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 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.

#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

Why Children’s Books Matter

The Infinite Playground

I love it when I find a blog which instantly throws my mind into chatter overload. Words, images and sounds start to explode. It gets noisy in there!

Middle Grade Strikes Back – #coverkidsbooks published one such blog concerning the limited media coverage assigned to children’s books and why we should be seeing more about children’s books in the press. One of the main reasons I started blogging about children’s book reviews, events and crafts was because as a parent I found I was struggling to find a variety of books for my children to try. I was always being exposed to the same limited selection which we’d either already read or they just didn’t appeal to my children. Of course since launching my blog, now I actively seek out alternative books and look in other places to find new ones but still it often takes some digging. Coupled with the recent disappointing news that the Guardian will soon no longer be adding to their online children’s books web page (aimed at children), I knew the only way to quieten my mind on why books are so important for children was to take on Middle Grade Strikes Back’s challenge and write a response. My little voice wanted to join the crowd to help it cheer louder and ideas started to leak out…

“Books are like people.”

I think books are like people. They each have their own personality and ultimately, it’s not what’s on the outside of a book that matters it’s what’s on the inside. The content of a book offers every child a paradox. On the one hand they have the opportunity to discover the world beyond their front door by absorbing the plentiful fresh ideas and opinions spread across the pages; whilst on the other hand they’re drawn into exploring the world within themselves through the questions and thoughts triggered every time they read a new book.

It was at this point as I wrote my blog that it became clear I needed something much sharper to express the enormity of the value books can add to children’s lives. I was looking for a perspective changer. Something children and their parents could relate to.

Why do children’s books matter so much?

So the best way I knew how to translate these feelings about why children’s books matter to me was to write this rhyme.

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A wider coverage of children’s books can only mean a greater choice is more readily available, making it easier to find the perfect fit for each child so they too have the opportunity to learn, experience and understand our world and who they are. I’d like to see not just the big names getting coverage but also new authors, niche authors, non-fiction authors and without doubt the illustrators as major contributors to many children’s book sales.

So thank you to Middle Grade Strikes Back for reminding me what drives me to keep persevering with writing children’s books and why I started blogging about children’s books in the first place.

 

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.

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 Quick Reading Activities for Children.

Back by popular demand, this time I’ve put together some quick and simple activities to encourage reading and aid spelling. There are so many opportunities throughout the day to help our children to read and so many little ways to make it fun. Whether it’s adapting a familiar game, going on a treasure hunt or baking some edible letters, these activities don’t have to be time consuming and can easily be incorporated into any little person’s life.

1. Eat Your Words

Follow a simple biscuit recipe and use letter cutters to make words. We were making some cheesy biscuits for a party, so instead of making them round as we usually would, we cut out letter shapes so the boys could make words with them once they were baked. They asked how to spell words, they read each others and it became a game of who can come up with the silliest words.

Quick Reading Eat Your Words

2. Secret Messages.

Finding a secret message always brings a smile to my boys faces. It’s a way for me to say I’m thinking of them even when they’re not with me. I don’t do it every day because I tend to leave it for special purposes, like a birthday, a treat or letting them know about a special day out or a fun activity together. I find if it’s something they are going to look forward to doing or having they are more likely to read the note (which is the main purpose of the notes after all). They would be less inclined to read a note telling them to clean their room!

Quick Reading Secret Messages

3. What Am I?

A quick printable activity. The children must read five clue words to come up with the answer to “what am I?”.

Quick Reading What Am I

4. Street Names.

This one is easy to play when you’re out and about walking to the shops or on a long car journey. Get your children used to reading new words and names by spotting the different street names. Who can be the first to spot a lane? What are we walking along? Is it a street or a close?

Quick Reading Street Names

5. Read a Recipe.

Children love to help with stirring and sieving and licking the bowl! Ask them to read out the recipe to you as you follow the steps together.

Quick Reading Recipe

6. Playdoh Printing.

Use plastic cutters to make letter imprints in playdoh. Build letters into words and words into short sentences to aid reading and spelling.

Quick Reading Playdoh Letters

7. Rhyming Dominoes.

Another quick printable for a twist on the traditional dominoes game. Cut out the domino tiles and split between all players. Try and match each word with a rhyming word.

Quick Reading Rhyming Dominoes 1

Quick Reading Rhyming Dominoes 2

8. Lego Letter Race.

Choose a simple word. It’s a race to see who can make the word with Lego the fastest. Each player uses a large flat Lego tile to display their word.

Quick Reading Lego Letters

9. Scrabble Swap.

For this activity we used junior scrabble tiles but if you don’t have any to hand it’s just as easy to type and print out some letters onto card but make sure there are plenty of vowels in the mix.

Quick Reading Scrabble Swap

10. Follow the Clues.

The promise of treasure at the end of the clues is enough to get any reluctant reader to at least try and work them out! Hand them the first clue and make sure the second clue is where the first clue tells them to go and so on until they discover the last clue and need to find the promised treasure. You can copy and print the clues below or use your own to send them on an adventure round the house.

Quick Reading Follow the Clues 1

Quick Reading Follow the Clues 2

Words are everywhere, look around and point them out as children will naturally be curious to read something if it looks interesting to them.

What are your favourite reading activities?

The Funny Thing About Words

Alice quote

Lewis Carroll’s topsy–turvy chatter can tie us all up in knots with his twisted reality but it does demonstrate that words are not our reality, they are merely a tool for labelling what we experience and feel is our reality.

There are no words in this world which have meaning until we give them meaning. Have you ever tried to listen to a foreign language being spoken on a train for instance? At first it merely sounds like incomprehensible gobbledegook, comprising one never-ending word! Yet the more intently we listen, the more snippets of meaning start to emerge as our brains desperately try to make sense of it all. We start to hear pauses and breaks in the delivery which make it sound more manageable and we hear intonation which gives it expression. It is not until we are sat down and taught to associate its words with our surroundings that we give the words meaning and the nonsense fades away.

When I’m creating stories for picture books, one of my aims is to inject humour into them. It is important to me to deliver each story in a comical way so even if there is an underlying serious message it doesn’t become staid or laborious but remains enjoyable to read. A popular way to get a giggle is neologism – the invention of new words. It might be considered slightly weird and pretentious if we started using a string of made up words in conversation and we’d probably receive a few looks like the one from this guy! Puzzled GuyChildren on the other hand can naturally get away with using their own words and it is an important part of their fantasy play. This may explain why children’s fiction is one of the world’s greatest playgrounds for defying the dictionary rules and a place where it is totally acceptable and at times quite unexpectedly many of these nonsense words turn out to make complete sense and end up landing straight inside our Oxford English dictionary of supposed sensible words!

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Oxford English dictionary is used as a benchmark for words deemed “acceptable” for official use in the English language. Any word which has not been entered could therefore be considered a made up word until such time it is permitted entry. Famous authors have been using made up words for decades, many of which have since become part of the official Oxford English vocabulary. In fact some words are so familiar it seems hard to envisage a time when they never existed!  Using someone like a “doormat” was a phrase coined by Charles Dickens for example in Great Expectations or “butter fingers” from The Pickwick Papers. Shakespeare thrived on creating words such as “laughable” in the Merchant of Venice, “gossip” in The Comedy of Errors and “scuffle” in Antony and Cleopatra. Milton penned “terrific,” “dismissive” and “complacency” in Paradise Lost (although not all within the same sentence!).

However, there is an art to word creation and simply jumbling random letters together is not going to work even if it does appear to be pronounceable. The general rule is to play around with conventional grammar and pronunciation in an unconventional way. This may involve hyphenating two words we wouldn’t normally see together or combining the meaning of two words to make one word as did Lewis Carroll when he fused chuckle and snort to devise chortle for his Jabberwocky poem; changing nouns into verbs or verbs into adjectives, merging familiar foreign words with English words, giving a new meaning to an existing word, adding prefixes or suffixes or devising original words from scratch. On top of this the word must also be able to adopt its own meaning if it is to become believable and to do this it must evoke feeling, have purpose or fulfil a need.

A purpose might be to get the reader laughing or to devise a new character such as Julia Donaldson’s Gruffalo, A.A. Milne’s Heffalump and even JM Barrie’s character Wendy in Peter Pan is a name that never existed until it was created for the book. It could be to incorporate a taboo subject without causing offense such as making up a fictitious swear word which makes the point but is actually harmless or like Roald Dahl’s whizzpopping, his way of referring to bodily functions amid a sensitive audience.

To fulfil a need might entail characters needing to be able communicate? Elvish in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, or Roald Dahl’s BFG’s Gobblefunk are perfect examples of this. Or to create a believable world around a character, such as casting spells like Alohomora (to open or unlock doors) or naming a game for young wizards Quidditch in Harry Potter (JK Rowling). Roald Dahl used his own words such as muggled for confused and whoopsy-splunkers for fantastic to express his characters feelings in original ways.

Made up words are not limited to writers. Words such as “bitmap” and “selfie” are springing up in everyday language as we adapt to new technological inventions and the words “blog” and “to text” have already been officially assigned to the dictionary. So just for fun I’ve made up a couple of my own words which I hope may resonate with some of my readers.

The first one describes how I feel on the days writing comes easily to me. I get a rush of ideas, it flows freely, feels lightweight, exciting and “flightatious.”

The second word “frotated” describes how I feel on the days writing is hard work and I find myself continuously disappointed and having to start over again and again, leaving a trail of screwed up pieces of paper in the bin (yes I do sometimes resort to the old fashioned pen and paper!).

Have a go, it’s fun! What are your words?