2 Free Halloween Reading Games

pinterest-free-printable-halloween-games

It’s not much longer until Halloween so I’ve designed some simple free printable reading games to enjoy this year. These are better printed on card or laminated so they can be used again and again.

Halloween Reading Bingo Game

Always a popular classic. This one is suitable for up to four players or teams. There are forty eight different Halloween themed words and each player has twelve words to match up.

(Please note due to the size of the Bingo cards these may need to be copied and pasted onto a Word document for printing).

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Here are the word counters to cut out and mix up in a bag or envelope and call out one by one. If laminating these, it’s better to cut out the counters first and place individually onto the laminating pouch.

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halloween-reading-bingo-word-counters-2

Halloween Word Match Game

If you like the game Dobble, you might like this too! Instead of pictures I’ve used words in various fonts and only eight cards. This game always requires an even number of players but can be adapted for two, four or eight players.

For a two player game each player takes four cards and places them face down on the table. Each player then turns their top card over and tries to spot the matching word on each card. The person who calls out the correct word first wins both cards and this is repeated until one person has all the cards.

If you have four or eight players you can sit in a circle and split the cards between the number of players. The first two players compare their top cards and as before the winner takes the cards. This is repeated clockwise round the circle in pairs with the next player. A player is out whenever they don’t have anymore cards left and the person who gains all the cards is the winner.

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If you like this matching game I’ve added a link to the original Dobble game I mentioned as it makes a fantastic stocking filler.

Click here to buy Dobble Card Game

Don’t forget if you have time you could also try a speak aloud story challenge by picking one of the cards and using all the words on that card to create your own unique story.

Next week I have two free Halloween writing games.

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@lonerganbooks

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

Dyslexia-Friendly Books for Children

 

dyslexia-friendly-books

What is a dyslexia friendly book and what makes it different to a standard book?

Previously I wrote a blog called The Dancing Book to try and understand what it’s like to read with dyslexia and the types of difficulties readers with dyslexia face . In particular I highlighted the blurred, river or washed out effects. Today my blog is more about finding the right book to reignite a love of reading despite the challenges they face. Book publishers of dyslexia friendly books go to great lengths to consider how they can assist the reader to overcome their frustrations and some of the necessary adjustments may surprise you. Here are a few differences to keep an eye out for when picking up a book for your child in the library or a bookshop.

  • Tinted or cream paper can help reduce the visual distortion experienced, in particular the blurring effect.
  • Simplified font with less hooks or tails can help the reader distinguish between upper and lower case characters more easily for example.
  • Increased character spacing is used to try and reduce the blurring effect.
  • No right hand justification as it can cause uneven spacing between words and letters whereas left hand justification can reduce the spaced out river effect experienced.
  • Thicker paper stock to make sure any words on the other pages don’t bleed through to the next and cause confusion.
  • Special editing procedures to give consideration to spacing and rhyming for example and how they affect readability; avoiding double spacing after full stops to reduce the river effect or using bold text opposed to highlighted text.
  • Shorter extents (e.g. paragraphs and chapters) to provide more breaks.
  • Clear layout to ensure the text is not spun around an illustration making it difficult to follow for example.

In recognition of Dyslexia Awareness Week (3-9 Oct 2016) I’ve put together a suggestion of dyslexia friendly books by some of our well known and best loved children’s authors for various age groups. All these books are published by Barrington Stoke Ltd who specialise in books for children with dyslexia.

PICTURE BOOKS


We are not Frogs by Micheal Morpurgo (author) and Sam Usher (illustrator). Published: Feb 2016.

Jumping with frogs, toads and counting activities. Help them leap out of the ice cream tub and find their way back home.

CLICK HERE TO BUY We are Not Frogs (Picture Squirrel)


Wolfman by Micheal Rosen (author) and Chris Mould (illustrator). Published: Jun 2014.

Wolfman is in a rage and soon stirs up trouble in town. Everyone wants to run away but who will be brave enough to speak to him and ask if they can help?

CLICK HERE TO BUY Wolfman


The Gingerbread Star by Anne Fine (author) and Vicki Gausden (illustrator). Published: Jul 2015.

Hetty the earthworm goes in search of her dream to find her true glow.

CLICK HERE TO BUY The Gingerbread Star (Little Gems)


Blamehounds by Ross Collins (author/illustrator). Published: Apr 2014.

A story of some brave canines taking the blame for the world’s mistakes.

 

CLICK HERE TO BUY Blamehounds (Little Gems)

 

 

AGE 5+


A Twist of Tales by Julia Donaldson (author) and Peter Bailey (illustrator). Published: Sept 2016.

A collection of stories from a dreadful secret to a magnificent dream.

CLICK HERE TO BUY A Twist of Tales (Little Gems)


Mary’s Hair by Eoin Colfer (author) and Richard Watson (illustrator). Published: Jul 2015.

When Mary decides she loathes her big, curly hair there’s only one thing she can do – chop it all off. An hilarious tale of mishaps and challenges.

CLICK HERE TO BUY Mary’s Hair (Little Gems)


Moonshine Dragon by Cornelia Funke (author) and Monika Armino (illustrator). Published: Sept 2016.

When Patrick’s book comes to life he finds himself entangled in a battle between a tiny dragon and a tiny knight. Can he escape alive?

CLICK HERE TO BUY The Moonshine Dragon (Little Gems)


Grandpa was an Astronaut by Jonathan Meres (author) and Hannah Coulson (illustrator). Published: Aug 2016.

Space games with Grandpa takes Sherman on the most imaginative galactic adventures he’s ever seen.

CLICK HERE TO BUY Grandpa was an Astronaut (Little Gems)

 

AGE 7+


If Only we had a Helicopter by Roger Mcgough (author) and Michael Broad (illustrator). Published: Sept 2015.

Another book in the Midge & co. series bursting with mad, hair raising adventures with the boys and a new dog.

CLICK HERE TO BUY If Only We Had a Helicopter (4u2read)


Ghost for Sale by Terry Deary (author) and Stefano Tambellini (illustrator). Published: Nov 2015.

When Mr and Mrs Rundle decided a haunted wardrobe was an excellent selling point for their inn it turns out they get a little more than a few extra visitors.

CLICK HERE TO BUY Ghost for Sale (4u2read)


Going Batty by John Agard (author) and Michael Broad (illustrator). Published: Feb 2016.

For someone afraid of Bats Shona has a shock when she’s asked to do a bat project at school and worse still the little creatures turn up in her attic.

CLICK HERE TO BUY Going Batty (reluctant reader) (4u2read)


The Unlikely Outlaws by Philip Ardagh (author) and Tom Morgan-Jones (illustrator). Published: Mar 2015.

The adventures of Tom Dashwood a knight in training with his outlaws will keep you entertained with his funny and sometimes disastrous escapades.

CLICK HERE TO BUY The Unlikely Outlaws

 

AGE 9+


Mind Writer by Steve Cole (author) and Nelson Evergreen (illustrator). Published: Jul 2016.

Luke can hear people’s thoughts and has endless fun with it in class. However when Samira joins his school he soon finds out she can do something far more sinister. She can change people’s thoughts and together they could make a powerful team.

CLICK HERE TO BUY Mind Writer


The Story of Matthew Buzzington by Andy Stanton (author) and Ross Collins (illustrator). Published: Jul 2014.

Matthew Buzzington knows he can change into a fly but hasn’t quite figured out how to do it yet. A book brimming with Andy Stanton’s crazy humour.

CLICK HERE TO BUY The Story of Matthew Buzzington


Contact by Malorie Blackman (author) and Paul Fisher (illustrator). Published: Apr 2015.

Set in the future where no physical contact is allowed this book explores trust, teamwork and what makes us human.

CLICK HERE TO BUY Contact (reluctant reader) (4u2read)


The Genius Aged 8  ¼ by Jeremy Strong (author) and Jamie Smith (illustrator). Published: Sept 2016.

When all adults around are a disaster, there’s Alfie Poppleton.

CLICK HERE TO BUY
The Genius Aged 8 1/4 (Little Gems)

#BFCB #BooksForChildrenBlog

@lonerganbooks

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

 

 

 

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

#BFCB #BooksForChildrenBlog

@lonerganbooks

Imagine an Illiterate Life

Asian Girl Reading a Book

Being illiterate must be like living a life without any written instruction manuals, those we fondly refer to as books, newspapers, magazines, leaflets, letters, posters, signs and computers which are all packed with opinions, ideas and influences. Perhaps if we were illiterate these would all become lifeless objects and reading would be replaced with personal experience through the people we meet and talk to, everyday events we come into contact with and what we feel as a consequence.

Perhaps we’d begin to see an object for what it is or what we think it is with no added story attached. For example a plastic bag without the warning comment, bottled water with no indication of its origin or a board game without instructions. We would instinctively give each object our own meaning. Hence why a cardboard box becomes a toy for a toddler, a small toy becomes something to eat and an avocado something they start to play with and squash in their hands.

Being unable to read wouldn’t prevent us from communicating. Before speech and language was created early man used pictorial images and actions to communicate. An illiterate world would remain as we see it and not as other people know it. Our views would not be marred by millions of other people’s interpretations and our perspectives would purely be gained from our own direct experiences. There would be no additional knowledge, alternative opinion or challenging perspective beyond that of our immediate environment. It almost sounds quite refreshing to live in a world without conflicting distractions; a world which encourages you to concentrate on what is happening around you and to focus on the present moment.

However our world is no longer like this, we are natural creators and technological advancements and inventions have changed our world. Our world has grown exponentially and continues to grow on a daily basis. As reading and writing developed, messages, knowledge and memories were shared. They were depicted on walls, slate then paper and passed on through the generations. Yet even up to this point communication was confined to the small space we lived in. Humans had no way of knowing what was happening on the other side of the world and even if there was another side to it. There was no means of getting any written communication across the seas until a means of travel was invented, then a worldwide postal system was put in place and more recently the internet was born.

Reading expands our lives. Reading brings everyone in our world closer together. It connects us with people we may never meet. It shows us that what we alone experience is never the whole story. It teases us with something different, it dangles the idea of infinite possibility in front of our eyes. Our universe just got bigger. Which life would you want to lead?

Despite such changes even today a significant percentage of our population in England are what we refer to as functionally literate adults. As parents we have the power to ensure that child is not ours.  If we encourage our children to read it’s like removing the limitations of where they were born or to whom they were born to and giving them the opportunity to become a part of something much bigger.

#BFCB #BooksForChildrenBlog

@lonerganbooks

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.

You’re a Funny Man Mr. Stanton!

The Cambridge Union Chamber with Mr Stanton

Mr Stanton was an animated middle aged man with a curly black beard, bright spectacled eyes and arms which flapped like an owl trapped in the House of Lords. He was an unexpected surprise who hated being serious or limited to reading one type of book. What he liked was acting the fool, reading books, twisting a tale, having the audience in hysterics, writing stories, being silly, taking the mickey, guzzling water, reading and eating pizza and… did I mention books?

Only those of you who have read You’re a Bad Man Mr Gum may recognise some distant similarities to that quirky introduction.

Mr Gum 1

I’ve just returned from an afternoon in Cambridge with my family having been thoroughly entertained by Andy Stanton, children’s author of the Mr Gum series (published by Egmont), as part of the line up for the Cambridge Literary Festival today. His zany approach was both refreshing and uplifting and cleverly appealed on many levels to both adults and children.

He began by reading various amusing excerpts from his childhood schoolwork followed by some story ideas he’d written for Mr Gum which never reached the final book. A great message I thought for all writers young and old, that even though not all ideas will come to fruition keep writing them down. You never know how they may be used in the future.

Mr Gum 2

Mr Stanton was able to mix the trivial with the serious and jump from wacky to informative in the flip of a coin and was almost lyrical about his expulsion from Oxford University. He said “picture a vast meadow where you might want to look at a tree, a stream and a patch of grass or a flower.” For him reading is like being able to look at each of these elements separately or combined but he felt the university was putting constraints and limitations on which elements he was allowed to focus on. I see an even greater message lurking here. One that says you should always follow your heart – or maybe I’m misinterpreting it when really Andy is saying that “the truth is a lemon meringue.” Friday from Mr Gum would understand.

Mr Gum 3

It was clear Mr Stanton enjoys performing. He was consistently engaging as he continued to tease and interact throughout. He even got those who don’t like putting their hands up to put their hands up. My youngest particularly loved the conversation between the crow and Old King Thunder Belly. Andy continued his light hearted pantomime approach right through to the grand finale of question time.  He is a true entertainer and it was hilarious to experience his personality.

If you liked the sound of this event, please follow me on Twitter Amanda Lonergan (@lonerganbooks) and Facebook to hear about other upcoming author events, book crafts, news on children’s book releases and much more.


CLICK TO BUY You’re a Bad Man, Mr. Gum!

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

Reading with Down’s Syndrome

I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to interview Jilly Smithson, an incredible women who has been teaching for sixteen years as well as having worked or volunteered with people with disabilities since she was eighteen. She is now the proud mother of two children, Emily and Tom with Down’s Syndrome. You may have read her inspiring and heartfelt story in the Guardian recently (I chose to adopt two babies with Down’s Syndrome as a single mother).  It’s a story which summons the feelings of awe, disbelief, respect and admiration all rolled into one. I’ve always felt that with the right approach reading can benefit everyone and for me Jilly is the ideal person to give advice on the ways in which reading can add to the life of any child with Down’s Syndrome so I asked her a few questions to try and get a better insight into the reading time she has with her children.

At what age did you start reading to your children?

From babies – it has always been part of their bedtime routine and there have always been books around the house for them to look at when they want.

What has been the greatest challenge for you as a mum trying to support your children to read?

Emily has a visual impairment so it has been hard to get her interested in the written word. She has enlarged texts from the visual impairment team but still prefers to listen to stories read by others.

What are their favourite books and why?

Emily likes touchy feely books and stories with rhyming. She especially likes the Blue Kangaroo series of books at the moment.

Tom likes books that have actions or things that he can do as he reads, eg. lift the flap book, press the sound button.

In what ways has reading added value to your lives as a family?

It is something we do altogether as a special time before bed. It was one way in which I helped Emily to bond with Tom when he first came home.

What have you found to be the best way to keep them interested in reading?

Lots of different books that do different things – sound books, touchy feely books, lift the flap books, books with DVDs. Visits to the library, book bus etc. To be honest they’ve always been interested in books.

What do you think your children enjoy most about reading?

The individual time they get with me! Books are also an activity they can do independently so it is something that they can do for themselves.

What’s the funniest memory you’ve had so far of reading with your children?

We read The Gruffalo touch book. Tom was very young, about 10 months old. Both children explored the different textures etc then when we came to the wart on the end of his nose, it was a sticky spot on the page, Tom’s face after he touched it was a picture!

Having taught and worked with people with many types of disabilities over the years and now a mum of two children with Down’s Syndrome, what advice would you give to other parents with children with Down’s syndrome with regards to helping them to read?

Just read little and often, have books always available and remember that children with Down’s Syndrome find learning to read phonetically very difficult. We use a lot of symbols around the house – they have a picture and the word so that the children are being exposed to the written word all the time.

What would be the best message about life a children’s book could teach your children?

That it is ok to be different. The books by Todd Parr are perfect for this. They cover difficult topics in a simple way for young children and have wonderfully bright illustrations.

A huge thank you to Jilly for your input which clearly demonstrates that reading with children is not just about what’s in the book, it’s also about bonding, interacting and sharing time. Reading remains pleasurable when you remove any expectations of what levels you think should be attained or what you are told should be attained. Learning to read is a very individual journey for every child and this is no different for children with Down’s Syndrome. It is more about helping children to find the ways in which reading can add to their lives to give them that purpose and desire to read.

Resource links recommended by Jilly:

Down’s Syndrome Education International (DSE) – See and Learn Language and Reading.

Down’s Syndrome Education International (DSE) – A Reading and Language Intervention for Children with Down Syndrome.

Books mentioned by Jilly:


CLICK TO BUY My First Gruffalo: Touch-and-Feel book by Julia Donaldson (author) & Axel Scheffler (illustrator); Published: MacMillan Children’s Books.

 


Blue Kangaroo series by Emma Chichester Clark (author/illustrator); Published: Andersen Press.
CLICK TO BUY I Love You, Blue Kangaroo!

 

Books by Todd Parr; Published: Little, Brown Young Readers such as:


CLICK TO BUY It’s Okay to be Different

 


CLICK TO BUY It’s Okay To Make Mistakes

 

 


CLICK TO BUY The Feelings Book

 

 

Note: some names in this blog have been changed.

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

Playing by the Book

Are you genuinely allowing your child to learn through play?

Throughout my blogs I like to suggest activities for parents to try in order to help them show their children how books and reading can be fun. Remember that little word show that I used.

I took some time the other day to peruse some of the many colourful blogs which light up my WordPress feed when one particular one held my attention.

Its title was Why I Don’t Like Play Based Learning posted by Happiness is Here.

It was a bold statement. It was intriguing. I thought the blog was honest, well written and challenging. I loved it.

However they cited an activity designed to encourage reading so I felt I needed to respond.

I couldn’t argue the sentiment; the article was spot on when it pointed out that the popular so called play based learning is usually led by adults and not children. Yet above all it was the fact that the word play was being used to describe adult led activities which had initiated the writer’s concern. This made me question some things. Are there set rules for what play is or isn’t? Can’t play be anything that the participant finds enjoyable? If so, if the child is a willing participant in an adult led activity and enjoys it, is that not considered a form of playing? Is it true that play by definition can never be directed and where does that leave me and my fun book related activities? I think I may be guilty of using the phrase learning through play from time to time.

My understanding of the article was that they too feel that, what I call fun learning activities have their place but they also made the valid point that a distinction should be made between whether the activities are child led or adult led. Child led play is an entertaining and enjoyable way in which the child chooses to occupy themselves opposed to a planned activity an adult has instructed them to do. The difference is that there’s an intention or ultimate goal behind the playful and fun activity created by the adult whereas child led play has no expectations or set path; it’s about learning through exploration and it hasn’t been pre-planned; there’s no wrong of right way to play, it’s the result of a child responding to their immediate environment.

So why is this free unstructured play so important and how can it be incorporated into encouraging reading?

More and more parents want to teach their children how to question and think for themselves and for me reading is one such powerful tool which can enable this process of brain development to bloom naturally. Ironically what some people aren’t aware of is that one of the best ways to help children think for themselves is to leave them to do as they please and omit all the good intentioned controlling measures, expectations and structures the adult has planned.

Play Drawing on Books

To implement child led story making and reading activities this would involve leaving your child in a safe environment which includes piles of assorted books on a blanket, magazines positioned in various places within the immediate area as well as a choice of other objects, toys and activities made available. No instructions should be provided except to make sure the child is aware that you’re there if they need you and that they can do whatever they like as long as it’s enjoyable to them and not harmful to themselves or others. Although the books are the main focus, it’s important that there are alternative options to books. This can be magnetic letters, posters, puppets, toy animals, paper and pencils etc to encourage imaginary or role play. The idea is that you’re making the tools available but the choice of how, what and for how long they use them for is up to them.

Play Standing on Books

This will be a difficult concept for many of you to grasp as it means letting go of some deeply ingrained social expectations. Why? Because the results could be anything ranging from the child conventionally reading or looking through the books, completely ignoring the books and pursuing another activity, building book towers, playing shops or schools with the books, bending the books to scribbling on the books and cutting out the pictures and sticking them on their bedroom walls (gasp). Some would call this unruly, irresponsible or even lazy parenting as for many it’s a giant leap away from the controlling, structured and over protective world we live in.

Play Sleeping and Sitting on Books

So how does this approach benefit the child? If you can manage to resist interfering, make no judgements and keep calm at the results your child will have achieved an independent new understanding of the world, through trial and error where their actions have come from a sheer desire or curiosity to learn and discover. A room filled with books and other activities where they’re given free reign takes the fear out of having to read so by leaving them to their own devices they no longer feel threatened by the expectation to read and soon find the fun in books and the chances are that their natural curiosity will take over and lead them to pick up a book one day and want to work out what the words mean.

Play Books on Your Head

For me the title play based learning suggests learning which incorporates the concepts of play into the foundations of the activity so I don’t see an issue with using the word play as such as it’s not actually defining play itself. I do on the other hand think we should be more mindful that as important as these fun learning activities are they are still showing or even dictating to your child what and how to do something. So if I were to label it, perhaps I would call it directed or guided play learning or if you really wanted to omit the word play, directed fun learning. If you want a child to learn for themselves, provide the tools and the environment and then just let them be, it’s as easy as that. The hardest part will be letting go of your control because if you’re governed by time or you’re seeking a certain result which you perceive to be right then child led play isn’t the approach for you. Although if you do try it, you might find it’s not just your child who feels liberated.

To learn more the following blog I found provides an excellent explanation of child-led play: The Adult Role in Child-led Play – How to Become a Learning Ally by Nature Play.

The Evils of Flashcards

Flashcards

I remember my mum waving flashcards in front of my face as a child. I think they were probably considered one of the “how to be a good parent” tools of the 70’s. Parenting trends are a bit like the articles I see instructing us on what we should and shouldn’t be eating; they change according to the advertiser’s needs – sorry I mean the latest research. It seems advice changes so frequently that unbeknown to us we’re probably all in a constant state of confusion about everything as nobody really knows what they should or shouldn’t be doing for the best. It appears it’s no different when it comes to finding ways of supporting and encouraging our children to read when often the information available can be just as conflicting.

I don’t really think flashcards are an evil reading tool, I don’t feel traumatised by my experience of them as a child either or that they impaired my reading skills in any way but some have proposed a number of convincing arguments to the contrary.

Let’s get critical.

The biggest criticism of flashcards is that they limit interpretation. As they lead the reader towards the association of a single picture with a single word they are not allowing for variance of a word such as the type of dog, car or colour for instance. This suggests flashcards are only teaching a child how to associate a word with a picture through sight opposed to understanding it and learning to read.
Another criticism is that as the words on flashcards are out of context they serve to introduce an unnecessary additional layer in the steps required to interpret and understand a word when it is in context. In everyday terms this means they guide the reader into taking the long route to learning.

Hail praise to all flashcards.

On the other hand retaining a number of words by sight (reading them as seen, opposed to sounding them out) is considered a good thing because it allows for smoother, more continuous reading which gives the brain more time to think about meaning and comprehension.

In addition for those who have a dominant visual memory flashcards can act as an added aid for imprinting the word formation in the reader’s mind through the use of colour, shape and images.

As parents, it is our natural instinct to want to do the right thing for our children (whatever that may be) and if taken verbatim, it is contradictory advice like this which can feed the innate panic mechanism within us . However if you’re searching the internet for the “right thing to do” or solely relying on small scientific studies to appease your fears you are missing a vital ingredient; and that is to trust your own judgement.

Many articles are only one person’s opinion and many of the studies have only been conducted on a minuscule percentage of the population where their sole purpose is to uncover a similarity within differences in order to neatly file any traits or habits under one category. It never does any harm to question if a study is truly looking for the ultimate answer that we seek or if the researchers are merely looking for the answer that they think it is?

That’s not to say that all the information we find is nonsense but it does mean that the information that may be right for one person may not be right for the next. So when it comes to helping your own children to read, don’t limit yourself to one isolated method or be afraid to explore new methods and techniques but discover the options and give yourself a break. Listen to your gut feeling as to which methods you think are best suited to your child.

Further links on the topic of flashcards:

Ditch the books and flashcards! You can’t teach a baby how to read, claim experts – Mail Online.

Sight Words Flashcards and Tips for Early Reading – School Sparks.

Teaching with Flashcards? – Flashcards Guru.

(Don’t Make Me Say the F-Word) Flashcard-Free Vocabulary – Cochlear Implant Online.

Reading Should Come with a Government Health Warning!

Image Boy Questioning

What if I said to you that reading could be bad for your mental well being? Would you believe me? Yet books are addictive, they talk about theories which we base our reality around as though they are facts; they constantly lie to us about worlds and characters that don’t really exist; they tell of depressing, upsetting stories which we may never have been affected by otherwise. It’s well known a good book can make your eyes blurry and your thoughts explode. The contradictory facts, figures and opinions inside have even been known to cause confusion on the brain for some but most of all, beware that reading can make your children repeatedly ask WHY?

Image Why

I’m not trying to create my own conspiracy theory here but I am hoping to demonstrate that it’s not always what is in the book that is good for us; it’s how we react to it, use it and question it. It’s the power a book gives us as individuals to exercise our free thinking. Think about the alternative. For instance when the Nazi party ordered the burning of certain books during the 1930’s they were attempting to control how much information the layman had access to; to limit awareness and segregate nations; prevent the people from writing about the truth or opposing ideologies.

Teaching our children to read and write gives them the tools to question and question then question again. They can investigate a topic of interest, read alternative views; see emotions put into words; draw from people with first hand experiences; learn to make their own judgements and not take everything at face value. It is then that they are better equipped to follow their own route to understanding the world.

WARNING: reading books may be hazardous to your health. Side effects may include extreme laughter; uncontrollable thinking; deep emotional reactions and unexpected changes of opinion.