Books for certain readers can be intimidating and overwhelming. My daughter, Ashlyn (21) has Dyslexia. (I interviewed her about how dyslexia effects her here.) Even though I read to her from a baby, gave her own books, her own library card and she has always read, she would feel intimidated by large books. For example, the whole volume set of The Chronicles of Narnia my children bought me one year, or Lord of the Rings. She would take one look and run to the proverbial hills.
I am a proponent that you need to keep encouraging children to keep 'tasting' different books. Eventually, they will find one that they will devour, gain confidence and keep going. And this is the key—confidence.
My daughter and I recently watched the entire Harry Potter movie series. She enjoyed them so much she bought the book series. We have always made it a habit to discuss the books that we are currently reading. We discuss the things we love, the things we hate, and the things we don’t understand.
From the first book, Ashlyn raved about how Joanne’s descriptions transported her into the world of Harry Potter. It made her feel compassion for Harry, and she got to know and love other characters like the Weasley family, Hermione Granger, and Hagrid.
Intrigued, as I had not read the series, I said once she had finished with the first book, I would read it. I am normally a fast reader, and she reads slowly (it took her a year to read Black Beauty). We both figured I would be waiting for her to finish the next book. (It has happened before). We also had planned when I finished the book we would watch the movie together. The race was on. (You may have followed our race on Twitter or Facebook).
And so, together, we entered the world of Harry Potter.
To both of our surprise, Ashlyn was the one waiting for me to finish—rather impatiently too, I might add. I have reasons as to why I wasn’t reading as fast as usual: blogging; re-working two picture book manuscripts and getting them ready for submission; work; and working on my first novel.
Still, it came as a surprise to both of us how she was tearing through these books. By the time Ashlyn had consumed Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (190,637 words), she was ready to tackle Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (257,045 words). Ashlyn is currently reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince at a mere 168,923 words. Stats from Wordcounter.
She has caught herself shaking her head in surprise at the thickness of the novels that used to intimidate her. Now, to her sheer amazement she is looking forward to tackling those same thick volumes. That is an achievement worth celebrating. Woohoo! Happy dancing!
This brings me to my first point—keep encouraging children to 'taste' different books. Eventually, they will find one that they will want to devour. They will gain confidence and go on with reading. And this is the key—for them to gain the confidence. You can read more on my blog, '10 Practical Ways to Encourage Reluctant Readers.'
Ashlyn explained to me that part of her problem (lack of reading confidence) began in primary school. As she had difficulty with reading and comprehension, she was placed on a low reading level. One day she found a fiction book about Alexander the Great that interested her. However, as it was above her (then) current reading level, she was told that it was too hard for her and she was to pick something else.
From that point on, Ashlyn said that it was as if they had put her in a box. Then she put herself in the same box with a tag that said, ‘You are too stupid to read that. It’s too hard’. It is only as she has gotten older and realised what had happened, and she knows that she is smart and capable of learning and reading, she is no longer restrained by the negative thinking that held her back for so long.
Don’t get me wrong. She has always enjoyed reading, just not the thick books.
So the Harry Potter race continues, though no longer at the frantic pace that it began. I know Ashlyn will finish the next book quickly and be on to the last book in no time. As for me, I will sit back and be happy that she has discovered that she does not need to be intimidated by a thick book, and now she can even enjoy them.
Now excuse me, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is calling me.
“I hate books!”
“I hate reading!”
“Books are boring!”
These are comments that are heard in household and at school. And it is becoming more prevalent. To me, this is a tragedy. Books can open up the world to a child. The can learn new things. They can escape to another time, another place, another country, or even another planet or alternate dimension. Reading books can be relaxing, exciting, or just pure escapism.
Reading was not always fun for me. I have dyslexia. My parents loved books and learning. I grew up with my mum saying to me, “You can a new thing every day of your life. It can be a word, a new skill, or a piece of information that you did not know before.” This statement is true, and is something that I have lived my whole life and have passed on to my own children. But in the beginning it was not easy. My mum helped heaps.
Everyone is different. With my dyslexia, the words tend to move about the page. I mix my b’s and d’s and even, at times, the p’s. I get words mixed up when I read. My eyes pick up words from above or below the line that I’ll be reading.
When I write, I find that I still drop off e’s off words. I can mix letters up in words, or whole entire words and sentences, as my brain races ahead. When writing on the computer, the red line will appear, and I know the word is wrong, but can’t figure out how to correct it. I can even pick the correct word from the list, but can’t figure out where I went wrong. I am getting better. It is hard work, but so worth it.
As a child my mum showed me how to place a ruler above and below the line that I was reading, and to place my finger under the word that I was reading. As I got better following the line, I took the top ruler away, then eventually the bottom ruler. Then I didn’t need my finger and I could track across the page and not get lost. Well not often. And I learnt to speed read. However, even now, there are times, especially when I am tired that I still pick up words from around the page and I have to re-read the same passage a couple of times before it makes sense.
I believe that if a child is interested enough in a book, they will read it. My parents let me have access to their library from an early age. I read the usual books for that era; lots of Enid Blyton.
The Folk of the Faraway Tree, The Wishing Chair and Naughty Amelia Jane were among my favourites. I loved horses so my mum bought me horse books. But, not just story books like Black beauty. No. She also bought me books on riding and taking care of horses. At the school library I read every book I could get my hands on. Horse Breeds of the World was my favourite.
I also liked a book of knots, and the Guidebook of Australian Birds. My sister and I would spend hours pouring through it, identifying which birds might live in our area, and then trying to spot them with the binoculars.
My own children were very different from each other and what they were interested in, and they were different to me.
My daughter loved animals, dinosaurs, and all books to do with those two subjects.
My son, he loved space, science and dinosaurs. From six I read to him Universe in Focus: the Story of the Space Hubble Telescope, The Magic School Bus series, and anything with dinosaurs. We read other books, but these were the main themes.
We went to the library often. They had their own library card, and I would pick out some other books to read, as well as have them pick their own books.
I am sharing this with you to show that, if you have a child that hates reading, for whatever reason, that, if you tap into what they are passionate about, they will want to read.
I recently read, I Spy a Great Reader by Jackie French. In it she shares her own experiences with Dyslexia, her very helpful family, and her passion for working with children to help them find that ‘magic book.’ So many times, as parents, we can get it wrong. Even well intentioned parents.
On page 232 Jackie shares an experience she had during a writing workshop. Sam seemed so enthusiastic throughout the workshop and appeared to be a boy that loved reading. The boy’s father painted a very different picture. Sam read very well but didn’t like books. It seemed that the parents had loads of books at home, but only ones that they liked and approved of.
When Jackie suggested, The Day My Bum Went Psycho, Sam’s eyes lit up. But the father called it rubbish and said his son wouldn’t like it. So that was the end of that. The light in Sam’s eyes went out, and so did any chance of Sam learning the fun of reading.
So how do you encourage a child who either has trouble reading, or can read but hates it? The key is to tap into what they are passionate about.
Top 10 ways to encourage reluctant readers:
Taken from I Spy a Great Reader by Jackie French. Chapter 10 Getting Kids Hooked on Books. Pages 239-247
I said earlier, that if you have a child that hates reading, for whatever reason, that, if you tap into what they are passionate about, they will want to read. On page 244 of I Spy a Great Reader, it tells the story of a boy, a friend of her son’s, that Jackie has called Paul. At age twelve, he barely read or write. But he loved chooks. One day, when Paul was over at their house, Jackie received in the mail a veterinary textbook on chook diseases. Paul loved the book so much he immediately started reading it. He borrowed it and finished it three days later. Later, Paul discovered farming magazines and other books about chooks. He loved non-fiction books.
So here are some bonus hints to encourage reading:
A final note:
It may be tough and difficult road, but it is not impossible. A child, when given the right help, support and encouragement, can learn to read and enjoy it.
Click here for some great strategies for parents and caregivers to help with their child’s reading from the Primary English Teaching Association Australia. It has some great hints and tips for parents to help their child to read at home.
Further information about Dyslexia and how children can be helped can be found at Dyslexia Daily.
Help for reluctant readers and writers can be found at ABC Jenny.
Feel free to share your stories with me.
Recently, on Facebook and Twitter, I started seeing photos of little free libraries, hanging off fences, sitting on poles in parks and next to bus stops and train stations. Some were elaborate - Hobbit holes, cats, and boats, houses, trees, and even a Dr Who Tardis. Others were simple - re-purposed cupboards, large letter boxes, and even CD cabinets.
Now, if you are around me long enough, you will quickly realise that I love books and reading. I do what I can to promote reading in children - I was an International Read to Me! Day Advocate in March, and ended up reading to my friends children that day. I think that having little free libraries like this, will go a long way in promoting reading for fun.
I have friends that are teachers. They have told me that there are children that do not even own a book, and their parents/caregivers don’t take them to the library. To me, I could not imagine my childhood without books. To never find that magic book that takes you away to another place, another time - to be lost on adventure in the outback, or heading to Mordor with Frodo and Sam and the One Ring, or learning about how to tie knots, or the care of a horse, or checking out the adventures of the Space Hubble Telescope, or learning about dinosaurs. Unthinkable! Yet it is a reality of so many children, and adults.
I heard of one story of a boy that always found reading boring, until he found a book in a Little Free Library that interested him. How fantastic is that! Woohoo! I love stories like that. That gets me excited. Seeing children finding a book they love and wanting it read one hundred times. I love hearing about stories how a child, who found reading boring or difficult, found a book that they feel in love with and wanted to read it all the time.
I had considered putting one of these libraries out the front of my place as I live right across the road from a primary school. Sadly, many things get vandalized in the area so that had put me off and I was considering other options. I was so excited when my daughter told me that she had spotted a Little Free Library in the center of town near a Pop-up Park.
On a mild April Saturday morning, I drove down to the Pop-up Park with my daughter, a friend, and my dog Toby in tow. To the sound of African drumming in the background I discovered this little wonder. I was so excited and amazed that in our rural town, someone had already gotten on board with this idea. It was so wonderful to find this gem in my town.
Speaking later on Facebook to the person responsible for placing it there, they said that "it was originally on my fence. But, when the Pop-up Park started, I decided to put it in town near the Pop-up Park instead. It was more accessible to more people."
Let’s hope that the momentum keeps growing and we will begin to see these little treasures popping up like mushrooms after rain everywhere.
Please check out Little Free Libraries Australia on Facebook or on their website, Little Free Library.
Saturday 19th March was International Read to Me! Day. The initiative supports children's reading, improving literacy across Australia and encourages parents to read more with their kids. It is a day when children from all around the world were encouraged to ask someone to read to them. If you hadn’t heard of it, it is because this year, 2016, was the first year it has been held.
The brainchild of Emma Mactaggart, founder of Boogie Books and the Childwrites Foundation, the day is recognizing that not every child has someone that will read to them. It also recognizes the importance of being read to actually increases learning. Emma wants children to be encouraged to ask different people to read to them. Even making yourself available at a local school for children to ask to be read to, would go a long way in your own community to help the local children.
In the immortal words if four year old Charlotte, who I recently interviewed when I asked, “Why do you like books?” Her answer: “Because they are good and when people read to you, you can learn how to read. You can look at pictures. When you are older it helps you to read.”
So here is my roundup of what I saw of the day on social media:
So what did I do for International to Me! Day? Due to some ill health through the last couple of weeks, I was unable to organise anything with anyone. So I had to wing it. If I had had more time, the local bookstore was interested in holding a community event to promote it. My children are adults, so no young children were readily available. So instead, I turned up unannounced to my local library, hoping that there would be some random child to read to.
Did I find any children? No. I did not. Not one child! And I was there for nearly two hours. It seemed as if all the local children had disappeared. Even the neighbourhood children, who are normally running around outside at some point through the day, did not surface for the entire day.
So what did I do? I called on the family that I interviewed a couple of weeks ago. “Would your kids like me to read to them?” It was a resounding, "Yes please!" So that is what I did. It was so much fun.
Charlotte asked me to read, 'The Pirate who had to Pee.' It is hilarious.
And when was the last time you read Fox in Sox? For that is what Emily asked me to read to her. That book is a tongue twister that left the girls in stitches. Yep. I have dyslexia and still get my p's and b's and d's confused.
When Kaitlin brought out, 'The Monster at the End of the Book - Starring lovable, furry old Grover,' I got all excited. I love this book and it is so much fun to read.
I am so thankful for the girls asking me to read to them.
Next year, now that I know about this very special day, I will be helping to organise something special in the community. I am looking forward to it. In the meantime, I am making myself available as a reader. I love books. I love stories. And I love reading them and sharing them with others, especially children.
Feel free to share your day here and what you did to celebrate.
Many of us take reading for granted. But for so many people, adults and children alike, reading is difficult. Another problem that so many children face is they have no-one to read to them, ever. It is a sad fact, but a fact nonetheless. Emma Mactaggart, speaker, author, publisher and passionate literacy advocate, has created International Read to Me! Day to be held on March 19th.
International Read to Me! Day? What is that? In a recent post on Facebook, someone actually said, “Read to me! Isn’t that everyday?” If only that were true for every child.
Emma Mactaggart saw that not every child is read to and how it is contributing to our falling literacy rates. She is now sounding the call for all those who want to give a child a voice to ask someone to read to them. She is a great promoter of “giving children the megaphone they need so they demand to be read to regularly!”
The follow is an extract from an interview by Tony Briscoe from Valley FM.
“Literacy is a gateway skill for us all. If you can’t read you get left behind in so many ways. This has a major impact on your opportunities in life. Reading and writing create social connection and this creates opportunity for all; this is key to Australia’s future success. We can all help children with their reading and I want to encourage children to ask you to help through dedicating a special day to this all round the world” – Emma Mactaggart"
She wants to change the dynamic and empower children to ask for more support, not just from their birth family but also from their community. Marking a day when kids can ask to be read to is a key part of this strategy.
A recent study analysed by researchers at the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economics and Social Research backs up Emma’s belief about the the power of being read to. Professor Guyonne Kalb wanted to test whether it was the reading itself that lead to better outcomes or if there were other factors.
“No matter what else we tested for the results show that being read to is the single most important factor. Children of 4 – 5 years old who are read to 3-4 times a week have reading ages 6 months ahead of children read to once or twice a week. Reading to children nearly every day almost doubles their progress to one year ahead of the group.”
The research is shocking. The Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006 Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (ALLS) revealed that Australian language, literacy and numeracy levels have shown little improvement in the decade since the 1996 International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS).
Approximately 7 million Australian adults (46 per cent) had literacy scores below the minimum level needed to function fully in life and work and 7.9 million (53 per cent) had numeracy scores below the minimum needed.’
Now you can’t argue with statistics like those, now can you?
In a recent blog post I interviewed a family. The mother and the two oldest daughters have Dyslexia. Please read the whole post here. In the interview, the mother, Leanne, said there have been some definite strategies that have helped her children. Number one was the girl’s dad, Stephen, has read to all the girls since they were babies, every night. Two, she has made sure that she has surrounded the girls with books of all types since they were babies.
I have friends that are teachers. I just shake my head when they tell me what children say to them.
“I don’t own a book.”
“There are no books in our house.”
For me it would be unheard of and incomprehensible. Though, I myself have dyslexia, and so does my daughter, we love books of all types and are always reading. We read to each other nearly everyday, and my daughter is nearly 21. I've read to her since she was a baby and we just never gave it up. Admittedly, these days they are mainly picture books. As an emerging picture book author, I need to 'read in the genre I want to write.' Besides that, they are so much fun. Though, we have mixed it up and got our hands onto a Shakespearean version of Star Wars.
According to Emma, “Why we may not read to our children – parents are human too:
• Exhausted parents / carers
• Inability to read themselves or no books available
• Too busy with the night-time routine
• Shift workers – and mismatched routines
• Other family members demanding what little time is spare
This is by no means a definitive list, but it is realistic. The most dedicated parents / carers in the world will not have a 100% reading rate – routines buckle, time constrains are a truism, and sometimes, you just don’t feel like it!
If a child comes to school and says:
‘Everyone was too tired’
‘We don’t have any books at home’
‘It was so busy at home last night’
‘My father works nights’
‘My baby brother was crying’
Then it is simply the way of the world and this merely identifies a gap to be filled the following day. After all, it takes a village to raise a child!”
IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO
RAISE A CHILD
33% of children ages 6 to 17 say their class has a designated time during the school day to read independently, but only
17% do this every or almost every school day.
(ids and Family Reading Report, 5th Edition, Scholastic)
AND IT TAKES A CHILD TO INSPIRE A VILLAGE
83% of children of all ages surveyed say they loved or liked a lot being read aloud to and 40% of kids ages 6 to 11 whose parents have stopped reading aloud to them say they wish their parents had continued.
(Kids and Family Reading Report, 5th Edition, Scholastic)
Empowering Children to take the initiative…
We want children to understand they can ask to be read to.
Picture this: a classroom teacher asks ‘Who read to you last night?’ and there are various responses from classmates, ‘My mother / my brother / my aunt / the lady next door / no-one!’
The teacher can then identify those children who may have their reading buddy (a senior) / a school volunteer to visit them in the classroom during the day to read to them.
So what will you be doing this Saturday to support International Read to Me! Day? Some ideas are:
Together, we can make a difference
For more information: http://www.readtomeday.com/
Quotes from http://www.valleyfm.com/blog/international/ and http://www.childwrites.com.au/childwrites-international-read-to-me-day
Please feel free to share what you are doing this Saturday, or any day for that matter, to empower children and make sure that they are being read to today.
Recently I attended National Bookshop Day at my local bookshop. An excited crowd packed the small space, waiting for story reading time, and the opportunity to speak with local children’s book authors and illustrators. Chrissy’s Organic Food tempted our taste buds while we waited. A table was packed with the children’s books on offer by these local celebs. The fact that by the time story reading time came around and there was only about five children deterred no-one.
As the first author was introduced, an excited hush fell over the crowd as all, adults included, leaned forward to listen to the first author read her story to the children. I had looked at the book earlier and I liked the story. It was a very lovely, enjoyable story. I had met the author earlier and she was delightful.
How to bore children
During her presentation I did learn a few things if you want to lose the children’s interest:
When I mentioned these observations to a friend, she replied that, “Not everyone who can write can present the story well to a crowd of children.,” (or something to that effect).
The third presenter read a story out of a compilation of stories. Picking one she started to read. I learned further how to lose the children’s interest.
Why I did I skip from the first presenter and straight to the last? The second presenter did not bore the children.
Here’s is what I learnt from the second presenter on how to read a story to children, and entertain them:
What about you? Have you got any tips to share about reading stories to entertain children?
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