An Open Book

the-open-book-with-key

The other week a notification popped up on my WordPress account which announced I’d published my 100th blog! I was gobsmacked. I never thought I’d have so much to say. It felt good that I’d reached this milestone but it also poked at some mixed emotions I’d rather ignore.

Since I started writing for children so many people have mentioned that they too have a book inside them that they want to write. Some have been nudged into action; some have done nothing whilst others have built a list of excuses. At some point in my life I’ve done all three and continue to do so on some level but I’m convinced that all the emotions I encounter as I try to realise my ambitions are being felt everywhere in the world in some form or other. You may not have that hankering to be a writer but perhaps you’re setting up a new marshmallow making business or about to host the biggest beauty event you’ve ever attempted or dipping out of the corporate life to become a painter. Whatever it is for you, be prepared to be bombarded with emotions.

My writing journey is a continuous leap into the unknown full of surprises and disappointments, twists and turns. I’m already beginning to see that it’s not a simple question of getting from A to B, the path can branch off into many uncharted locations with little or no signposts to indicate which way is the right direction.

“Explore as many opportunities as you can” I hear the experts say.

“See where they take you” they encourage.

So when My Trending Stories contacted me with a blogging opportunity I decided to take the plunge and join this new community of wordaholics. It’s already exploding with mind-melting articles so I saw it as a chance for me to blog about the raw side of how it feels to try something new and follow your heart, the bits we don’t talk about so much, the feelings which go hand in hand with the bumpy path of turning aspiration into reality.

It’s not just a blog about my writing career, it’s a blog about human emotion, perseverance and anyone dealing with change and looking to try out something new. I’ve posted up a couple of blogs already so head over to An Open Book if you or anyone you know is in a similar position and looking for some ideas on how to magnify the good feelings and get beyond the bad feelings when trying to achieve their dream.

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Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 5: You Are Stardust by Elin Kelsey

Did you know that not only are all things made of atoms but these same atoms once came from an exploding star? That’s right, that means that you, me, our pets and even our books have the universe inside them.

Everything is Connected

The more we think about this fact the more mind-blowing the thought becomes as the realisation emerges that everything on planet earth is a part of the whole universe. Think of yourself more like a cell within the body of the universe. You’re a small part of the body but essential to the mechanics of its entire function. So when you next feel detached from the world you live in, think bigger, put life into perspective and the infinite connections will become clear.

Book review on You are Stardust by author Elin Kelsey.

You Are Stardust

What’s it all about?

You Are Stardust draws comparisons between humans and the rest of the world. We like to think we’re the superior creatures on this planet but this beautiful children’s book gently shows us that all nature and living things are more alike than we care to recognise. We are all a part of the earth, just as the earth is a part of us; from what we are made of to what we do and how we feel and behave, the similarties may astound you.

Which age group is it aimed at?

The short and simple text suggests this book is aimed at 4-7 year olds but in practise it’s a thought-provoking book for any age.

Conclusion

It’s not often I feel a fondness for a book, but for this one I do. This book portrays a sense of modesty and oozes orginality.

Being a little longer than your average picture book, including fifteen double page spreads and illustrated with photographic artwork, it’s clearly a non-fiction book which is determined to break the picture book mould and stand out from the crowd. This empathic story of nature is an eye opener which reminds us of our connections to planet earth in an endearing but factual way.

Author: Elin Kelsey

Illustrator: Soyeon Kim

Publisher: Flying Eye Books, March 2016.

Our Rating: 5/5

CLICK TO BUY You are Stardust: Our Amazing Connections With Planet Earth

NOTE: Books for Children Blog is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk

Source: Own copy

Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 1: The Story of Life

Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 2: The Adventures of Water

Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 3: Tree: Seasons Come, Seasons Go

Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 4: Atomic Adventure

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Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 4: Atomic Adventure by Dr. Dominic Walliman & Ben Newman

In today’s digital time frame I find it’s so easy to become mesmerised by our phones, iPads or computers. As the internet sweeps us along a path of striving for what will be, might be, or ought to be, as it promises riches and tells us we should be inspiring others or accomplishing something incredible to prove our worth and reason for existing, as it entices us to become more and more tangled up in society’s urgency, it’s then that we forget to stop and take notice of the true wonder of what we are and what is happening right in front of our eyes at this very moment in time.

Atoms

When something so tiny can be so great the only mistake to be made is for it to be overlooked. Atoms are the foundations of life, of people and the universe yet without magnification atoms are invisible to the human eye. Understanding things we cannot see or perceive continues to baffle, confuse and intrigue many of us. Making sense of what appears to be one thing but is actually quite another seems illogical. Perhaps we should be feeling our way towards the answers instead of looking for material proof. Yet as humans we want to measure things and find reasons as we strive to agree on solid results. This next book wholly encompasses the allure behind physics and scientific explanations of our world.

Book Review on Professor Astro Cat’s Atomic Adventure by author/s Dr Dominic Walliman & Ben Newman.

Atomic Adventure

What’s it all about?

This fascinating children’s non-fiction picture book delves into the physics behind the energy forces that make up our world. It presents this complex topic in a remarkable way. We learn about light, sound, gravity, force, pressure, energy, magnetism, atoms, molecules and so much more. All the things we cannot see but know they are there. This book shows us a fun, knowledgeable and contemporary approach to physics and is bursting with mind blowing facts which are concisely explained through everyday events that children can easily relate to.

Which age group is it aimed at?

Due to the complex topic and the sheer volume of information to absorb I would rate this suitable for age 6 upwards. However it’s harder to put a maximum age limit on it as it’s an excellent reminder of basic physics at any time throughout school life.

Conclusion

The look and feel of this children’s book makes it an ideal gift for a curious mind, looking for answers and keen to learn about the invisible side to our world. This large hardback book is one to keep and to be used as a handy reference book.The humorous characters and attractive infographic style illustrations bring physics alive.

Author/s: Dr Dominic Walliman & Ben Newman

Illustrator: Ben Newman

Publisher: Flying Eye Books, March 2016.

Our Rating: 5/5

CLICK TO BUY Professor Astro Cats Atomic Adventure

NOTE: Books for Children Blog is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk

Source: Own copy

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Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 1: The Story of Life

Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 2: The Adventures of Water

Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 3: Tree: Seasons Come, Seasons Go

Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 3: Tree: Seasons Come, Seasons Go by Patricia Hegarty

When we go for a walk in the country, what do we see?  How does it make us feel?

Perhaps we admire the view like a picture of beauty held static in time and capture it on our iPhones as a keepsake. Or maybe we’re aware of the footprints in the soil,  the leaves falling to the ground or a bird chirping above us on a branch. Yet somehow life seems to slow down in the country. The air feels calmer and our hearts more serene as we march through the fields and weave among the trees at a purposeful pace. Suddenly it’s like the world around us is standing still as we rush across its living surface. A mere cursory glance could trick us into thinking that it’s only us who is changing, moving and interacting with our surroundings and nothing else …but then we look again.

The miracle is that everything around us is in a constant state of change. Everything is reacting and adapting to its surrounding environment. Everything is growing, developing and regenerating into something new. All living things are connected within this continuous cycle and nothing more clearly demonstrates this than our ever changing seasons.

Book Review on Tree: Seasons Come, Seasons Go by author Patricia Hegarty

Tree

What’s it all about?

A striking picture book which depicts the changing seasons through the life cycle of a tree. The concept is simple and brings the descriptions of each season to life with rhyming text. It starts in winter and follows the seasons full circle back to winter again. We learn about how the tree interacts and changes with the weather, animals and surrounding plants throughout each season.

Which age group is it aimed at?

This book would capture the interest of the younger end of the picture book market, age two to five years. Young children will find that the bright illustrations and rhythmic text clearly and simply demonstrate the changing seasons and make them fun and easy to recognise.

Conclusion

The look and feel of this book immediately draws you in with its vibrant pictures and cute little owl peeping out through the cut out hole. This is a book you would be proud to have on your bookshelf. Both informative and enchanting. Although I found the rhyme a little clunky in places, overall it added to the magical atmosphere created within the book.

Author: Patricia Hegarty

Illustrator: Britta Teckentrup

Publisher: Little Tiger Kids, Sept 2015

Our Rating: 5/5

CLICK TO BUY Tree: Seasons Come, Seasons Go

NOTE: Books for Children Blog is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk

Source: Own copy

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Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 1: The Story of Life

Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 2: The Adventures of Water

Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 2: The Adventures of Water by Malcolm Rose

Most of us are well aware that we need water to stay alive but are we aware of the extent of the role that water plays in our lives and that of other organisms, animals and plants? Are we aware of how dependent we’ve become on water in daily activities and the effects we’re having on that water we drink to stay alive? Today in part two of my blog about discovering our world in picture books I explore the valuable role water plays here on earth and it’s natural continuous cycle.

“Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink” Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

Approximately 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water.  Approx. 2.6% of which is fresh water found in lakes, rivers, icecaps and glaciers, or otherwise held as water vapour in the air, moisture in the ground or found within permeable rock, animals and ourselves; around 60% of the human body is made up of water. The other 97.4% of the water on Earth is salt water held in the oceans and is not drinkable.

However, just think how much of the 2.6% of fresh water is either difficult to obtain or has been contaminated by sewage, industrial and domestic waste, oil spillages and nuclear disasters. In practice less than 1% of the world’s water is considered suitable for drinking and that’s once it has travelled through a rigorous industrial cleansing process.

I once read that we need to teach our children to love and embrace nature and the outdoors if we stand a chance of saving it. It’s one thing for us as parents to nag our children about recycling and disposing of waste responsibly but quite another to explain why we do it. Helping our children understand the importance of water within ourselves and the universe is a huge step forward in this direction so they learn to understand the impact we have on nature and how protecting our world is protecting ourselves.

Book Review on The Adventures of Water by author Malcolm Rose.

The Adventures of Water

What’s it all about?

This colourful pop-up book follows the water cycle from water vapour to tidal seas. It includes interesting facts about the properties of water, the uses of water, the effects of water in the environment, water as a habitat and water in the body. With plenty of lift-up flaps and spin wheels to keep the little ones involved and keen to search for answers, this is a thorough introduction to the continuous journey of water, annotated with interesting facts alongside simple illustrations.

Which age group is it aimed at?

The Adventures of Water is another example of a non-fiction picture book which could appeal on different levels for those aged between five and ten years. I see it as a book which children can go back to time and again to re-explore its features and discover a different fact as they progress in age.

Conclusion

I love this book. The layout, the illustrations and engaging information work together perfectly. Every time I look at it with my children we find something new. However, whilst this book states that “about one-eighth of the world’s population does not have access to safe drinking water” I was disappointed that it didn’t mention anything about why and how it can be polluted and the devastating effects it can have. This is the only reason I rated this book 4 out of 5. The addition of one more double page spread for this purpose would have given this a 5 star rating from me. Otherwise I cannot fault it. This book would make an absorbing read for any child with a thirst for knowledge!

Author: Malcolm Rose

Illustrator: Sean Sims

Publisher: Red Shed, Aug 2015

Our Rating: 4/5

CLICK TO BUY The Adventures of Water

NOTE: Books for Children Blog is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk

Source: Own copy

All % figures quoted from the Adventures of Water.

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Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 1: The Story of Life

Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 1: The Story of Life by Catherine Barr and Steve Williams

I’m excited about these next books I’ve got lined up to review as this time I’ve chosen something a little different. I always say that variety is the best solution to maintain a little one’s interest in reading so I thought I’d take a look at some of the amazing non-fiction picture books currently on the market which help children to understand our natural world. So what better place to start than at the beginning with evolution.

Evolution

Sitting here at my writing desk, surrounded by objects, tools and inventions, a clutter of non living things, it’s hard to imagine where it all began. It feels like the real world has been displaced and thrown off wack somehow as floors, doors and walls detach me from true life. For me evolution is the miracle of how things change, how things progress, how each individual living cell effects another, how something small can become a part of something incredible and that all of us are an integral catalyst of this cycle on earth.

Book Review on The Story of Life by author/s Catherine Barr & Steve Williams.

The Story of Life

What’s it all about?

The Story of Life is a clear, structured book which depicts the stages of evolution amid a fun and lighthearted tone. We follow the timeline from basic cells to life as we know it today. It touches on how all living things are a part of the evolution process and that it’s the development of new behaviours, abilities and changes within the natural habitat which triggers the next cycle. At each stage this book discusses why or how animals died out in the past and ultimately what is causing extinction now? If your child is curious about life on earth this book gives a clear indication of the fascinating historical chain of events and the glossary of useful words at the back of this book supports their understanding.

Which age group is it aimed at?

I found this book to have a fairly wide age appeal. A child of five years could easily grasp the basics and enjoy the pictures whilst a ten year old would appreciate the greater detail and interesting facts presented as an easy to understand timeline of the events.

Conclusion

Remarkably, this book splits a complex topic into manageable bite sized chunks with complimentary illustrations for each factual piece of information. The illustrations feel fun and make you smile but still manage to convey the right tone for each era. An excellent book for triggering discussion although probably not intended to be read in one sitting as there’s a lot of information to absorb.

Author/s: Catherine Barr & Steve Williams

Illustrator: Amy Husband

Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, Mar 2015

Our Rating: 5/5


CLICK TO BUY The Story of Life: A First Book about Evolution

NOTE: Books for Children Blog is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk

Source: Own copy

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From Picture Book to Chapter Book.

Early Reader 6-8 Blog Image

My six year old boy isn’t a reluctant reader as such but if I ask him to read a book that he thinks he can’t manage he’s easily put off. Whilst I will only suggest books which I think he can cope with there’s often other ideas going on in that head of his. Without a doubt, foremost he still adores many picture books but he’s now becoming interested in longer stories despite it being obvious he still lacks the confidence to tackle them head on.

I’ve therefore been looking for books which bridge the gap between picture books and longer chapter books; ones which make the transition less obvious. The general rule of thumb is to pick books which have early reader across the top of the front cover. Early reader books are smaller than picture books and although the font size varies between books that too is generally reduced. On the whole they’re also split into short chapters but predominantly still focus on less text and more illustrations. Horrid Henrys & Early Readers 20 Children’s Books Collection Box Set Illustrated by Francesca Simon is an obvious choice within this category. However for some reason despite his school book bag being packed full of early reader books my son steers well clear of these at home. I think perhaps he associates these types of books with school. So I’ve spent some time searching for chapter books which contain the same features as early reader books but maybe look a little less educational! It hasn’t been easy. There are several within this category of which he loves the story and is happy for me to read to him but if any suggestion is made for him to read them to me he quickly loses interest. I’ve therefore tried to follow his lead on this. It’s involved offering a large variety of books and much trial and error. However the following six books are all ones which he often picks up and reads by himself without any prompting.


Stink, The Incredible Shrinking Kid by Megan McDonald (author) & Peter H. Reynolds (illustrator). Published:  Walker Books Ltd, 2006.

This has been around for a while and is the first in a spin off series from the author’s Judy Moody series as Stink is Judy’s little brother James. In this book we follow Stink through from his experience of shrinking to dealing with an escaping class newt and being the recipient of an un-birthday party. An amusing story with a light-hearted tone encouraging children to be happy with who they are. The large text and frequent illustrations made this book a popular choice.

CLICK TO BUY Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid


Wigglesbottom Primary, The Magic Hamster by Pamela Butchart (author) & Becka Moor (illustrator). Published: Nosy Crow Ltd, 2016.

I knew this title would get my youngest’s attention. The mix of magic, hamsters and friendship was everything he loves all rolled into one. He was happy to take this one away and read it on his own instead of watching TV so it gets full marks from me. This is just one out of a growing series of books set in Wigglesbottom Primary and it’s a lovely example of the dual colour palette and shiny pages I’m seeing more and more of for this age range. Somehow this design seems to enhance the contemporary feel of the book for me. This particular book is split into three separate stories, the first being about the magic hamster.

CLICK TO BUY Wigglesbottom Primary: The Magic Hamster


Action Dogs, Ocean of Peril by Steve Barlow and Steve Skidmore (authors) & Martin Chatterton (illustrator). Published: Usborne Publishing Ltd, 2012.

My youngest was very keen to read this one to me and despite some words being beyond his vocabulary level he has happily persisted. Action Dogs is a graphic novel with comic style speech bubbles, black and white illustrations, moody cats and clumsy heroes with high tech gadgets and disastrous plans. The font is smaller than that of other books but it has been split into twenty-five manageable sections. A book packed with drama and mishaps galore.

CLICK TO BUY Action Dogs: Ocean of Peril (Book 1)


The Chicken Squad, The First Misadventure by Doreen Cronin (author) & Kevin Cornell (illustrator). Published: Atheneum Books for Young Readers; Reprint ed. Edition, 2015.

These cute baby chickens are full of character and brave beyond their size. Split between an introduction, nine chapters and an epilogue, this book works well as a gentle introduction for young readers to a traditional book layout but with large text. The black and white illustrations express a range of emotions as the chickens go in search of the scary thing that has got Tail and squirrel all worked up.

CLICK TO BUY The Chicken Squad: The First Misadventure


Squishy McFluff, The Invisible Cat by Pip Jones (author) & Ella Okstad (illustrator). Published: Faber & Faber Ltd 2014.

The large text and a dual pastel palate used to highlight expressive black and white sketches makes this book a pleasure to look at. The story is split into three short rhyming chapters about a little girl Ava and her invisible kitten who likes to get into mischief. Stories written in rhyme are often very appealing to new readers as the predictability of rhyme can help them interpret the text more easily. Squishy’s funny melodic rhyming adventures are a prime example of this. Pip Jones has had five more published since this one as part of the series.

CLICK TO BUY Squishy McFluff: The Invisible Cat!


Claude, Going for Gold by Alex T. Smith (author / illustrator). Published: Hodder Children’s Books 2016.

Going for Gold is the latest in a superb series. Although the Claude stories aren’t split into chapters they are a must for early readers. Our entire family are huge fans of the comical French dog Claude and his best friend Sir Bobblysock. It’s extremely amusing on many levels and complimented by the eccentric illustrations splashed with red. Claude is cast as a lovable accidental hero who is always up for trying new things. Accompanied by his friend Sir Bobblysock, who doesn’t like getting dirty and prefers to do as little as he possibly can, they regularly slip out of the house in search of adventure whilst their owners are at work.

CLICK TO BUY Claude Going for Gold!

I’ll be posting some more short reviews here and on my Facebook page over the summer holidays of picture books as well as easy reader books for 6-8 year olds so hopefully everyone can find at least one to keep each little one keen to read this summer.

Source: Library or private collection.

NOTE: Books for Children Blog is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk

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Is it Just Another Cover Up?

What does a book cover say about its book?

Book Cover

Is it the book’s front man in the guise of an attractive designer coat with the sole intention of luring you in? Maybe it acts as the protector of its book, like a knight defending its worth? Perhaps it feels like something which is detached from its owner to distract you from the monotonous, bland print inside?

Or … is a book’s cover an integral part of the book’s content? This was a point raised on Twitter following my blog last week when I said it’s ultimately what’s inside the book that matters not what’s on the outside and it’s a topic which proves to be greater than it first appears.

A book cover could make or break your book.

There’s no escaping it. A book cover wouldn’t exist without a book and it is marketing which plays a large part in the creation of a book cover. A book needs something pretty to prompt the reader to pick it up in the first place. However once the book has been born the need for a cover simultaneously develops into a fundamental part of the story and if done well it should be hard to separate the two.

A book cover raises curiosity.

For all books (including picture books and graphic novels) the cover illustration is always going to be a strong image we associate with the book on some level. It’s the first impression we receive before we know anything about the book and the one which symbolises the entire sense of the story in one powerful image. It should tell us what we can expect from the book and which other books it is similar to. A cover needs to raise curiosity and encourage the reader to start questioning what the book is all about.

A book cover sets the scene.

Designing a book cover is a complex process. First the illustrator needs to establish the character, setting and plot and maybe highlight any contrasts they’ve picked up on within the story. Then there’s the genre (e.g. historical, thriller, gothic), the theme (e.g. coming of age, everlasting love, desire to escape), the tone (e.g. jokey, tense, cynical), the mood (e.g. foreboding, exciting, calm) and the narrative quality (e.g. elaborate, simple, insightful) which all need to be combined in such an intriguing design that the essence of the book is poignantly portrayed without giving the story away. Finally there’s the practical imagery to consider too. What does the colour scheme say? Even the typography needs to be reflective of the contents of the book.

A book cover gives an unread book meaning.

One glimpse at a book without its cover seems to render the book void of meaning.  Have you ever seen blind dates with a book advertised in bookshops? This is when a selection of books are wrapped in brown paper so their cover images are a mystery to the reader. The excitement and wonder is in the unknown as the reader has only the title to go by and nothing else. It’s a lucky dip. When faced with these clones we realise a book cover is what differentiates each book and adds to its unique personality before it’s even been opened. Each cover and its book are intrinsically linked.

A book cover is a visual introduction which entices you to read.

Although I stand by my comment that it’s what’s on the inside that ultimately matters, this comment is based purely on the fact that a book cover only comes into existence because a book has been written and not visa versa. Unlike a book, its cover design is not about itself, its sole purpose is to represent the book’s contents so a cover cannot be designed before the book is written. However, a cover plays a very important role in the life of a story. It gives us the title, a symbolic image for the story and of course the all important blurb on the back so the chances are that without any book covers we’d probably read far fewer books in the first place… and what’s the point of a book that is never read? It’s at this point we can see that the cover develops into the visual introduction to the story and a highly influential one which sets the readers expectations.

A book and its cover work together.

So it looks like the relationship between a book and its cover has become less a matter of importance and more a matter of mutual benefit in the way that they complement each other. The next time you pick up a book why not give the cover a little more credit and make a point to observe it closer? What’s the book cover saying to you about the book? Then maybe take another look again once you’ve read the book. Did it fulfil your expectations?

Please head over to my new Pinterest board of children’s book covers where I’ve started to collect those which have caught my eye due to their colour, beauty, patterns, intricacy or simplicity. I’ve included three alternative designs for Alice in Wonderland to show how varied interpretation can be. Keep watching as I’ll be adding some more as I find them.

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Make Bedtime Reading Interactive

Children’s books are supposed to be fun but this intention can be easily misinterpreted by a child when reading is a daily part of their homework. So sometimes as parents we have to go that extra mile to show our children that although it’s a routine requirement it doesn’t have to be a chore. We know reading stories can be funny, interesting, surprising and enlightening but when we add in a little extra imagination they can be read in unconventional ways too. By doing this we can demonstrate that a writer can provide the platform for your enjoyment but how you the reader benefits from the book is a completely individual approach. The aim is to make reading stories a positive experience. I doubt there’s anyone out there who wants to do something they don’t enjoy so why would we expect our children to feel any different?

Reading with Child

  1. Invite a favourite cuddly toy to act out the story. A cuddly toy is like a child’s best friend. One that never disagrees with them, makes them feel safe and will always be there for them (providing they’re not left on the train, in the park or accidentally dropped down a well). So helping their toy act out a story can feel quite natural for a child. Ask your child to choose a cuddly toy who would like to play the leading character in the story. As you read, swap the name of the leading character with toy’s name and watch your child take them on an adventure. A great way to make the story more memorable too.
  2. Narrate the story in a silly voice. Pick a well known, distinctive voice to impersonate such as Buzz Lightyear, X Factor voice over, Mr Bean, a robot or Yoda etc. Then see if you can get some giggles by maintaining the guise for the whole of the story.
  3. Read the opposite of the story. Children love it when they know what the story is supposed to be and can spot the funny deliberate errors made by the reader. To do this choose a book your child is familiar with (you know the favourite book you must have read a thousand times). Then turn the story around by replacing words with opposite ones. For example, “We’re going on a mouse hunt. We’re going to catch a tiny one, what a rainy day! We’re so scared” etc (based on Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen) or “Once there was a boy and the boy hated stars very much. Each night the boy ignored the stars outside his window and wished they would all go away” (based on How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers).
  4. Take turns with reading the character’s lines. This is a simple one but very effective on the nights when your child is reluctant or just too tired to read as your joint participation takes some pressure away from your child to complete the whole book on their own.
  5. Sing the story. If your child likes to sing and is losing interest why not suggest they sing the story to you? This can be a made up tune, a memorable song from a film or a popular nursery rhyme and perhaps different characters could have different singing styles. Singing the story can add a new dimension and help develop intonation and expression.

Reading on Sofa

Livening up bedtime reading can be as much for us parents as the children at times. I know I struggle some nights to muster up the enthusiasm when I’m feeling exhausted, stressed or dispirited with life and just want them to be quiet and in bed so I can wind down from a challenging day. So removing the monotony is also a good way to keep it pleasurable for all involved. It’s important for us to stay engaged and enthusiastic too because if we can’t show we’re enjoying reading time the chances are our children won’t see the fun in it either.

Here’s a link to one of my earlier blogs for more ideas on how to encourage reading – 10 Tips to Transform Your Reluctant Reader into a Master Reader.

Books About Things We’re Not Taught in School – Part 2: Visualisation

Perhaps you’re not a big fan of the idea that you can determine your life path through creative visualisation, after all that would need to be accompanied by belief. It’s a subject which is often dismissed as a little new age and far out. However, whether you warm to the idea or not is irrelevant here as regardless of your beliefs there is no doubt that we all use visualisation on a daily basis. That may be to remind ourselves of the next turning we need to take when finding the right route home for example, picturing the choices we have for breakfast, formulating ideas for a flyer for a new business, imagining stories or our next holiday. We may not always be aware of it but we are regularly using it to get to where we want to be and our children are no different. However the more aware we become of the images that we’re creating and thinking about the more power we have to change them or strengthen them to our advantage. Today I’m reviewing a book called Nightlights which can help a child do just that.

Understanding Visualisation

Visualisation is the word we assign to the act of forming images in our minds. It’s in all of us to be creative creatures. How we express that is very individual but to start being creative first requires us to use our imagination. We can form these visual images in our mind as a fleeting natural reaction to a given situation or a deliberate act of intent.

Book Review on Nightlights by author/s Anne Givardi, Kate Petty, Joyce Dunbar and Louisa Somerville.

Nightlights

What’s it all about?

Nightlights begins with chapters dedicated to useful support for the adult on how to use and make the most of the book covering topics such as Imagination and Creativity, Finding Identity Through Stories and The Art of Reading to Children. Next follows twenty interactive stories which encourage your child to relax and concentrate on the story, to close their eyes and purposefully visualise the story as it’s being read to them.

The stories themselves carry an uncomplicated and gentle tone. Each bright and detailed digital illustration maintains a contemporary appearance for a book which tackles such an ancient topic. Each story is between three and five pages long so just the right length to be read at bedtime. This book encourages your child to imagine themselves in the story and in so doing shows them how to mentally create pictures in their mind with purpose to help organise their thoughts, dreams and ideas and help make sense of them. At the end of each story is a list of related affirmations to reinforce the values behind the story, although to me they’re more akin to wise advice than affirmations.

After the stories we’re offered some additional relaxation and visualisation techniques which focus on specific worries. These techniques can be easily remembered and practised when required. The book talks about these skills as the premise for meditation, breathing and concentration techniques. At the very back of the book is an index of values and issues which makes it easier to pick the right story for the right situation or current concern for your child that day.

Which age group is it aimed at?

This children’s book is advertised on Amazon as being aimed at ages 3 to 7. I see no reason why this book can’t have a positive effect on any child’s mindset but to truly appreciate this book I would recommend waiting until ages 5 upwards as any younger I feel they may not have developed the level of concentration required to see the whole story through to the end in the way that’s required of them.

Conclusion: Nightlights has been a permanent fixture on our shelves for some time now. It’s the type of book that I like to dip into every now and again as it’s something quite different to your average children’s book. I consider it an invaluable book for teaching children the skills to be creative with their lives. It covers a complex topic in a very organised and systematic way. It’s a book to be read out loud to a child and in small chunks. To get the most out of this book I’d suggest a little extra time should be taken to orientate yourself around it before sharing with your children.

Story Editor: Anne Civardi.

Author/s: Kate Petty, Joyce Dunbar, Louisa Somerville.

Introduced by: David Fontana.

Publisher: Duncan Baird Publishers (2003)

Our Rating: 4 out of 5

CLICK TO BUY Nightlights: Stories for You to Read to Your Child – To Encourage Calm, Confidence and Creativity

Next week in PART 3 I will be reviewing a book about how to think positively.

Books About Things We’re Not Taught in School – PART 1: Emotions.

Books About Things We’re Not Taught in School – PART 3: Positive Thinking.

Books About Things We’re Not Taught in School – PART 4: Overcoming Fears.

 

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