Top Author Tips for Encouraging Reading

Reading leads

It’s no secret that the government has stepped up its reading initiatives throughout the country over the last few years following the revelation of the UK’s shocking literacy level results and we often see many famous authors at the forefront of these promotions. Obviously authors just want more people to read so more people buy their books, I hear you cry! Well yes…..and no. Yes because they want to make a living out of something they love to do but no because a child may love to read but that doesn’t mean they will necessarily like to read their books! Authors are pushing these campaigns because each one of them is continuously experiencing the true extent of how books can add value to anyone’s life. The strong link between the love of reading and writing is irrefutable and it is often by reading that a writer is inspired to create stories, just like those that inspired the writer to read in the first place. Writing fulfills the need to communicate and share that which inspires, uplifts and excites our minds, thoughts and perspectives and every kind of literature is bulging with words waiting to be understood.

Quote Margaret Mead

Reading leads everyone along an individual path. What better way is there to assimilate information about our world other than through reading? Whether it’s via a book, comics, newspapers, emails, letters or the internet, it is still the act of reading. Books give children the opportunity to absorb information for their own use. In my world I accept dragons and fairies but boot out all the unwanted zombies!

Quote Edmund Wilson

Twins can lead identical lives but their experience and perspectives will always be different. No two people experience the world in the same way just as no two people will interpret a book in the same way. Books are packed with information of knowledge and experience which is there for us to question and challenge and contribute uniquely to our lives.  This is how books nurture individuals and most importantly ones who can think for themselves. If everyone thought the same, the world would stagnate and never progress.

Quote Neil Gaiman

So I thought I would find out what the famous children’s authors are saying about reading and have summed up some of their top tips on ways to encourage children to read – from the mouths of those who know!

J. K. ROWLING: 

“The stories we love best do live in us forever.”

Sharing the experience has to be one of the best ways to encourage reading and finding the “right” book. #PotteritForward which was initiated by the MuggleNet fan site, has only added to the addictive magic of Harry Potter. The idea behind it is to leave post-it notes for the next reader giving their own real examples of what they have gained and what they will always remember from reading Harry Potter.

JULIA DONALDSON:

“Act the stories out a little bit with your child by taking turns to do the voices.”

Read interactively with your child. Julia Donaldson advises that reading rhyming stories with repeated sound patterns will help your child to decode and enable them to enjoy repeating the parts they know off by heart.

MICHAEL MORPURGO: 

“It’s not about testing and reading schemes, but about loving stories and passing on that passion to our children.”

Read as a family for pleasure. Make books easily accessible at home to show books are not just for education but also for pleasure. Show that you as a parent are interested in stories and love reading too.

FRANK COTTRELL BOYCE: 

“The joy of a bedtime story is the key to developing a love of reading in children.”

Make time for bedtime reading. Let’s face it, children go to bed early so some of us aren’t even home from work by then but this is exactly when bedtime stories can become even more special, something to look forward to, a time with mummy or daddy and a treat. So Frank Cottrell Boyce is saying find that precious time to regularly read with your children each week.

NEIL GAIMAN:  

“Libraries are about freedom. The freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication.”

The choice is theirs. Neil Gaiman sees a library as the heart of reading for pleasure, a place where a child should be permitted to read anything they like.

NICK HORNBY: 

Tell boys books are highly inappropriate.”

Break the rules with reading. A clever approach of reverse psychology could indeed encourage many a reluctant reader to find out what they’re missing out on!

DAVID WALLIAMS: 

“Books fire children’s imaginations like nothing else.”

Get your imagination talking. On 19 Aug 2015 Nicky Morgan (education secretary) and David Walliams launched a campaign to encourage fun book clubs to be set up in schools to help children share the stories and read them together for mutual enjoyment.

MICHAEL ROSEN:

Stop focusing on decoding and testing and encourage children “to lose themselves in a good story.”

Reading is fun and not just for school. Michael Rosen focuses on the danger that too much analysing could cause a fun activity to become something quite dull.

MO WILLEMS: 

“Forget about reading being healthy. It’s not broccoli. In fact, most children’s books are lies. And the bigger the lie the better the book – as long as it’s emotionally true.”

Reading is not like vegetables! So don’t make them devour a book because it’s morally correct or sound advice. Let them devour it because it’s gives them the enjoyment of experiencing something new. Then they will make up their own mind as to whether it’s good for them or not.

CHRIS RIDDELL: 

“I’m interested in illustration in all its forms, not only in books for children but in posters, prints and performance, as a way of drawing people into books and stories.”

“I want to help and encourage every school to do more for readers: if they have nowhere to read, create a space with a few books; if they have a bookshelf, have two; if they have a reading room, aim for a library!”

Reading is more than words. Voted in as the new children’s laureate, Chris Riddell will be bringing words and pictures together and campaigning for more time and space to be allocated to reading in schools.

If you would like to help a child to read check out the charity Beanstalk.

10 Book Themed Fundraising Ideas

Book Fundraising Ideas Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s that time of year again when I see the red noses appearing and the Comic Relief adverts starting to pop up as the momentum builds to prepare us for the big fundraiser. David Walliams’ new picture book “The Queen’s Orang-utan” (illustrated by Tony Ross) was published today in aid of Comic Relief and once again reviews promise his story will not disappoint. Many people would have been involved at various stages or production in giving their time to compose this book with the aim of helping to raise awareness and funds to make hundreds of people’s lives better.

Raising money for charity is not an easy task though. It’s always difficult to ask people to hand over their hard earned cash and usually it boils down to asking the same few people every time so there comes a point when applying a little imagination to encourage people to give is required. If you want to help raise some money for your school or a charity close to your heart here are ten fundraising ideas which involve books. It’s time for a laugh so put on your funny face and enjoy some simple fun and light-hearted fundraising activities.

Second hand book sale: Ask family, teachers, neighbours and friends to donate any unwanted or outgrown books. Set up a stall and charge a £1 or 50p per book depending on the condition. Many second hand bookstores will give you a nominal bulk price for any of the books you don’t sell. All profits to be donated to charity.

Sponsored bookathon: Choose a charity such as Red Nose Day. Set a challenge, for example to read as many pages as possible in 1 hour.  Each child is sponsored per page read so it is a challenge all ages and abilities can participate in. Hand out copies of sponsor forms and arrange place and time. Conduct the big read as a group activity or individually. Advise a date when sponsor money is to be collected and handed in.

Make a school poetry book: This will need a little extra pre-planning. Ask the children to write a poem. Either set a topic or leave it optional. Vary the length according to the age group. Get book printed with each child’s poem and sell to parents and friends of school for charity. Some publishers publish individual school print runs. The children and their parents will love seeing their work in print.

Open mic poetry session: Ideal for budding poets and writers in the school who can sign up to recite their poems or short stories to other pupils. Sell tickets for a small fee which goes to charity.

Book auction: This requires the donation of books which have an immediate appeal to people such as new, in demand books from publishers or bookshops, classic collectable books in good condition, sets of popular books, attractive displayable books or unusual books to sell to the highest bidder as a charity donation.

Play book bingo: Sell tickets for an afternoon of book bingo. Make up bingo sheets of popular children’s books with small prizes for each winner. All profits donated to charity.

Raffle a book cake: Ask a local cake maker or a talented parent to donate a cake in the shape of a book or popular book theme and sell raffle tickets for charity.

Dress up as your favourite book character: Pupils pay a fee to be allowed to come to school dressed as their favourite character in a book. Any money collected goes to charity. For ideas visit my new Pinterest board where I’ve put together a selection of my favourite pins for DIY Book Character Costumes. Some are quick, some are easy others may require some skill!

Make and sell bookmarks: Set up a handcrafted bookmark stall. Get the children to make different bookmarks to sell to other pupils, teachers and parents. For fun bookmarks visit my Pinterest board displaying some great finds in how to make Children’s homemade bookmarks.

Host a book quiz: This could either be a team quiz or mastermind style quiz on a chosen book. I’ll be pinning some children’s book quiz lists to my Pinterest boards soon so if this idea could work for you please check back later.

I’d love to know if any of you have been involved in book related fundraising events so please share how they went, what worked, what didn’t work and any other ideas you came up with.

I’m a celebrity, get me a children’s book!

Fame Fortune

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s no longer a big surprise when yet another celebrity announces they are trying their hand at writing for children and become a member of the famously increasing book club which already includes much loved stars like Ricky Gervais, Will Smith, Madonna and Holly Willoughby. Yet at the same time it still tends to attract a decent amount of groaning and moaning from the public. So why is this? Many of us may be getting a bit tired of hearing about celebrities who think they rule the world and can do anything they like. So we could be forgiven that our first reaction might be that they should stick to what they’re good at! Yet why shouldn’t they use their fame to get ahead in the publishing world? After all they have achieved their stardom off their own back; it’s their talents that have earned them the media attention in the first place so there’s absolutely no reason why they shouldn’t –unless they’re truly rubbish at writing of course! Every book goes through a million and one grammatical and editorial checks, months sometimes even years before it goes to print so how much of it is ultimately written by the celebrity themselves? For some it is very little if anything at all in the instance of a ghost writer being employed. A ghost writer would discuss ideas with the celebrity and put them on paper in the correct grammatical format, create a story around these initial ideas and ensure vigorous editing is achieved whilst the final book itself is officially credited to the celebrity, who’s possibly contributed a few bullet points. Katie Price was blatant about using a ghost writer but as the American actor turned author Jason Segel put it when singing the praises of his co-author Kirsten Miller, I’d rather team up with someone who’s amazing at what they do and have something turn out great, than do it alone, out of pride, and have it be less good” (Jason Segel relishes the role of storyteller). At a readership level it is very hard to fathom the true level of involvement the celebrity has in writing the book especially when they’re publically taking the credit; they have to look like they know what they’re talking about. Those involved might say it’s a win-win situation from a financial point of view, others, that it’s a pure farce to twin a writer who isn’t bothered about celebrity status with a celebrity who isn’t bothered about writing!

HOLD ON…….is this just bad feeling on my part from assuming that celebrities can instantly get published on the basis they’re a good marketing bet? Is it not possible that they could be talented at more than one thing?

Frank Lampard has in fact stuck to what he does best by basing his children’s books on football and surely few could argue that for David Walliams to share his sense of humour with children can only be a positive influence. Believe it or not, being a celebrity can also be a hindrance in the writing world. It mustn’t be forgotten that being famous could actually predetermine a negative bias towards the celebrity’s book. If you don’t like the often controversial Russell Brand for example chances are you’re not going to bother with his book, acting on a judgement you’ve made before even opening his book! Whereas a reader has no preconceptions of an unknown writer so if the blurb on the back of the book sounds good they could be more likely to give their book a chance.

A couple of the Guardian write ups were less than complimentary to Russell Brand’s books (My booky wook for the kids: Russell Brand is telling fairy stories and Russell Brand’s and Neil Gaiman’s childhood reinventions) suggesting that in true Brand style he merely throws an array of possibilities up in the air leaving you to slot all the pieces together and try and determine if they actually mean anything. Yet isn’t that his appeal? Is this the journalist’s view of the book or the author? This kind of bad publicity could be a disaster for an unknown but this is probably when being a celebrity comes into its own and just needs a quick flick off the shoulder for them to bounce back into the marketing light.

Realistically the amount of celebrities gaining publication of a children’s book in comparison to the amount of celebrities out there is actually very low, it’s merely we hear about celebrity books more often as they’re already a person being talked about in the news. Let’s face it, a column on Russell Brand’s new book venture is bound to entice you over a headline unveiling Amanda Lonergan’s new children’s book – never heard of her, who is she anyway! It begs the question whether it is the book the readers are interested in or the celebrity? If I do ever get a national newspaper spread about my books, the chances are it would be exactly that – about my books and not so much me – which in my eyes is the right way round as it is my books I want children to enjoy and seek out. It is not an unusual trait for some writers to shy away from the public eye and favour solitude over celebrity status, so perhaps it is the perfect partnership after all.

Here are some more links for a good read on this topic.

The emerging cult of celebrity authors moving in on the industry.

Frank Lampard: Why I love reading, writing and playing football.

Why I’m Glad that “Girl Online” was ghostwritten.

Why do celebrities think they can write children’s books?