff

Scholastic have kindly invited me to their Book Bloggers Feast next weekend. I recently attended my first bloggers event at Walker Publishing House and had a great time listening to snippets from this year's upcoming YA titles. With many publishers now organising their events on a Saturday it means I can attend lots more book blogger functions. :)

I would also like to say a massive THANK YOU to Harper Collins who recently sent me a10th anniversary hardback edition of Looking for Alaska by John Green. Not only is this copy GOLD but it includes an author's introduction and deleted scenes. My original review of Looking for Alaska ca be found here but I will certainly be re-reading this bad boy at some point this year. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Snappy Birthday by Laura Ellen Anderson

When a very special invitation arrives at number 24, the children are filled with excitement. A birthday party? What fun!
But their next door neighbour is not all he seems. For a start, he has a large snout and very sharp teeth not to mention scaly skin and an incredibly long tail...
Yes, there's no two ways about it - their neighbour is most definitely a crocodile! Erm, crocodiles don't eat children, do they?
An energetic, laugh-out-loud picture book.

I received this book from the publishers for an open and honest review.

Star Rating

With a particular love for lengthy chapter books, my Year 2 class haven't wanted to read many picture books this year. However, when Snappy Birthday turned up in the post they were desperate to read it that very day and the upshot was... they loved it! 

One day a birthday invitation turns up at number 24. The children are invited to their neighbour's house for tea and who doesn't like a party? So off they set to the house next door where they discover a CROCODILE standing tall. Throughout the story, the crocodile chases the children and tries desperately to eat them. My class weren't sure if this was a game or whether the crocodile was really a villain. Eventually we discovered that this was indeed an evil crocodile. How would the children escape?

This book was fun, colorful and beautifully illustrated. The rhyming was well done and added to the flow of the story. Humorously, my class this year have a thing for cake. Many suggestions are related to cake. When asked what we might call our reading groups, one boy suggested cakes. I wasn't convinced that the 'carrot cake group' was the best name for it. With this cake infatuation in mind, my class were particularly delighted when the crocodile was stopped by "THE BIGGEST CAKE YOU HAVE EVER SEEN."
I should add here that the children wanted to give this book 4 1/2 stars. The 1/2 star was taken away because the front cover and blurb "gave the game away". One little boy was particular adamant that this book would have been much better if the crocodile had been a surprise, and I must admit I completely agree with him! Another child suggested that there should have been some other scary creatures at the party such as monsters and trolls. So we ask you kindly Bloomsbury, any chance of a part two??

Trouble by Non Pratt

HANNAH is smart and funny. She's also fifteen and pregnant. 
AARON is the new boy at school. He doesn't want to attract attention. 
So why does Aaron offer to be the pretend dad to Hannah's unborn baby?
Growing up can be trouble but that's how you find out what really matters.

I received this book from the publishers for an open and honest review. 

Star Rating

It is almost embarrassing to admit that you LOVE a book that has sperm swimming all over the front cover but this debut novel from Non Pratt deserves nothing other than five stars. 

Trouble tells the story of two protagonists - Hannah and Aaron. Written in the first person, the story flits back and forth between the two teens who tell their version of events in the most believable of voices. Hannah is promiscuous, loud and pregnant. Aaron is shy, reserved and quiet. And it is when these two differing characters come together that you realise true friendships are found in the most unexpected of places. 

Non Pratt's skill as a writer lies in her ability to write as a 15 year old  with utter credibility. She has managed to capture the thoughts and behaviours of teenage friendship groups perfectly and, whilst reading, I found myself relating events back to my own youth spent hanging out at the park and attending house parties.

Although the story is centered around Hannah and her unplanned pregnancy, it was Aaron that I was drawn to as we saw the events unfolding through his eyes. The teens meet at an old people's home, a place that Aaron often goes to visit his friend Neville. It is made clear that Aaron comes here each week to try and right a wrong that he committed several years ago. Aaron is wracked with guilt, and it is with this mission to atone for his sins, that he offers to be the father to Hannah's unborn baby. What follows is exactly what you would expect from two teenagers in an unusual and unique situation. 

Trouble is a light read with heavy issues that are dealt with exquisitely. Non Pratt has managed to weave in many important messages, particularly for teenage girls, relating to sex, pregnancy, abortion, relationships, birth and death. This would be a fantastic book to use in schools and I hope, with the help of this review, that it makes it's way out there into the big wide world of the 'Nonn-readers'. (I'm getting very good at these end of review puns.)

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